These Are the 6 Food Trends We’ll All Be Lining up for in 2020, According to Real Simple’s Senior Food Editor
How many have you seen so far?
As the sun sets on 2019 and we look toward 2020, a few topics are top of mind as we ring in the new year: resolutions and new opportunities, hangover prevention, and—obvs our favorite—a fresh crop of food trends.
Indeed, this is an even bigger closure to celebrate because it marks the entry into the third (!?) decade of the century. We’re all willing and able to bid a friendly farewell to cloud eggs, unicorn food, and juice cleanses—but once we’ve freed ourselves of last season’s foodie faux pas, what’s on tap for 2020 and beyond?
Here, six food trends you’ll all be buzzing about—plus what’ll be hitting grocery aisles, restaurant menus, and your own dinner plates—in the coming year.
2019 was certainly the year that vegan meat alternatives—specifically Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger—expanded, then took over fast food restaurant menus, supermarkets, and headlines across nearly every publishing company in America. While this is unquestionably exciting news for those who don’t eat meat (but still crave the taste, texture, and um… “bloodiness” of beef), it has sparked quite a debate among food, health, and environmental experts. What’s better for you and the planet: plant-based meat alternatives, even if they’re highly processed? Or real-deal meat, fish, and seafood? Expect this discussion to continue well into the next decade—as well as additional innovative forms of meat alternatives to enter the market. (If you haven’t already, check out Good Catch, a plant-based “tuna” company).
Speaking of vegan and vegetarian. What started out as a meal regime with a reputation for being little more than rabbit food (“I’ll never get full off a bowl of carrot tops and quinoa,” said every skeptic ever) is getting reinvented, and options are more interesting and indulgent than ever. Vegan versions of comfort food classics that don’t skimp of flavor—and oftentimes, richness—are soaring in popularity, and we’re here for it.
“What I’ve seen happening across the restaurant industry—and something I’ve been doing in my own dining establishments—is giving vegetables equal balance on a plate," says Chef Alain Verzeroli of Shun and Le Jardinier in New York City. "The days of considering vegetables to be a side dish or garnish are over: we’re putting just as much care into their treatment as the proteins. What you eat is such a defining factor of your health, and I think people are beginning to look for dishes that put more emphasis on vegetables for this reason."
Expect to see more veggie-centric mains, as well as vegan versions of dishes like fettuccini alfredo, enchiladas, and macaroni and cheese pop up on plenty of restaurant menus in 2020.
Ube is the new… acaí? If you have no idea what we’re talking about, you will. According to a recent Pinterest report, searches for Filipino desserts grew by 76 percent this year on their site. Much of the hype here started with Ube, a type of bright purple sweet yam from the Philippines that’s sneaking its way into every ice cream cone, macaron, brownie, and otherwise Instagram-worthy dessert on earth. We’re certain your feed will have no shortage of ube-filled Taiyaki ice cream cones (the fish-shaped treats from Japan) in 2020.
By now, we all likely have at least one friend that swears by cannabidiol, or CBD. And while the mega-trendy ingredient has a health halo for helping everything from muscle aches to insomnia, anxiety, and psychosis, the research on its actual (read: science-based) effectiveness and regulation is still murky at best. It’s legal to grow hemp in the United States and to extract CBD from it, but we’re waiting on clearance from the FDA to deem CBD as a “generally safe” product.
We foresee an end to all of this iffy-ness in 2020. Once we learn more about the actual effectiveness of CBD—and the benefits feel less imaginary and its price lowers—the ingredient will go fully mainstream. Instead of solely spotting CBD in oil-based tinctures, gummies, and balms, you’ll start seeing the ingredient on cocktail menus, infused into coffee drinks, packaged snacks, and pet foods (and probably in your favorite café’s vegan alfredo sauce).
Right alongside the rise of all-things CBD, expect to see a surge in sober socializing, plus more mocktails and low-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails on menus at bars and restaurants. There are many explanations behind the recent uptick in quasi-sobriety. To begin, #wellness: drinking (or not) with intention and staying aligned with a healthy lifestyle. Why should catching up with your friends have to involve a hangover that causes you to miss your morning yoga session? Ruby Warrington explores the misalignment between our current culture of self-care and seeking happiness and how we consume alcohol in her book, Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol. Indeed, if 2019 was the year of the White Claw craze, we’re excited to see what booze-free (or low-ABV) cocktails we’ll be going wild with this year.
If you’re noticing a theme here, you’re not alone: living a healthy lifestyle has officially "gone viral" (for good), and food and drink companies are taking note. “This year, we began to see serious scaled reductions of sugar levels without artificial sweeteners, or a compromise on taste,” says Kantha Shelke, PhD, experts at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “As consumers seek foods that cut sugar, while still delivering on taste, food formulators will be tasked with finding ingredients that deliver sweetness while also boosting functional health properties.”
And because of the increased interest in healthier ingredients and transparency, we anticipate packaged food labels will become both cleaner and clearer. “As clean label has moved from a differentiator to an industry standard, we’ll continue seeing more ‘free from’ claims on packages indicating the product does not contain gluten, preservatives, artificial ingredients, or hormones,” says Guy Crosby, PhD, also an expert at the IFT. “We’ll also see companies grappling with how to replace ingredients that have fallen out of favor with consumers for those that are recognizable and have functional benefits.”
Cheers to that, homes.