10 Food & Beverage Trends to Know for 2020

HomeBlog10 Food & Beverage Trends to Know for 2020

Be the Brand Buyers Will Crave

2020 marks the beginning of a new decade and the end of another. We will remember the 2010s as a time for milk alternatives, meat substitutes, cold brew coffee, gluten-free everything, hard seltzer, acai bowls and of course, the almighty avocado toast.

But this is the food and beverage industry, which means that things are always changing. Today’s manufacturers, retailers and restaurants face a drastically different landscape than they did in 2010. In order to stay relevant and competitive, food businesses need to find their angle and position themselves in the context of 2020. 

But what exactly does that mean? What’s to come for the food and beverage industry and, more importantly, how do businesses react? We’re going to explore some emerging predictions for 2020 and how food businesses can leverage these trends through their marketing. (Tight on time? Scroll to the bottom for key takeaways and marketing tips).

Your Customers Can (and Will) Have the Highest Expectations

Before we delve into the details, this is something we need to address. Consumers are extremely particular about the foods they eat and the places they frequent. Why? Because they can be. 

In such a saturated market, your consumers are flooded with endless options. This means they can be as picky and demanding as they want. If your business isn’t meeting their standards, they can easily find another one that will. This is something that all food businesses need to acknowledge in 2020 and beyond. While companies certainly have control over the products they manufacture or the dishes they prepare, they must understand their market’s expectations. Consumers are already far more particular than they were 10 years ago—and this will only intensify in future years.

In 2020…

1) Transparency will trump everything.

Consumers are demanding full transparency from food brands. People want to know exactly what they’re eating, where it came from, farm-to-shelf time—everything.

This is a trend that’s already begun and is here to stay. Companies need to be upfront about their ingredients, operational procedures, food safety practices and so much more. An important detail that’s omitted or overlooked can lead to presumptions that the company is hiding something. This isn’t to say that brands are powerless and will be subjected to unjust scrutiny. But the more a company can be upfront, the more consumers will value the brand and perceive it as an authentic. 

2) Brands will spend more green to go green.

Many of today’s consumers care about planetary health as much as personal health. They want to purchase products that will have minimal impact on the environment. And they’re willing to pay more for this peace of mind.

As a result, food and beverage companies will allocate more spending toward sustainable practices. In a recent customer survey, Innova Market Insights revealed that the percentage of global consumers who expect companies to invest in sustainability increased from 65% in 2018 to 87% in 2019. This number is only going to increase in the coming years, and food businesses must find a way to position themselves in the fight against food waste and plastic waste. 

In their recent release of Top 10 Food Trends for 2020, Whole Foods lists regenerative agriculture as a growing trend. The term refers to farming and grazing practices that restore and promote soil health, increase carbon capture and offer other environmental benefits. Whole Foods predicts that consumers will seek out brands supporting regenerative agriculture and other eco-friendly practices. 

Food waste is another key concern that businesses can address. According to a 2017 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Americans waste up to 40% of food from farm to fork. Companies in 2020 are likely to find new, creative ways to use imperfect produce and help reduce food waste.    

3) The snack industry will continue to heat up (but cool off with more refrigerated options).

Americans love their snacks. But traditional granola bars and trail mixes are taking a back seat to refrigerated, nutrient-rich snacks. Consumers are seeking fresher alternatives and are willing to do a little more prep work for healthier snacks. Whole Foods predicts an array of creations to hit the fridge aisles, including revamped nutritional bars filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.    

4) Confectioners will offer new options for guilt-free indulgence.

Sorry, Mary Poppins. That spoonful of sugar is a no-no in 2020.

Confectioners will get even more creative in cutting back on sugar and creating healthier treats. Bakers can simply reduce the amount of sugar in their recipes (a feasible strategy, according to Food 52), or use other sweetening alternatives. Coconut sugar, fruit concentrate and molasses are just a few sweeteners that will likely find their way into more baked goods. 

Expect the same momentum for gluten-free options. Whole Foods predicts a whole new emergence of “flour power” that will introduce a variety of fruit and vegetable flours into the kitchen. There will even be “super” flours to promote high protein and fiber intake. While the sweet tooth diehards (guilty as charged) can still indulge in their favorite treats, there will be more healthier options hitting the ovens. Food companies will rely on creativity and experimentation to satisfy the demand for baked goods that are also good for you.    

5) Plant-based food will expand and flourish.

The plant-based revolution shows no sign of slowing down. According to a recent report released by SPINS and commissioned by the Good Food Institute and the Plant-Based Foods Association, retail sales of plant-based food in the US alone grew by 11.3% over the past year.   

Meat-plant blends will only rise in popularity as consumers seek healthier, more nutritional options. Meat companies will need to adapt and follow the likes of Tyson Food and Hormel, two big-name brands that offer blended alternatives.

Plant-based foods will also be used to replace soy. While soy has been a staple in vegetarian dishes, companies will aim to reduce or eliminate soy to promote better health and reduce the number of allergens in food. 

6) Low-alcohol beverages will hit the bars.

Happy hours might become a little less hoppy.

As beverage companies continue to ride the health and wellness wave, expect to see more options with less alcohol. The demand for low-carb, low-alcohol beverages will only intensify in 2020. According to FreshDirect, craft beer brands have already joined the movement by releasing IPAs with fuller flavor but reduced alcohol and carb content. Spiked seltzers have already exploded into the mainstream (as proven by the abundance of White Claw selfies) and will only expand further.  

7) Kids menus will become less kid.

Remember the days of chicken nuggets and personal pizzas? Life was as simple as your dinner options. Well, this isn’t exactly the case anymore.

