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Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel Predicts Top 2020 Food Trends

Specialty Food Association Trendspotter Panel Predicts Top 2020 Food Trends

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

If there’s one thing that we can all agree on in this industry, it’s that consumers know what they want. These days, what consumers want is comprised of qualities like health, convenience, and sustainability. According to the Specialty Food Association (SFA), these qualities are what will drive consumer trends in 2020. To get a closer look, the SFA hosted a Trendspotter Panel with professionals from diverse segments of the culinary world.

Denise Purcell, Head of Content, Specialty Food Association"As the specialty food industry hits a record year of growth with $148.7 billion in sales, we're seeing that health benefits and sustainability concerns will continue to drive more food and beverage trends in 2020. But, there's also room for fun, whether in the form of canned cocktails or global condiments," said Denise Purcell, Head of Content for the SFA.

According to a press release, the SFA Trendspotter Panel included:

  • Polly Adema, PhD, Director and Associate Professor, Master of Arts in Food Studies, University of the Pacific San Francisco Campus, San Francisco, CA
  • Reem Assil, Chef/Owner, Reem's California, Oakland, CA
  • Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, Global Food Analyst, Mintel, Chicago, IL
  • Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, Professor, Culinary Arts and Food Science, Founder and Director of The Drexel Food Lab, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
  • Andrew Freeman, Founder, af&co., San Francisco, CA
  • Tonya Hopkins, Founder, The Food Griot, Brooklyn, NY
  • Lawrence Jacobs, Buyer, Oliver's Markets, Santa Rosa, CA
  • Vallery Lomas, Founder, Foodie in New York, New York, NY
  • Kara Nielsen, Trendologist, Emeryville, CA
  • Melina Romero, Manager, Trend Practice, CCD Helmsman, Emeryville, CA
  • Tu David Phu, Chef, Oakland, CA
  • Victoria Jordan, Director of Partnerships, James Beard Foundation, NY, NY

Here are the six trends they anticipate for 2020:

Plants as Plants: Meat Replacement Pushback

Across retail and foodservice, plant-based meat alternatives are undeniably popular. Growth will continue, however SFA predicts a consumer return to real fruits and vegetables.

Sustainability-Driven Product Development

Consumers, especially Gen Z, are values-oriented shoppers who look at a company's values and production methods when making purchasing decisions. Upcycled products, those using ingredients that are normally discarded, are becoming more prevalent. Biodynamic farming, a practice that helps sustain the biodiversity and health of the land, is coming more into focus for consumers, and SFA expects we'll see more products from this practice.

"Whether it is motivated by regenerative agriculture, upcycled ingredients, or plant-based foods, products whose values center around sustainability are trending," agreed Trendspotter Reem Assil.

Fermented condiments, prebiotic foods, and plant-based meats are just some of the food trends on the rise in 2020

Fermented Condiments: Gochujang Comes to the Forefront

SFA has predicted that the combined expanding interest in fermentation and Korean cuisine will converge to bring the fermented condiment gochujang to the forefront. One of the backbones of Korean cooking, this red chili paste is made with fermented soybeans, seasonings, and glutinous rice, and is often used in marinades, dipping sauces, soups, and stews.

Prebiotic Foods Gain Awareness

More of these ingredients will hit the spotlight, with early examples including bars and crunchy snacks made with prebiotic-rich barley and buckwheat.

"Probiotic-rich fermented foods continue to flourish, but expect growing consumer awareness and product development around foods that contain prebiotics," said Melanie Zanoza Bartelme.

Protein Trend Takes Unexpected Turns: Anchovies and Noodles

Anchovies are poised to take off, according to the panel, gaining ground as a sustainably-caught, flavor-packed option, most notably on restaurant menus topping burgers or being used as an ingredient in butters, marinades, and even cookies. Protein-packed noodles also are on the rise but are moving beyond the lentil- and legume-based varieties that have been on the market.

Convenient Cocktails and Mocktails

The Trendspotter Panel named Raising the Cocktail Game one of the top trends of the 2019 Summer Fancy Food Show thanks to a slew of new mixers, tonics, and garnishes to help consumers make bar-quality cocktails at home.

"Look for a continuation in 2020 with the trend expanding with more cocktails in cans and bottled mocktails that offer sophisticated alternatives for non-drinkers or curious consumers," said Andrew Freeman.

Here are some trends expected to continue in 2020:


Trendspotters see continuing growth in products across categories containing CBD, especially as the market gains a greater understanding of the incorporation of it and other functionals as ingredients.

These days, what consumers want is comprised of qualities like health, convenience, and sustainability

Dairy-free products

Dairy alternatives, oat and nut-based milks in particular, will continue to reign in yogurts, beverages, creamers, and frozen desserts.

Fermented beverages

Refrigerated, ready-to-drink functional beverages have grown 55 percent in retail sales, according to SFA's State of the Specialty Food Industry research. Probiotic-friendly kombucha has led the charge, and more fermented functional beverages touting health, tradition, and flavor are on the horizon. Drinking vinegars, which are high in probiotics, amino acids, and antioxidants, will also continue to emerge.

Regional cuisines of Asia, West Africa, and Latin America

This top trend of 2019 will continue in the new year as consumer knowledge grows. Look for flavors and ingredients from these areas in spices, sauces, and bases.

Looks like consumer’s tastebuds will be getting a revamp next year! For more news in the specialty food sector, keep reading Deli Market News.

Specialty Food Association