2020 means the start of a new decade. It also means another year of change in the food and health space. What will drive consumers in the coming year? What new and noteworthy methods or ingredients will set the internet ablaze?
Well, we think we have a pretty good idea! Below are what we believe will be the 10 biggest food and health trends in 2020. Look for our proceeding articles in January and February wherein we'll deep dive into these trends and go more in-depth about why they're a big deal, and why they should matter to you.
Plant-based foods were big in 2019, but 2020 is predicted to be even bigger in terms of products available and sales. In fact, Real Simple Food Editor Jenna Helwig shared that after 2020, "I don't think we'll even be able to classify this as a trend anymore; it will be the new normal." Brierley Horton, MS, RD, agrees. "I think plant-based, especially plant-based protein, is poised to really shine in 2020. It's a growing trend to eat less meat—for the environment, for your health, and even sometimes for affordability." She also adds that this doesn't mean adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Instead, this trend is about adjusting proportions of food (plant to animal) as people realize the environmental and health impacts that small changes can have.
We know that what we eat impacts our physical health, but the idea that food can affect mental health as well is relatively new (and still a little unbelievable to some). However, as research reveals more about gut health, it's clear that there is a definite connection between the gut and the brain, particularly when it comes to mood, memory, anxiety, depression, attention, and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. This type of data is hard to measure, so some will still be skeptical. But expect to hear a lot more this year about how what you are (or aren't) eating might be a driving force behind some key issues: mental health, concentration, and memory. If you haven't heard about key nutrients that influence neurotransmitter production and utilization like omega-3 fatty acids and certain B vitamins, you will in 2020.
"People want to find ways to help themselves without a Rx," according to Horton, and that trend is picking up lots of steam. Twenty years ago, we followed doctor's orders and took medication prescribed without question. What would raise eyebrows back then was if someone didn't take those medicines in favor of a supplement, probiotic, or other natural health solution. But that mindset is slowly changing as natural remedies like CBD and collagen are becoming preferred over trips to the pharmacy. And Horton predicts that natural remedies will be an even bigger trend in 2020 as consumer interest "in being proactive about our health and wellness will help propel natural solutions for conditions into a more everyday practice."
Even though many of us are still struggling to figure out how to count more sheep each night, 2019 was the year public awareness around how vital sleep is to health seemed to peak. And we predict even more attention will be given to sleep as a health priority in 2020. Already, nap bars—places where professionals can escape to grab a quick power nap during the workday—are popping up in metropolitan areas. And while a nap bar membership may not be on the cards for most, the prioritization of sleep is growing in importance to rival that of diet and exercise.
Tired of your vacation leaving you feeling like you need a vacation? Maybe you never got to relax because you had kids in tow, partook in too many alcoholic beverages and indulgent foods, or just totally vegged out after finally escaping your day-to-day. Whatever the reason, there's growing realization among Generation Xers and Millennials that the typical vacation doesn't recharge or refresh. What's needed is a little vacation balance. Picture this: still having fun and relaxing with a cocktail or two at night, but with a side of activity, healthy dining, and even a little meditation or yoga. We saw a small rise in affordable wellness vacations like these in 2019, but watch for them to grow in popularity and availability in 2020.
CBD became one of the top-selling supplements in 2019 that many consumers chose as a more natural way to address health issues like anxiety, so it makes sense that food manufacturers would be jumping at opportunities to offer CBD-fortified foods and beverages. While a few companies are already doing that, others are approaching it more tentatively. This is because FDA regulations for food are much more stringent (compared to dietary supplements). But with demand high, we predict 2020 will be the Year of CBD Foods. And at the same time, we also predict it will be the year where retail sales of CBD will get a bit more complicated as a result of ongoing state, federal, and FDA legislation.
As of January 2020, the FDA will require all large food manufacturers to identify just how much added sugar is in their food. While sugars naturally found in fruit, vegetables, and dairy are considered healthy, Americans get an excess of added sugars in food and drink that are added during processing. Total sugars have been included on the Nutrition Facts panel for several years, but until this forthcoming label change consumers haven't been able to determine how much of total sugar was natural versus added. We're predicting this sends manufacturers scrambling to do some quick reformulations to reduce added sugars in products, rather than share exactly how much they've been putting in products.
High-quality food doesn't just mean its nutrient contents. Today, it also references the use of sustainable farming and growing practices to protect natural resources for future food production. And this includes minimizing and utilizing food waste. Sure, we've heard stats like "30- to 40% of our food supply is thrown out as waste," but most people haven't known what to do about that short of trying to be more mindful when purchasing produce. But with consumers now savvy when it comes to farming and sustainability practices, we think 2020 will be the year we start to see consumers take more action when it comes to food waste. Not only are we predicting a surge of recipes for upcycling components from produce (that might have been tossed in the past), but we also think communities will start to find more efficient ways to get surplus food into the hands of people experiencing food scarcity as opposed to throwing it away.
Millennial demand for ingredient transparency in their food shook up the fast-casual restaurant industry a few years back, making chain operations reassess their ingredients and sourcing in order to keep that segment of their customer base patronizing their locations. This was a good thing for allconsumers, and now that those millennials are having kids of their own, we predict similar changes coming for kids menus. Sure, prior generations of parents (myself included) may not have felt great about the limited amount of menu options for kids. What's different now, though, is that millennials are starting to speak out and not settle for the standard chicken fingers and french fry fare. Instead, they'll find establishments that will provide the same transparency and quality on the kids menu as they offer for the adult version.
With 2020 being an election year, the division we're seeing in our country isn't likely to get better anytime soon. But one thing we do have in common regardless of political views is that this division leaves many of us feeling disconnected and yearning for meaning and connection. Because of this, we predict a rise in simple home cooking to gather friends and family at the table again. Cooking at home is a tangible way to find connection and meaning through the food that brings us joy and comfort. After all, for most of us, certain foods evoke fond memories and remind us of the love we feel for the people around us. Cooking is also a real, physical thing we can do—something that's not virtual or digital—for the ones we love most. And since we seem so divided, we're predict an upsurge of home cooking to bring us back together in 2020.