Americans spend a dime of every dollar they earn on food, according to a September 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. And while the percentage of our income spent on food has remained pretty steady over the past decade, according to the USDA, what we spend it on has always changed rapidly.
To help you stay in-the-know on what's new and next in all things dining out and dining in, we scoured trend reports and tapped nutrition experts to find and analyze the foods and drinks you'll be seeing everywhere in 2020. Spoiler alert: Some have major health benefits. Others might be bologna.
1. A New Catch of the Day Gets Reeled In
Now that plant-based meat has become mainstream, it's time for crab-free crab and shrimpless shrimp.
The ingredient lists for faux-fish products currently on the market — such as Plant-Based Foods' Cavi-Art, Gardein's Crabless Cakes and Good Catch's Fish-Free Tuna — feature seaweed (for the umami flavor), wheat protein (for texture and protein) and pea protein isolate (for — you guessed it — more protein).
"We think consumers will be incredibly impressed with the taste and texture of our recipes," Tara Rozalowsky, vice president and general manager of Gardein in Chicago, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "They look, cook, smell and taste like real fish."
Plant-based frozen meal sales in Gardein's categories are up 23 percent over the last three years, Rozalowsky says. Meanwhile, Chris Kerr, the CEO of Gathered Foods (the makers of Good Catch) says the brand is planning to launch a new line of frozen entrées and appetizers including crab, fish burgers and whitefish in 2020.
While this is obviously good news for plant-based eaters, it's good news for the planet, too: Overfishing leads to reef destruction and species endangerment.
"There has been a significant reduction in the populations of some species of fish, with 85 percent of global fish stocks overfished or fully depleted, according to the Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction," Kerr says. "This has caused many of the larger fish like tuna to contain toxic contaminants such as mercury and microplastics. We know we can do better, and because we have the tools to deliver quality products through plants, we can enjoy the benefits of seafood without the adverse effects."
Lisa McManus, executive testings and tastings editor at America's Test Kitchen in Boston, is looking forward to plant-based seafood following in the footsteps of fake meat. "Plant-based meat is taking off. It's nice to see companies doing the same for seafood, making it more sustainable, available and hopefully ultimately creating more inexpensive sources of protein. Right now, these products are pretty expensive compared to traditional versions."
A pack of Good Catch's fishless tuna runs for about $4.99, for instance, while you can get a can of tuna for less than $3 depending on where you live.
That said, there are some slight nutritional downsides worth noting: "Many of these plant-based seafood options are a bit lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than their animal-based counterparts," Michelle Hyman, RD, CDN at Simple Solutions Weight Loss, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
And many of these faux-fish products have plant-based omega-3 (ALA) since they don't contain seafood-derived omega-3s (EPA and DHA). "By comparison, seafood is naturally high in EPA and DHA and thus provides a more efficient source of these nutrients," says Rachel Fine, RD and owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition.
"However, if someone can't or won't eat fish, as long as they don't mind the higher sodium content of some of these products, these novelty foods can greatly expand their diet and add desired variety," Hyman says.
The introduction of plant-based seafood is a sustainable (and tasty!) step away from overfishing and reef destruction. But the current offerings can put a swordfish-sized dent in your wallet, and they don't deliver the omega-3s EPA and DHA that only come from non-vegan seafood. We definitely think faux fish is a trend worth trying, but be sure to check nutrition labels for carb and sodium content, which are going to be higher than the real versions.
Plant-based seafood products we like:
2. Veggies and Meat Will Marry
Speaking of not-quite-animal eats, plants are mixing with real meat for a one-two punch of protein, with slightly less damaging effects on the environment. Take Teton Waters Ranch Burger Blends, which feature a short ingredient list of 100-percent grass-fed beef, mushrooms and spices. Raised & Rooted mixes Angus beef with isolated pea protein, while Grateful Burger adds mushrooms, kale, onions and/or carrots to its beef.
Inspired by the growing flexitarian movement, Teton Waters Ranch was one of the first to launch a product made from a blend of beef and mushrooms in March 2019, explains Nadine Rich, the brand's marketing director.
"Our burger blends have about half of the fat, calories and cholesterol of an all-beef burger," Rich says about the certified humane products. "And, of course, the burger blend is for the eco-conscious consumer who really cares about where their food comes from and how the animal is treated."
Swapping some of the meat also helps the environment: By replacing 40 percent of an all-beef burger with plants, Grateful Burger says each patty saves 166 gallons of water.
It's the combination of animal and plant proteins — especially the blend of beef and mushrooms — that will be the true winner for most peoples' tastebuds, explains Phil Lempert, consumer behavior analyst and creator of Supermarket Guru.
