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Top 10 food & beverage trends for 2020

SOURCE: WLFIL
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By Clara Chooi 

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If there’s one industry in a constant state of flux, it has to be food and beverage.

As they emerge and recede, new consumer preferences can make planning ahead tough for the industry – no one food or beverage trend ever fits neatly into a single calendar year or years, and there’s no guarantee how long a new fad will continue to decorate Instagram feeds.

In the social media age, some trends meet their demise faster than it takes to hit ‘Skip Ad’ on YouTube while others might go from Salt Bae-esque internet fame to having supermarkets dedicate whole aisles to foods of their ethnicity.

To keep up, food and beverage manufacturers and retailers must constantly innovate, creating new products and formulating new recipes to suit the 21st-century palate.

And while it’s true that not all trends stay in vogue for long, the events of recent years have added a degree of predictability to a few that market watchers believe will shape consumption patterns for a good number of years yet: health and wellness, and sustainability.

2019 saw consumer awareness drive these trends, with clear spikes in the orders and purchases of clean label, eco-conscious, fit-friendly, and sustainably-sourced foods.

In 2020, we expect conscious consumerism to remain at the heart of the food and beverage world, with amplified versions of similar trends spreading out into more specialised categories.

Here’s our breakdown of the top 10 food and beverage trends to watch in 2020.

#1: Vegan-ism-and-ish

Although not exactly new, veganism only really muscled its way into mainstream consciousness this year.

Whether driven by the rousing call to action by climate activists or Gen Z’s propensity to live and eat clean, or perhaps just plain fad mentality, we expect the plant-based movement will continue to dictate food and beverage trends in 2020.

Online food delivery service Deliveroo has predicted the same, revealing recently that vegan orders to its platform had increased a staggering 330 percent over the past two years. The number of sellers on the platforms has increased too, growing 168 percent in the past year alone.

But just veganism alone isn’t deserving of a spot on this list. It is the rise of its offshoot – vegan-ish. Here, the suffix “ish” is used denote “sometimes”, meaning consumers who, not wanting to swear off meat altogether, are only part-time vegans.

Like the flexitarian aka the “flexible vegetarian”, these part-time vegans will likely grow in numbers in the new year, sparking the rise of more vegan-friendly food products and eateries.

#2: Health is wealth

Health and wellness was, is, and will remain a massive determinant of what ends up on our plates and in our glasses in 2020.

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There will be subtle changes, of course. According to GlobalData Content Director for Consumer Sectors Katie Page in JustFood:

“Health and wellness is still a macro trend. It’s definitely a bit of a perennial but I see it becoming even more holistic. People have woken up to their food ingredients with regards to sugar and fat etc. People are better informed and the onus is on manufacturers to think about their products.

“We may see flavouring from natural sources migrating from drinks to food and an emphasis on ‘no nasties’. But I don’t think we should overstate it. Most consumers are fairly laissez-faire even if some are looking at labels, forcing manufacturers to be more transparent.”

What this means for food and beverage businesses is simply this: they’ve got to try a lot harder to demonstrate their health and wellness credentials. A discerning consumer base will make certain of this in the coming year.

#3: Cooking comes home

Like veganism, cooking at home is neither new nor may it seem particularly trendy enough to make a 2020 list.

But we believe that as more and more consumers strive to eat foods that are kinder to both their bodies and the planet, many will realise that probably the best way to take control of what they eat is by cooking at home.

The rise of the zero waste and anti-plastics movement are among the driving factors of this trend, along with health and budget concerns.

Cooking and eating at home allows consumers to buy foods produced via regenerative agriculture or carbon-free farming, reduce waste and cut on costs where possible.

#4: Cut the sugar, add the spice

For those who jumped the no-sugar bandwagon, they can expect to see the continued rise of more sweet alternatives to sugar in 2020.

Whole Foods in its predictions said these sugar substitutes will include syrup reductions from fruit such as monk fruit, pomegranates, coconut or dates, as well syrups from starches like sorghum or sweet potato.

Spices will also increase in popularity as well as 21st century tastebuds grow more experimental with new flavours. Globalisation is driving consumers around the world to seek out new flavour experiences and as such, forms a large part of the reason for this and the next trend on this list: the rising popularity of ethnic cuisines.

#5: Ethnic foods

Here’s another popular item to appear on food and beverage trends of 2020: international ethnic cuisines.

Waitrose’s latest Food and Drink Report predicts a surge in popularity for Middle Eastern foods in 2020, following the rising sales of spices like sumac, baharat and zaatar.

