Our annual trend report highlights some of the biggest food trends we predict for the coming year. 2020 is looking like a big year for flavor innovation, personalized nutrition and a wider acceptance of plant-based options.
Fruity flavors are taking a turn to the exotic. Especially popular in beverages and candies, the flavor trends are moving beyond traditional fruits and highlighting more unusual flavors. Coming from an overseas influence, we’re seeing fruits like yuzu, lychee, blood orange, prickly pear, calamansi (a hybrid between a kumquat and mandarin orange – more on hybrids later in our trends!), Meyer lemon, and Japanese plum.
The consumer’s sweet tooth is transitioning into more of a spicy tooth. As sugar continues to be looked upon as a negative, product development teams are looking into less sweet flavors that will keep consumers interested. The combination of sweet and heat is continuing to gain ground, especially moving into candy. As spicy, global cuisines continue to be a huge trend in the foodservice industry, that has filtered down to confections with spicy chocolates, baked goods and candy.
As a grain-free lifestyle becomes more popular, alternative flours are hitting the mainstream and you can expect to see even more versions this coming year. Popular for a few years in pre-made cauliflower crust pizzas, cauliflower flour will be available in bulk and packaged for the consumer to experiment in the kitchen with. Some other interesting alternative flours going mainstream this year include banana flour, chickpea flour, Tigernut (a root vegetable) flour, coconut flour, nut flours (almond, cashew, macadamia, etc), and sorghum flour.
Expect to see more “boosted” flour options too that feature added protein, fiber and other nutritional benefits.
In the CPG arena, more snacks will feature these new flours as key ingredients to offer a gluten-free snack option.
We covered the functional food trend in last year’s report and this year we’re diving deeper into mood-boosting foods. Foods and beverages featuring mood-boosting ingredients are on the rise this year as consumers want those added benefits from their snacks. Mood-boosting ingredients are being featured on packaged snacks and restaurants are even testing special menus to shift your mood in a particular way.
Similar to gluten-free alternative flours, nut butters are getting more unique options to compete with the OG peanut butter. These plant-based butters avoid peanut allergies and many of them also eliminate the use of palm oil whose harvesting can be harmful to the rainforests. Look for new nut and seed butters that are made from watermelon seeds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, and coconut.
Adventurous consumers are highly receptive to hybrid products. You probably remember the mass hysteria a few years ago over the cronut – a croissant/doughnut hybrid. We’ve seen hybrid trends come and go since then and we expect 2020 to be a big year for hybrid snacks. As food companies feel the pressure for creative flavor innovation to attract consumers’ attention and boost sales, they’ve taken to mixing and matching among flavors and categories. Think birthday cake-flavored popcorn or alcohol-flavored gummies. A lot of these hybrid flavors are being rolled out with limited-time releases which enhances the uniqueness of the experience. Food launches with a limited-batch claim have increased by 36% over the past several years, according to Innova. It’s a great way to test innovation and draw excitement for interesting hybrid snacks.
Consumer demand for unique experiences will move beyond flavor to include texture more this year. 70% of consumers said texture gives food a more interesting experience and although texture is a key element of how we experience food, it doesn’t get as much attention as some of our other senses. Often when texture is commented upon in food, it’s in a negative way such as not liking the texture of a food item.
Playing up texture can make existing products more exciting and new products can highlight textures for a fun, new experience. Consumer demand for something new and different is predicted to increase, to be reflected in more product launches with textural claims. Because not many brands focus on their product’s texture, it can be a great point of differentiation in crowded categories, like snacks.
For color trends this year, the palette is moving from warm to cool with blues and greens spotlighted in dishes and packaged snacks. Colorful ingredient options include blue algae, beets, matcha, and butterfly pea flower tea, which changes color from blue to purple when acidity is added to it.
Product developers continue to discover new possibilities and applications for chickpeas. Already popping up in savory and sweet spreads, pastas, and snacks, garbanzo beans are now breaking further into the bakery segment. A great source of plant-based protein and fiber, chickpea crust could be the next cauliflower crust and chickpea butter the next alternative nut butter.
Food and beverage products featuring a plant-based claim posted an average annual growth rate of 68% over the past five years, according to Innova. The interesting part of the plant-based revolution is that it’s no longer just about finding meat-free alternatives for vegans and vegetarians. Now, plant-based products are being enjoyed by the general meat-eating population who are trying to cut down their meat consumption. That is a true testament to the product innovation of great tasting food and the storytelling that has gone hand-in-hand with plant-based products.
Interest in plant-based foods and beverages is aligned with sustainability, another top trend for 2020.
According to an Innova report, close to 90% of global consumers said they expect companies to invest in sustainability, up 22% from last year. When it comes to sustainability, studies have shown that older consumers care more about food waste and younger consumers care more about plastic waste. The heightened focus on single-use plastics is no longer just a trend relegated to certain states, but a reality that goes beyond the purge of plastic straws.