"While there's a lot of attention focused on meat substitutes, consumers are now discovering that some of the ingredients are ones they choose to avoid. And then there's the taste and texture," he says. "These blends offer the umami flavor, are easy to cook and taste great — and taste always wins!"
Still, check the nutrition labels and ingredients lists to confirm these are free of artificial preservatives and too much salt. You want a burger that's both good for your body and better for the earth.
Better still for the planet (but farther off in the future of food) is something that sounds like it's straight out of a 1970s sci-fi movie: lab-grown meat. Using animal muscle cells, scientists can cultivate something that mimics the texture of prosciutto or beef tenderloin without harming any livestock.
It's not quite ready for primetime — and we'll need to see prices and nutrition details before we jump on board. But it's a promising strategy to meet the rising demand for meat, which is expected to jump by more than two-thirds over the next four decades, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Introducing even just a dash of mushrooms or kale to a beef patty saves water and supports your health. Make sure you're picking products with no preservatives and moderate amounts of salt.
Blended burgers we like:
3. Dairy Sustainability Will Moo-ve the Needle
Dairy manufacturers are no longer just cranking out the most yogurt, butter and cheese products — they're doing so in more sustainable ways.
Chobani's new Milk Matters program, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and National Milk Producers Federation, prioritizes local sourcing, animal and worker wellbeing, the economy of dairy communities and more.
The Dairy Sustainability Alliance, created by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, has similar goals for the industry at large. This alliance has inspired more than 80 percent of U.S. milk producers to implement the best practices of the U.S. Dairy Traceability Guidelines, which is committed to being transparent about where your dairy comes from.
"Transparency is a huge 2020 trend in all food categories in terms of labeling how and where items are made and exactly what's inside," Keri Glassman, RDN, celebrity dietitian and the founder of Nutritious Life in New York City, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
"They're doing a lot to reduce their total emissions; in fact, the carbon footprint of a glass of milk has been reduced by about two-thirds compared to 70 years ago," Glassman says, citing research published in the June 2009 issue of Journal of Animal Science.
Glassman recently visited Ar-Joy Farm in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, and says she was delighted to see that environmental efforts — such as incorporating food that would normally be wasted into the diets of cows — were a major focus. For example, humans can't digest the husks of almonds, but cows can, so the husks go to the cows rather than the landfill.
Transparency and sustainability have been front-of-mind in any number of food industries for several years, and we're glad to see dairy getting on board. You can show your support by shopping brands that have adopted the voluntary Traceability Guidelines, like:
4. Low ABV Will Be the New MVP
Whether they're sober-curious, counting calories or just trying to feel less groggy the next day, more Americans are reaching for lower- or no-alcohol beverages.
Mocktails — beyond Shirley Temples and club soda with lime — are becoming more ubiquitous on bar menus, and lower-proof canned cocktails like Crafted & Cured and lightly spiked sparkling waters like Smirnoff Seltzer can now be found at liquor stores. Other traditional alcohol companies are becoming more transparent about how much sugar and calories are in each serving.
"We believe wine can be a healthy addition to a wellness plan, but alcohol is a dangerous neurotoxin. In 2020, we will continue to focus on bringing even lower alcohol wines to the market."
"We used to talk only about 'eating clean.' But now many are 'drinking cleaner,' as well," Glassman says. "People are exploring alcohol-free drinks and noticing they sleep better and feel better all around."
The wellness wine market is expected to keep growing rapidly, with more people seeking lower alcohol by volume (ABV) blends, according to market research firm Grand View Research.
"We believe wine can be a healthy addition to a wellness plan, but alcohol is a neurotoxin," says Todd White, founder of Dry Farm Wines in Napa, California, which focuses on organic, additive-free and sugar-free wines. All Dry Farms wines have less than 12.5 percent ABV, and they also promise independent lab testing to ensure the wine meets strict purity standards. "In 2020, we will continue to focus on bringing even lower alcohol wines to the market."
5. Alt-Flours Will Go All-Purpose
It's no longer just for the gluten-free crowd. Paleo devotees, people seeking alternatives to lower-fiber all-purpose flour and those who are simply excited about back-to-nature heritage grains are scooping up alternative flours from the baking aisle of their favorite health markets.
Consider Bob's Red Mill, which now offers sorghum flour, brown rice flour, corn flour, quinoa flour and even hazelnut flour.
"This trend started several years ago when customer demand for gluten-free products increased. The result was that it opened a lot of people's eyes to other non-wheat grains," McManus says.
"In 2020, companies are going to continue to innovate with non-wheat flours, and you will continue to see them called out on the front of packages. I expect to see a lot more in the breakfast area — specifically baking mixes — making traditionally indulgent breakfast items (think: pancakes, waffles, muffins) better for you with these value-added flours."
