The Biggest Food Trends For 2020

As we enter a new decade, here are the top food trends you’ll be seeing everywhere in 2020—and beyond.

From pumpkin-spiced everything to avocado toast, kombucha to cold brew, a lot of food trends have crossed our plates and glasses in the last decade. Some I’ve embraced whole-heartedly (I still love maple and bacon together), while others I’d rather forget ever happened (looking at you, celery juice.) As we look ahead to a new decade, here are the top food trends I predict you’ll be seeing everywhere in 2020—and beyond.

We’re in a plant-based protein revolution

By now, it’s clear that Meatless Monday is just so 2010. In 2019, we saw plant-based ‘beef’ like the Beyond Burger explode into the mainstream. It was only a matter of time before other faux meats joined the party, like A&W’s plant-based nuggets and KFC’s plant-based fried ‘chicken.’ While the health benefits of man-made ‘meats’ are still questionable, there’s no doubt that the revolution will continue to gain steam as awareness of the environmental toll of meat consumption rises. Studies project that by 2040, up to 60 percent of our non-legume protein consumption will come from novel vegan alternatives (such as Beyond) and cultured lab-grown meat. So what’s next? We’re thinking vegan “seafood,” pulled “pork” and eventually, lab-grown “steak.”

Even more plant-based “milk” beverages

According to a 2017 study, about 66 percent of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. Along with studies that show plant-based beverages (especially soy and oat) have a lower environmental impact than cow’s milk, it’s no wonder more people are turning to non-dairy alternatives. Dairy milk consumption in Canada continues to decrease over time (almost by 21 percent since 2009), so you can expect plant-based beverage producers to expand their offerings with innovative products like seed milk made from flax, sunflower and hemp.

Oat milk 2.0

If you think 2019 was Year of the Oat Milk, you’re not wrong. Even Chobani, a major disruptor of the yogurt category with its Greek yogurt, has stepped outside its dairy box with a new oat milk beverage. In 2020, we‘ll likely see oat milk make an even bigger splash with next-generation products. Expect to see oat milk as an ingredient in more packaged food products, like chocolate, ice cream and yogurt, rather than just a stand-alone product. In Canada, we’re starting to see a glimpse of these with the likes of Raaka (who use oat and coconut milk in place of dairy in their chocolate bars), and Oat+Mill, who produce oat milk-based ice cream.

For relaxing times, make it cannabis time

With the recent legalization of cannabis edibles, you’ll see THC- and CBD-infused edibles and beverages (which will mimic the onset time of alcohol) on licensed retail shelves as early as mid-December. Whether you’re looking for a medicinal pain reliever, a recreational buzz, a sleep aid, or post-dinner relaxation, there’s going to be something for everyone. CBD will continue to find momentum as an explosive wellness ingredient, and look out for more research and news on CBN, a lesser known and mildly psychoactive cannabinoid, which is said to mimic the effect of sedatives such as valium.

Mocktails are having a moment

No longer reserved for designated drivers, alcohol-free beverages are becoming a huge category of their own, and big alcohol companies are taking notice. This year, Diageo bought a majority stake in non-alcoholic spirit Seedlip, which continues to pave the way in elevated mocktails (with a zero-alcohol aperitif coming soon). Plenty of beer and wine-adjacent beverages are showing up as well: PEI’s East Coast Craft Soda brews a Hop Tonic, a citrusy, cascade-hops forward soda; and O.Vine upcycles wine grape skins and seeds to create “wine water”.

Functional food products are on the rise

Need something to fight stress, offer an energy boost, or lift your mood? Our appetite for functional foods (food that offers unique health benefits that go beyond meeting basic needs) is growing, so expect to see more fortified food products that seamlessly fit into people’s day-to-day life (vitamin coffee anyone?), or even customized nutritional supplements.

A focus on food waste

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation estimates that Canadian households waste 85 kg of food per person annually (equivalent to 567 apples per person.) With food prices projected to rise 4 percent in 2020, economic factors will continue to influence both purchasing and cooking habits. Expect to see restaurants and home cooks becoming even more creative in the kitchen with food waste, and more Canadian companies upcycling surplus food into new products, like Beyond Food, a Nova Scotia start-up focused on turning produce destined for landfills into nutrient-dense protein powders.

So long, single use

The food movement has spilled into packaging as more food companies, restaurants and households shift away from single-use items towards more eco-friendly swaps. Look out for more reductions in plastic packaging: dish soap like No Tox Life’s Vegan Dishwashing Block can replace up to 3 bottles of dishwashing liquid; beverage companies are working on ways to do away with plastic rings and shrink-wrapped packaging; and there’s been a significant increase in bulk and zero-waste stores across Canada where consumers can bring their own reusable containers to buy food and cleaning products.