From “plants as plants” to unexpected proteins and everything in between, the Specialty Food Association (SFA) Trendspotter Panel, New York, predicts what’s coming up for specialty food in 2020.

“As the specialty food industry hits a record year of growth with $148.7 billion in sales, we’re seeing that 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 canned cocktails or global condiments,” says Denise Purcell, head of content.

Professionals from diverse segments of the culinary world comprise the SFA’S Trendspotter Panel. Here are the six trends anticipated for 2020:

  1. Plants as plants—Meat replacement pushback. Plant-based meat alternatives are become more and more popular across retail and foodservice. Trendspotters predict a consumer return to real fruits and vegetables. Consumers will also think critically about meat replacements, and look more closely at the ingredient lists, supply chains, water usage and food safety, thus prompting renewed interest in plants as plants.    
  1. Sustainability-driven product development. According to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry Report 2019-2020, consumers, especially Gen Zers, are values-oriented shoppers who look at a company’s values and production methods when making purchasing decisions. Upcycled products are becoming more prevalent. Recent products to market include frozen pizzas made with toppings from vegetable scraps, and whey beverages made from a leftover product from cheesemaking. Biodynamic farming is coming more into focus for consumers. 
  1. Fermented condiments—Gochujang comes to the forefront. Fermented foods have been trending for a while, boosting broad consumer interest in the Korean condiment kimchi. Trendspotters predict that the combined expanding interest in fermentation and Korean cuisine will converge to bring the fermented condiment gochujang to the forefront. Expect to see it show up on more foodservice menus and packaged at retail. 
  1. Prebiotic foods gain awareness. Prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and are found in foods like bananas, asparagus, seaweed and barley, among others. 
  1. Protein trend takes unexpected turns—Anchovies and noodles. Consumer awareness of protein is prompting them to seek out interesting sources for their diets, whether under-the-radar varieties or new innovations. Anchovies are poised to take off, according to the panel, 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. Protein-packed noodles also are on the rise, but are moving beyond the lentil- and legume-based varieties. Trendspotters anticipate seeing more noodles made from seafood, or nutrient-packed noodles containing minerals and dietary fiber. 
  1. Convenient cocktails and mocktails. The Trendspotter panel named “Raising the Cocktail Game” one of the top trends thanks to a slew of new mixers, tonics and garnishes to help consumers make bar-quality cocktails at home.

Still trending are:

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% in retail sales, according to SFA’s State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Probiotic-friendly kombucha continues to lead the charge, with more fermented functional beverages touting health, tradition and flavor on the horizon. Drinking vinegars 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 consumer knowledge grows. Look for flavors and ingredients from these areas in spices, sauces and bases.