Food Trends 2020 | To-Table


Welcome to the new year. And a new decade. How will the food industry and the food we eat change this year and throughout the next ten years? Following the preferences emerging from the younger generations that more and more dominate it,  the direction of the food market is changing course.


Food selections, preparation, and production must now address the new generations' requirement that personal and environmental health drive purchasing decisions above historically more important characteristics such as price, tradition or abundant availability. Food now must be:

  • Healthier
  • More Functional
  • Sustainably produced 

And , of course, there are the quirky movements in taste, like fashion, which drift on and off the food scene with little evident reason. These are the trends which provide interesting diversions and changes. But the more dramatic shifts based on how foods affect us and the planet in a time of fears from climate change should last several years or decades. 

Here are the trends that To-Table forecasts dominating (along with a few of the quirky new tastes that come and go) in 2020:


Plant Based Meat Substitutes and "Flexitarians"

The plant-based sector has been dominated by burgers so far as it's sort of the quintessential item at a fast food restaurant and the fact that it's ground gives food manufacturers the ability to simulate texture and so forth with various ingredients. But in this new decade, consumers will be looking for different meat alternatives to fill the centers of their plates. Chief among these are new fish and chicken substitutes.

Another thing that will shift consumers’ perception of plant-based meat is seeing it included in other products in the grocery store. Nestlé announced it will be adding its plant-based ground beef product to some of its iconic products, including DiGiorno Pizza and Stouffer’s Lasagna. 2020 will see an uptick in people who call themselves flexitarians, aka those who follow a largely plant-based diet but also eat meat and animal byproducts on occasion. 37% of the people purchasing meat alternatives are people who identify as such. As this number rises, so to will trends that are already popular with the veg-head set, like Meatless Monday and meat-free fast food alternatives.

It should be noted that despite a barrage of studies that have cautioned consumers that raising livestock for protein in the diet contributes a dangerous amount  of methane and is a major cause of climate change, meat consumption is at an all time high in the U.S. Meat consumption has grown twice as fast globally over the last five years as the population.

Trending Foods

  • Creative Gnocchi (chocolate, kale, and sauce-stuffed to name a few)

  • Pinsa - lighter, fluffier, and marginally healthier pizza (it's easier to digest due to the rice, soy, and wheat flours used). Ancient Italian recipe revived

  • Fast Food Breakfasts - They are all increasing the offerings on the breakfast menu

  • Lasagna - Simply because the Wall Street Journal forecasts it.

  • Bread - We’ve been educated in the good of real sourdoughs, local, organic, and GMO-free cereals, heritage wheats, and antique grains.

  • Smoke - smoking provides a certain umami needed in an increasingly plant-based food space

  • Mushrooms - veggies need to be versatile, nutrient dense, a carb replacement and a meat alternative. Enter the mushroom.

  • Anchovies - Packed with umami goodness, the 'bacon of the sea' is the unsung hero of many dishes.

  • Edible flowers and botanicals - Beauty is back

Country of the Year : Japan

With the 2020 Summer Olympics set for Tokyo and a rise in travel to Japan, the country’s influence will extend into the American culinary landscape.

Functional Foods

So-called functional foods have been sold in grocery stores and specialty outlets for years — think calcium-fortified Tropicana orange juice or Activia loaded with probiotics — but a growing push by consumers to eat healthier and watch what goes into their bodies has increased demand for items that deliver an added benefit.

65% of consumers seek functional benefits from their food and drink. The top five ingredients perceived to deliver these kinds of benefits were omega-3s, green tea, honey, coffee and probiotics.

Dairy Alternatives

Today, the dairy aisle is crowded with alternative products, from oat and almond to hemp and soy, and that growth is expected to accelerate in 2020 with better innovation in texture, nutrition and ingredients. At the moment almonds, oats, coconuts and peas dominate, but other seeds and nuts are going to come into the fray.

Lab-created dairy, such as using fermentation to make milk without a cow, is of growing interest in the industry.


A continuing trend from last year. While the regulatory roadmap remains ambiguous, one thing is clear: the next decade for the hemp-based CBD market has the potential to be a game changer for the traditional consumer food and drink products and the retail industry. Despite the regulatory issues, analysts predict that companies will push past that by developing a marketing strategy that tells a story about the substance and educating consumers on the different types of cannabinoids. 

Ghost Kitchens and Food Delivery

More people are making purchases from home. That includes restaurants. In 1955, 25 cents of every $1 spent on food went to restaurants. Today, it’s more than half. 38 percent of adults in the U.S. - and a whopping 50 percent of millennials - are more likely to have food delivered than just two years ago. Off-premise sales (most often meaning delivered or drive-through) account for the following volumes at various types of restaurants:

  • Family Dining: 20 percent
  • Casual Dining: 17 percent
  • Fine Dining: 6 percent
  • Quick Service: 72 percent
  • Fast Casual: 50 percent
  • Coffee & Snack: 73 Percent

The Olympics and presidential elections could serve as an accelerator for the off-premises trends. Even more people are likely to stay in instead of go out to consumers opt for their couch versus a restaurant dining room.

A resulting phenomenon that will be more often be seen this year is a ghost kitchen in which restaurants strip the setting of any in-house dining options, creating a large commercial space that can churn out more food. This results in delivery- or pick-up-only restaurants. 

Diets - Intermittent Fasting

Emerging as one of the most popular diets in 2019, intermittent fasting was the most Googled diet of the year. But its benefits go well beyond weight loss. Intermittent fasting, as a means of caloric restriction is gaining in popularity. Growing evidence from research suggests that either time restricted fasting (only eating between 8AM and 2 PM) or alternate day fasting supports a healthy metabolism, heart health, and brain health as well as healthy blood sugar levels. 

Regenerative Farming and Permaculture

Regenerative farming practices have the potential to not only sustain, but to restore our land by: moving away from synthetic pesticides and herbicides, maintaining and building soil health, and improving biodiversity. Regenerative agriculture can be practiced by organic and non-organic farmers alike and includes five key practices: minimize soil disturbance, maximize diversity, keep the soil covered, keep a living root in the ground year-round and integrate livestock.

Permaculture, a term falling under the umbrella of regenerative agriculture, applies to farm systems -  better described as ecosystems - that incorporate the cultivation and conservation of trees as an integral part of their design rather than traditional commodity-oriented operations.This summer, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report, detailing the adverse effects of modern agriculture on climate change, suggested the need to evolve from current agricultural methods (i.e., by shrinking farms and cultivating more trees) to prevent the most dramatic consequences of climate change.

Regenerative agriculture will be a very strong trend this decade as the world looks to feed the growing population, estimated to grow to at least 10.8 billion by the end of this century, with a lessened impact on climate change.

Renewed Focus on PFAS in Packaging

In recent years, a series of studies revealed a large portion of compostable and paper food packaging is contaminated with PFAS. The compound, also called per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, are part of a class of about 5,000 fluorinated compounds that companies like DuPont and 3M have produced for decades. They’re dubbed “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down, and they’re linked to a range of serious health problems.

PFAS and other “forever chemicals” are used in everything from flame retardants in carpet to non-stick cookware (i.e., Teflon) because they make those products water- and stain- resistant. Those same qualities have also made them attractive to food packaging manufacturers.The packaging industry’s push is part of a larger effort to remove PFAS from the nation’s food supply. Though the PFAS crisis seems to be broadening as the scope of the issue becomes clear, a wide-ranging and urgent response is taking shape.

Among other serious health issues, fluorinated compounds have been linked to cancer, liver damage, immune disorders, pregnancy complications, and much more.






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