Top Food Trends For 2020

Denise Purcell
Health benefits and sustainability concerns will continue to drive more food and beverage trends in 2020, but there’s also room for fun whether in the form of ruby chocolate or canned cocktails, says the Specialty Food Association Trendspotter panel. This group of buyers, chefs, culinary education professionals, and industry watchers has weighed in on the top trends for the next 12 months. Here's some of what to expect.

Plants as Plants: Meat Replacement Pushback
Plant-based meat alternatives are undeniably popular, with leading brands showing up in retail and on foodservice menus. While this growth will continue, some Trendspotters predict a consumer move to real fruits and vegetables themselves. More consumers will begin to think critically about meat replacements, looking more closely at the ingredient lists, supply chains, water usage, and food safety, prompting renewed interest in plants as plants, according to the panel.   

Sustainability-Driven Product Development
Whether it is motivated by regenerative agriculture, upcycled ingredients, or plant-based foods, products whose values center around sustainability are trending, says Trendspotter Reem Assil, chef/owner or Reem’s California. Consumers, especially Gen Zers, are values-oriented shoppers, meaning they emphasize the importance of a company’s values in purchasing decisions, according to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry report, 2019-2020 edition. Upcycled products, those made with ingredients that would have otherwise been discarded, are becoming more prevalent. Recent products to market have included tea made from discarded avocado leaves, frozen pizzas made with toppings from vegetable scraps, and whey beverages made from a waste product from the cheese-making process. Another emerging related trend: Biodynamically farmed products. Trendspotter Wendy Robinson, buyer at Market Hall Foods, expects we’ll see more of this style of farming practice that helps sustain the biodiversity and health of the land.

Fermented Condiments: Gochujang Comes to the Forefront
From kombucha to kefir, fermented foods have been trending, and the interest has boosted Korean condiment kimchi to the mainstream. Now Trendspotters predict the combined expanding interest in fermentation and Korean cuisine and flavors will converge to bring fermented condiment gochujang to the forefront. One of the backbones of Korean cooking, this red chile paste is made with fermented soybeans, seasonings, and glutinous rice and is often used in marinades, dipping sauces, soups, and stews. Expect to see it show up on more foodservice menus and packaged at retail.

Prebiotic Foods Gain Awareness
Probiotic-rich, fermented foods continue to flourish, but expect growing consumer awareness and product development around foods that contain prebiotics, says Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, Trendspotter and global food analyst for Mintel. Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and they are found in a variety of foods such as bananas, asparagus, seaweed, and barley among others. Expect more of these ingredients to hit the spotlight. Early examples include bars and crunchy snacks made with prebiotic-rich barley and buckwheat. 

Protein Trend Takes Unexpected Turns: Anchovies and Noodles 
Consumers are aware of the importance of protein and continue to seek out interesting sources in their diets, whether under-the-radar varieties or new innovations. Anchovies, for example, are poised to take off, according to the panel. The New York Times also recently published a story on how the tiny fish is gaining ground as a sustainably caught, flavor-packed option, most notably on restaurant menus topping burgers or being used as an ingredient in butters, marinades, and even cookies. The trend could also bode well for other small jarred or tinned fish like herring or sardines. Protein-packed noodles also are on the rise but are moving beyond the lentil- and legume-based varieties that have been on the market. Trendspotters anticipate more noodles made from seafood, or nutrient-packed noodles containing minerals and dietary fiber.

Convenient Cocktails and Mocktails
The Trendspotter panel named Raising the Cocktail Game one of the top trends of the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show thanks to a slew of new mixers, tonics, and garnishes to help consumers make bar-quality cocktails at home. Look for a continuation in 2020 with the trend expanding with more cocktails in cans and bottled mocktails that offer sophisticated alternatives for non-drinkers or curious consumers, says Trendspotter Andrew Freeman, founder of af&co. And in a related trend—alcohol won’t be the only thing jazzing up canned beverages. Canned beverages spiked with CBD are also expected to emerge. 

Still Trending
CBD. Trendspotters see continuing growth in products across categories containing CBD, especially as the market gains a greater understanding of the incorporation of it and other functionals as ingredients.  

Dairy-free products. Dairy alternatives, oat and nut-based milks in particular, will continue to reign in yogurts, beverages, creamers, and frozen desserts.  

Fermented beverages. Refrigerated, ready-to-drink functional beverages have grown 55 percent in retail sales, according to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Probiotic-friendly kombucha has led the charge, and more fermented functional beverages touting health, tradition, and flavor are on the horizon. Drinking vinegars, which are high in probiotics, amino acids, and antioxidants, will also continue to emerge. 

Regional cuisines of Asia, West Africa, and Latin America. This top trend of 2019 will continue in the new year as global flavors from lesser-known regions continue to pique mainstream interest. Look for flavors and ingredients from these areas to show up especially in spices, sauces, and bases. 

Emerging Trends
Ruby cocoa. Ruby chocolate is a variety that was introduced by Barry Callebaut in 2017. Its production is a trade secret, but it is likely ruby chocolate is made with unfermented cocoa beans which have a natural pinkish color. Trendspotters expect to see more products including ruby cocoa bars and discs for baking.
Heirloom flours. From the U.S. to Italy more heirloom varietal flours, pastas, and breads are emerging throughout the specialty market including spelt, kamut, and einkorn.
Less (or zero) sugar. Sugar substitutes will lose steam and makers will aim to reduce the amount of sugar in products, say the Trendspotters.

You can read more about these 2020 trends here. Do you agree with these picks or what trends do you see coming in the new year? Let the community know in the Q&A forum.
Posted by Denise Purcell on Dec 11, 2019 2:30 PM America/New_York