The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation has long been one of America’s top sources of science-based information on food, health, and nutrition. Through major initiatives like its annual Food and Health Survey, as well as ongoing research and publications, the IFIC Foundation helps consumers and food industry players alike understand the facts, developments, and choices that are shaping the world of food today.
In a recent blog post, the IFIC Foundation identified its top food trends to watch in 2020. Put together by a team of nutrition experts, registered dieticians, and consumer researchers, these trends include the following five:
Sustainability has been a hot trend in food for a number of years now, but the IFIC Foundation team is predicting that 2020 will be the year that sustainability drops its buzzword status and starts getting specific.
This development is likely the result of increased pressure from consumers who are eager to know and do more when it comes to environmental sustainability but who sometimes find the information provided by food producers to be confusing or inadequate.
For example, as revealed by the 2019 Food and Health Survey, 63 percent of consumers said they found it difficult to know whether they were making environmentally sustainable food choices, while the same percentage said they would consider environmental sustainability more seriously in their food purchasing decisions if it were easier to understand.
2. A new climate for food choices
What is strongly influencing consumers’ growing interest in sustainability are the almost daily indications that our climate is becoming more and more fragile. With unprecedented extreme weather and natural disasters—from raging wildfires to severe hurricanes—consumers are naturally concerned about the role that the food system is playing in this change and what they can do to make a difference.
Given the recent studies suggesting that eating more plant-based foods and decreasing one’s consumption of meat and animal products is associated with a lighter impact on the environment, IFIC experts predict that plant-based diets will continue to grow in popularity in 2020. In addition, consumers will pay greater attention to the effect that factors like agricultural production, food waste, and food transportation have on our changing climate.
3. Intuitive eating
Just about every round-up of food trends that appears at the beginning of a new year points to some new diet craze or other, but 2020 may prove to be an exception. This is because consumers are increasingly reconsidering conventional ideas about how and why we eat while, consequently, losing interest in fad diets and quick weight-loss regimens.
Taking the place of these eating patterns is a stronger focus on concepts that are more holistic and sustainable, such as intuitive eating. A rejection of many of the stock principles of fad diets—like the sharp distinction often made between “good” and “bad” foods—intuitive eating is a kind of non-diet that encourages consumers to pay greater attention to the body’s natural cues about what and how much to eat. Experts are hopeful that this turning away from the stringent restrictions found in many diets will help lead people to better and healthier relationships with food overall.
4. New takes on tradition
The standard American diet is full of classic foods, like a tall glass of milk or a juicy hamburger, but consumers can expect to see plenty of new twists on these staples in 2020. When it comes to milk, for example, the array of non-dairy alternative milks is far from complete—soy, almond, coconut, and rice milks are now being joined by even newer market entries, such as oat milk and pea protein milk.
Similarly, now that consumers have shown through huge demand for the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Meat burger that they are comfortable with plant-based meat, alternative food companies are expected to use these products as a gateway for an even more intriguing innovation: cell-based meat. Though not yet in widespread commercial production, cell-based meat is becoming ever more viable, and it should soon be within reach of average consumers.
In today’s food world, trust is one of the most important ingredients. Influenced by questions about sustainability and movements like clean label eating, consumers are relying more than ever on brands they are familiar with to guide their food choices.
Older consumers, in particular, are highly likely to put their trust in brands they know. According to the 2019 Food and Health Survey, 85 percent of consumers over the age of 65 said their food purchasing decisions are influenced by their trust in a brand.
So how exactly is trust determined? Familiar ingredients—another staple of the clean label movement—seems to be one of the most important elements. In fact, nearly two-thirds of consumers surveyed cited recognizable ingredients as a key factor in their food purchasing decisions.