Kids menus are becoming more sophisticated and diverse than ever before. Foods that were once regarded as nostalgic are now being modified or taken off the table entirely. As adult dishes become more and more refined, children are mimicking their parents’ preferences and adventurous palettes. Think about it: Did you eat sushi when you were a kid? Probably not, but it’s a relatively common sight today. 

The notion that all kids are picky eaters is becoming antiquated. More and more restaurants will be modifying their kids menus to introduce fresher, more elaborate ingredients into their dishes.

8) Health and wellness will drive purchasing decisions.

Food was and always will be essential to survival. But as our options continue to expand, so do our expectations. Now more than ever, consumers want foods that are function-based and promote healthier lifestyles. 

As wellness continues to drive the industry, brands that promote health benefits will win. Whether this means additive-free foods, organic options or local ingredients, food businesses will need to promote health and wellness more than they ever have. Holistic health is the here and now, and companies will need to further amplify their efforts in the coming decade.   

But this doesn’t mark the end of our favorite high-calorie dishes. Rather, it challenges contemporary diets and their tendency to label foods as “good” and “bad.” Intuitive eating, a term coined way back in the ‘90s, will gain traction in 2020. Consumers will seek options that promote everyday health and, in turn, refrain from criticizing themselves when they indulge. Health and wellness is a $4.2 trillion dollar industry that’s full of opportunities. Brands will need to find their place in holistic wellness and decide how to synch their products with consumers’ lifestyle choices.

9) Specialty foods will expand and prosper.

Businesses that produce high-quality, low-quantity products are expected to thrive in the coming decade.

According to The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report, total sales of specialty foods increased 9.8% between 2016 and 2018, reaching $148.7 billion last year. Foodservice represented 22% of specialty food sales, with retail taking 76%. While online accounts for less than 3% of total sales, this sector has grown 41% since 2016. Online is likely to grow even more as Gen Z consumers gravitate toward online shopping and meal delivery rather than supermarkets.

More and more, consumers are supporting smaller brands that use fewer additives and more nutrients in their food. Plant-based categories are leading the specialty market, with refrigerated, fresh, frozen and plant-based foods leading retail sales and sales growth.  

Whether these foods support personal health or sustainability, consumers are willing to pay more for unique items with clear and traceable benefits. These items are typically made from high-quality ingredients and are produced in smaller batches. Gen X is the group most likely to purchase across all specialty food categories, with the core consumer being between 35-54 years old.

To match the growth of online and retail, foodservice establishments will need to further customize their products. Additionally, companies that leverage eco-friendly packaging and reduce food waste will take an even larger piece of the pie.     

10) Dining out will still be in.

You can put a price on food, delivery services and online fees. But for many Americans, the joy of dining out is simply priceless.

Despite having more delivery and takeout options than ever before, diners are still craving the brick and mortar experience. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, sales at eating and drinking establishments have risen more than 4% in 2019. A steady job market is one likely explanation. Another possibility is our growing desire for real human interaction in a largely digital world. 

While the future of restaurants is highly debated, we believe the dining experience will not only prevail, but prosper in the next decade. We are social creatures by nature and will continue frequenting restaurants to counter the detaching and oftentimes isolating aspects of digital technology.

The Key Takeaways 

  • Graced with more options than ever before, your consumers can afford to have the highest expectations. Food businesses must have a deep understanding of their target audience and their expectations regarding ingredients, price, sustainability, technology, etc.
  • Transparency means everything to today’s consumers. From your suppliers to your food safety practices, be honest and upfront with your consumers. They pay very close attention to the details and are more likely to support brands that make information easily accessible. 
  • Sustainability has become a priority for modern-day consumers. Food and beverage companies will invest more money into sustainable practices—and consumers will reward them for it.
  • Refrigerated snacks will become more popular as consumers seek healthier options with fresher ingredients. 
  • Traditional diets and the idea of “good” and “bad” foods will be replaced with intuitive eating. Consumers will seek holistic products that provide clear health benefits, while still indulging in their favorite treats.
  • Health and wellness will heavily influence future food products. From low-alcohol beverages to sugar-reduced sweets, companies will seek new ways to capitalize on the $4.2 trillion health and wellness industry.
  • Plant-based foods will continue to grow and expand, with big-name brands riding the wave and releasing new plant-meat blends, plant-based meats and more.
  • Specialty foods will continue to flourish as consumers are willing to pay more for high-quality, small-batch products.
  • Despite the advancement of food technology, consumers will continue frequenting restaurants and indulging in the social aspects of traditional dining.                    

Find Your Angle and Tell Your Story

Now that you know what’s coming in 2020, how can your business prepare for the new decade?

By telling your story.

Did you know that:

  • 35% of consumers said they prefer to know the stories behind the products they buy, up from 26% in 2018.
  • 56% of global consumers say the stories around a brand influence purchasing decisions.

Sharing your story builds transparency and authenticity for your brand. It lets customers know how you began, what you stand for and why you’re different from the thousands of other brands. Because if there’s one thing this industry has plenty of, it’s competition. 

Whether your story focuses on local ingredients, reputable suppliers, sustainable practices, food safety or high-quality products, there are countless angles to leverage. You’re probably already doing things that 2020 consumers will love. But they won’t know it unless you tell them in an authentic and engaging way.

As for the engaging part, that’s where we come in.

We’re natural wordsmiths with a passion for all things food and beverage. Having worked with restaurants and food manufacturers in New Jersey and beyond, we’re already brought up to speed in your industry. We know what customers want from your services and products—and we’re ready to help you spice up your marketing in 2020. (And don’t worry about the visuals. We work with top-notch designers who know a thing or two about stellar branding.) 

Send us a message or call The Content Creamery at 732-997-7248 to hit the ground running in the new decade.