At the start of a new year, I have an usual habit of seeking out food trends. It’s always a glorious and fascinating romp, good for the soul in the dark days of January. Here are six food trends for 2020.
There are dozens of these lists, and because they emerge from such diverse sources, they rarely align. But that’s half the fun. See: “The Dark (and Often Dubious) Art of Forecasting Food Trends”
You’ll run across gems like these as you wade into the forecasts (all direct quotations):
- Water is making a comeback. (What?)
- Cauliflower is also starting to move into the beyond-meat space…
- …artisanal ice cream made using whole ingredients and grass-fed cows.
- Products will become stuffed with bacteria (the good kind!) to help alleviate everything from digestion to skin ailments
- Seaweed…[has] never been what you’d call trendy. But that might be changing, especially as social media looks for the next good-for-you, good-for-the-planet, good-to-be-seen-eating food for the decade.
- Breakfast, brunch, brinner, blurred…. This blurring of the lines is par for the course now
- Chefs are starting to discover…the unique flavors and textures of unripe produce…
Are the predictions conflicting? Yes. Are the words nonsensical? Yes. What is gastrophysics? Don’t ask. See you in hell. ~ Eater, Dec 26, 2019
But out of the chaos, I’ve selected a few of the most common forecasts.
1. Plant-forward Eating
An upward trend for a decade or more: plant-based eating, (aka “plant-forward”), incorporates not only vegetarianism and veganism, but more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and whole grains into everyone’s eating habits.
More people are eating more plant foods for a variety of reasons that include improved health, animal welfare, and climate change. It’s difficult to determine just if the vegetarian/vegan trends are growing, let alone by how much but eating healthier is a positive trend, no question.
Credit: Impossible Foods
You’ll see meat analogues (e.g., Impossible Burgers) sold in more supermarkets and restaurants, and more evidence of the plant-forward trend in the dozen or more “alternative flours” crowding into the baking-products aisle alongside the white, whole-wheat, and rye: coconut, banana, chickpea, banana, tiger nut, quinoa, millet, teff, sweet potato, winter squash, almond, cassava—even cauliflower.
Cauliflower is still a big name in veggies this year. Baked, boiled, riced, roasted and, yes, floured. It’s wonderful as a pizza crust, too! Not only is cauliflower a good vegetable base, but an antioxidant and phytonutrient winner, packed with vitamin C, beta-carotene, and so much more.
Also brightly-colored vegetables continue to proliferate, especially purple veggies: purple carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, kale, and deep-purple tomatoes. Why? Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that anthocyanins, the class of compounds that gives fruits and vegetables various shades of purple, red, lavender, fuchsia, or pink, reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, metabolic diseases, and other chronic disease. See our post on purple vegetables.
2. More eating at home and meal kits
Almost every forecast predicts we’ll be eating more at home, and less often in fast-food joints or restaurants. Americans—especially first-generation Americans exploring their cultural heritage— will be enjoying more “grandparent food.”
But many cases, it won’t be rediscovering grandma’s recipes. Instead, prognosticators forecast many families relying on an ever-widening array of meal-delivery and pickup options: meal kits, food delivery services (from restaurants, supermarkets, and “ghost kitchens,” and food kiosks), as well as pre-ordering for pickup from restaurants and supermarkets.
3. Into the “Nootropics”
Our rapidly-aging society understandably has strong concerns about neurological health—especially cognition and memory. You’ve probably seen ads for dietary supplements claiming to support or improve memory. But in our increasingly frenetic environments of school, jobs, and family, people of all ages may look for a neurological edge to support memory, faster learning, creativity, mindfulness, attention, and better sleep.
Image: By bitt24
This year, expect to see references to nootropic foods, foods containing compounds that support neurological health. Surprise! The list includes the foods health professionals have been urging us to eat for years: berries, dark leafy greens, colorful vegetables, salmon and other fatty fish, whole eggs, nuts, dark chocolate, green tea, and coffee, most spices and common cooking herbs.
So, if you’ve already stepped up to good nutrition:
4. Get Good Gut Health
Science continues to discover the relationship between a healthy gut and other organ systems of our bodies. Our intestines contain hundreds of bacterial species, many of which are useful, even essential for health. A lot of research in recent years has focused on dietary strategies that help maintain those “good” bacteria and increasing their diversity.
As science discovers, markets respond. You’ll be hearing a lot more about prebiotics (fiber-rich foods that “feed” our healthy gut bacteria), probiotics (foods that contain various species of bacteria), and postbiotics (biologically active breakdown products of gut bacteria) this year.
For most of us, the main takeaways for maintaining a healthy gut: eat more fiber and include fermented foods/beverages such as yogurt, kombucha, and fermented vegetables.
5. Sustainability, Traceability, and Transparency
Big national movements raising awareness and promoting food safety, human and environmental health, animal welfare, waste reduction, and carbon reduction intersect.
American food consumers have become increasingly interested in knowing how and where our food was produced and harvested, how it was handled at every step of the way to our plates, how it was packaged, and ultimately whether the production chair to our plates is sustainable over the long term.
Look for more advertising, more labels and more certification systems that allow consumers to know the origin of every ingredient in a food product and its packaging.
6. CBD: Everywhere
CBD (cannabidiol) is a molecule that occurs naturally and abundantly in the Cannabis sativa plant, the same plant that’s more widely known for the compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol ), which delivers the marijuana high.
Early research on CBD suggests it holds promise for alleviating anxiety, mild-to-moderate chronic pain, and other ailments. But hard research on its health impacts and long-term effects of regular use is scanty.
However, since the Federal Farm Bill of 2018 legalized hemp (defining it as cannabis plants containing 0.3 percent or less of THC) there’s been a rush to produce high-CBD hemp and extract the CBD.
So, though it’s legal to grow hemp and extract its CBD for sale, the Food and Drug Administration still forbids adding it to foods and beverages or advertising health claims for CBD products.
Nonetheless, you’ll see it everywhere, not just the little vials of CBD oil sold in gas stations and pharmacies, but in muffins, donuts, all kinds of beverages, salad dressings…
But there’s little regulation or enforcement structure for CBD products. That means you have few ways of learning whether the product you’re consuming contains contaminants, the amount of CBD advertised, or the possible negative effects on your health. Eaters and drinkers beware.