“It’s no surprise Middle Eastern cuisine is hitting the mainstream. Already established with foodies, it offers both spice and sweetness,” says Zoe Simons, Senior Innovation Development Chef at Waitrose & Partners.

Research published in the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) observes the same pattern taking place across the European continent, fuelled it says, by the healthy living trend and growing consumer preference for sustainably-sourced foods.

Spice blends taking European markets by storm of late include that of the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa; Japan; and Southeast Asia.

#6: Alcohol-free

For Gen Zers and most likely the generation to follow, part of the bid to live and eat clean means scrapping the booze-fuelled party nights. In fact, a study last year in England said at least a third of today’s 16-24-year-olds are living alcohol-free lives.

Those in the food and beverage business have since latched on to this trend, as witnessed in the steady rise of no or low alcohol options from hops-infused sparkling water to more non-alcoholic variants of classic cocktails appearing on market shelves.

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Buyers at Whole Foods expect to see this trend continue in the new year, and so do the delivery gurus over at Deliveroo. According to the latter firm, the past 12 months have seen a 240 percent increase in orders of alcohol-free beers, with the cities of London, Bristol and Edinburgh emerging as having the most low or non-alcohol drinkers.

#7: Simple supping

For many, eating clean means eating simple. The clean label trend, which essentially just means labels with recognisable ingredients, shows no signs of abating in the new year.

It boils down to the simple fact that today’s consumers want to reclaim control of their healths and as such want to know exactly what they are putting into their bodies. Rather than feverishly querying Google on every label item, they will opt for foods containing the fewest number of ingredients ending in “ate” or “ide” or “ene”, etc.

They will opt for raw where possible and move away from wildly complex recipes, increasing their consumption of whole-grain superfoods, and salad bowls that today come with a lot more than just leaves.

According to Deliveroo data, the modern salad bowl is growing more popular as trendsetting chefs dress them in flair and flavour, making them particularly attractive to new groups of eaters like the flexitarian and the sometimes-vegan.

#8: Seacuterie

Step aside charcuterie, 2020 will be the year of the ‘seacuterie’ instead.

A ripple effect of the shift towards fitness and environmentally friendly foods means, at least for some, moving away from a carnivorous diet of meat, meat and more meat.

In 2020, instead of traditional meat and cheese platters, large-scale grazing tables will increasingly feature seafood.

According to Waitrose, this Australian-originated trend that involves pickling, fermenting and/or smoking seafood, is rapidly picking up steam across the globe.

#9: Dining dramatique

For the 21st century consumer, especially the Gen Z, everything is about experiences.

This is a group that wouldn’t mind parting with good money if it means a unique gastronomic experience at a restaurant. Zoomers, as they are called, are disruptors of modern food cultures and here’s why: last year, they made 14.6 billion restaurant visits, representing nearly a third of total foodservice traffic!

As their spending power grows in 2020 and beyond, it is this generation of consumers that will dictate the year’s food and beverage trends.

And thanks to social media, this is the generation that has pretty much seen it all and has the post to prove it. Which only means one thing for those in the food and beverage business wanting to impress this lot: pulling out all the stops with new product innovations and showstopping dining experiences.

To wow such refined palates, 2020 will see more creative and dramatic twists and surprises to the formulation of new recipes and menus, whether it’s about flavor, function or simply the overall dining experience.

#10: Eco-conscious eats

What is eating clean if it isn’t also kind to the environment? As is clear throughout this list, sustainability underpins every trend to grace the breakfast, lunch and dinner table in 2020.

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Every food and beverage prediction of the new year suggests this, with consumers adding environmental impact as a key consideration to every lifestyle decision they make. According to Whole Foods’ experts, everyone across the food production chain from farmers to retailers will take a closer look at how to improve land and animal management practices to reduce their carbon footprint.

Many major manufacturers and retailers are also paying mind to packaging concerns, announcing pledges to reduce, or cut completely, single-use plastics.

Of course, while this will remain a hot issue for manufacturers for years to come, it won’t mean the entire landscape will change in the new year.

As Deliveroo aptly describes in its trends list, “2020 is the year of balance.” And all the trends on this list is reflective of this truth.

This article is sponsored by the West London Food Innovation Lab, a £1.5 million facility at the University of West London that provides startups and SMEs advice and technical support crucial for the development of new or the reformulation of old food and beverage products.

The project has received £739,159 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. 

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. 

For more information click here.