Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, revealed the most anticipated and innovative food trends for 2020, with regenerative agriculture, West African foods, meat-plant blends and new varieties of flour among the food influences.
Each year, more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members including local foragers, regional and global buyers and culinary experts thoughtfully compile the report based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing, studying consumer preferences and participating in food and wellness industry exhibitions worldwide.
The Top 10 food trend predictions for 2020 are:
Farmers, producers, academics, government agencies, retailers and more are taking a closer look at how to use land and animal management practices to improve soil health and sequester carbon. While the term “regenerative agriculture” can have many definitions, in general it describes farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity and increase carbon capture to create long-lasting environmental benefits, such as positively impacting climate change.
An array of interesting flours are entering the market, making baking more inclusive and adventurous. Consumers are seeking out ingredients used in traditional dishes, like teff flour used for Ethiopian injera. 2020 will bring more interesting fruit and vegetable flours (like banana) into home pantries, with products like cauliflower flour in bulk and baking aisles, rather than already baked into crusts and snack products. Consumer packaged goods are getting in on the trend by replacing traditional alternative flours with tigernut flour in chips and snack foods, and pastries made with seed flour blends.
Foods from West Africa
From indigenous superfoods to rich, earthy dishes, traditional West African flavors are popping up everywhere in food and beverage. The trio of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers form a base for many West African dishes, and peanuts, ginger and lemongrass are all common additions. The 16 nations within West Africa share similar foods, but each have their own specialties based on subtle influences from the Middle East and Western Europe. Brands are looking to West Africa for its superfoods like moringa and tamarind, and cereal grains sorghum, fonio, teff and millet.
Out-of-the-box, into-the-fridge snacking
The keyword is “fresh” in this new generation of grab-and-go. The refrigerated section is filling up with wholesome, fresh snacks typically prepared and portioned in advance at home, such as hard-boiled eggs with savory toppings, pickled vegetables, drinkable soups and mini dips and dippers of all kinds, all perfectly portioned and in convenient single-serve packaging. These snacking innovations mean ingredients lists are shrinking.
Plant-based, beyond soy
Tofu scrambles may always have a place at the vegan breakfast table, but in 2020, the trendiest brands are slowing down on soy, which has traditionally dominated the plant-based protein space. Some of the products touting “no soy” in the next year will be replacing it instead with innovative blends (like grains and mung beans) to mimic the creamy textures of yogurts and other dairy products. As the plant-based movement gains traction with flexitarian eaters, brands are looking to avoid as many of the top allergens as possible, so look for plant-based prepared foods (especially meat alternatives) and traditionally soy-based condiments going soy-less.
Everything butters and spreads
Think seed butters beyond tahini – like watermelon seed butter – and seasonal products like pumpkin butter year-round. Nut butters beyond cashew, almond and peanut (hello, macadamia) and even chickpea butters. Look for creamy vegan spreads perfect for toast, crackers, bagels and celery sticks. It helps the trend that spreads and butters are touting paleo- and keto-friendly attributes, but transparency is also a key player. Many brands are looking to either eliminate the use of palm oil or promote a responsibly sourced palm oil certification and use nuts that are grown in ways with less likelihood for environmental impact.
Rethinking the kids’ menu
Judging from the number of kids’ cooking and baking competitions on TV, kids are kitchen-savvier than ever. Food brands are taking notice for the next generation, expanding the menu beyond nostalgic foods with better-for-you ingredients and organic chicken nuggets. They’re bridging the gap from old-school basic kids’ menus and taking more sophisticated younger palates into consideration. Think non-breaded salmon fish sticks. Foods that are fermented, spiced or rich in umami flavors. Colorful pastas in fun shapes made from alternative flours.
Syrupy reductions from fruit sources like monk fruit, pomegranates, coconut and dates are one way to add concentrated, unique flavors into recipes for desserts, meat glazes and marinades. Sweet syrups made from starches like sorghum and sweet potato can be compared to the deep flavors of molasses or honey, and can be used for baking and sweetening beverages.
Butchers and meat brands won’t be left out of the “plant-based” craze in 2020, but they’re not going vegetarian. For the health-conscious, at-home chef, adding plant-based ingredients to meatballs and burgers is budget-friendly. Flexitarians looking to strike a tasty balance between meats and plants can expect more blended products in their future.
With so many consumers seeking out alternatives to alcohol, unique non-alcoholic options are popping up everywhere. Many of these beverages seek to re-create classic cocktail flavors using distilling methods typically reserved for alcohol, creating an alternative to liquor meant to be used with a mixer rather than a drink on its own. Think alt-gin for gin and tonics and botanical-infused faux spirits for a faux martini. Add to that options enjoyed straight from the bottle or can, like hops-infused sparkling waters and zero-proof apertifs.