These non-wheat flours are still attractive to gluten-free eaters, but they're also good alternatives for people trying to gain nutrition and health benefits.
"Consumers are looking to get the biggest nutritional bang from their foods and often non-wheat flours like almond, coconut, quinoa and chickpea can provide benefits like more protein and fiber, healthy fat and fewer carbohydrates," Linda Zink, head of innovation at SimplyProtein, a new health-conscious snack company, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
"In 2020, companies are going to continue to innovate with non-wheat flours, and you will continue to see them called out on the front of packages," she adds. "I expect to see a lot more in the breakfast area — specifically baking mixes — making traditionally indulgent breakfast items (think: pancakes, waffles, muffins) better for you with these value-added flours since many people find cooking with non-wheat flours a bit intimidating."
Once only a mainstay for those on gluten-free diets, flour alternatives are now available in a much wider array (hello, hazelnut). Swapping them for white flour delivers more nutritious baked goods and breakfast items everyone should try.
Alt-flours we like:
6. Beyond-PB Spreads Will Go Nuts
Speaking of new twists on old pantry staples, "everything" butters and spreads is one of Whole Foods Market's top 10 food trend predictions for 2020. Watermelon seed, chickpea and macadamia nut butters are spreading in availability.
"After launching watermelon seed butter in a sweetened and unsweetened version in March 2019, we have seen incredible growth in that product," says Sam Jones, the nutrition communications lead for 88 Acres in Boston.
"We also released an unsweetened pumpkin seed butter that has seen significant growth this year. One of our most popular products is our variety pack of seed butter pouches, which indicates to us that people are excited to experiment with new flavors and types of seed butters."
88 Acres plans to launch at least two new seed-based product lines in 2020.
"This trend began as people suffering from peanut allergies started seeking alternatives, which prompted sunbutter, almond butter and other spreads to branch out to popular supermarkets," McManus says. "I like that the trend has sparked the creation of new and more varied spreads on the market."
Many of these modern butters are also focusing on decreasing additives in their ingredient lists. In particular, many non-peanut-butter brands are using responsibly sourced palm oil or eliminating it altogether since it's been linked to adverse environmental effects, reports the World Wildlife Fund.
"In addition to avoiding added sugars and allergens, not-just-peanut butter spreads provide so many usage options beyond toast," Zink says. "Nut butters have become kitchen staples for us in smoothies, dips and sauces, and we're already seeing lots of innovation in this area across the aisles. I expect it to continue in 2020 — more flavor variations and use as an ingredient to improve health perceptions of many food items."
We can't believe it's not peanut butter! Creative spreads made from surprising nuts and seeds can spice up your recipes. Still, it's smart to look for products without palm oil.
Spreads we like:
- 88 Acres Unsweetened Watermelon Seed Butter ($14.99, 88acres.com)
- 88 Acres Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Pouches ($17.90 for 10, 88acres.com)
- Nuttzo Power Fuel Crunchy 7-Nut-and-Seed Butter ($12.49, Amazon.com)
7. Gut-Friendly Bugs Will Buzz Into Everything
Good-for-the-gut probiotics can be found in foods like yogurt, tempeh and kombucha, and now they're being pumped into everything else.
"We've seen shelf-stable probiotics make their way into various categories like salty snacks, water, functional beverages, coffee, tea, cereal, granola and candy — and we expect this trend to continue to grow as gut health support continues to be top of mind with consumers," Daena Rexho, director of growth solutions at KeHE, an organic food distributor, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Shelf-stable snack foods with added probiotics are a good idea in theory, but they require further research, Maya Feller, RDN, a Brooklyn-based nutritionist and author of The Southern Comfort Food Diabetes Cookbook, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "The question will always be if the live and active cultures are able to withstand processing and are in fact shelf-stable."
The vitality of added probiotics can also depend on the product. "Certain ingredients or preservatives such as sodium nitrite interact very negatively with the probiotic fortification," Feller says.
Read more: 5 Probiotic-Rich Recipes Your Gut Will Love
Four in five households stock some kind of snack bar, according to the probiotics company Ganeden, so it only stands to reason that manufacturers are trying to dream up ways to differentiate.
In hopes of meeting the heightened demand, KIND will be launching more probiotic products in 2020, says Brianna Pace, KIND Snacks Brand Manager in New York City. The brand has seen a boom in interest in functional products. Beyond granolas and bars, watch for a probiotic take on cookie mixes, frozen fruit bars, dark chocolate and more in 2020.
"For now," Feller cautions, "the best option overall is to aim for fermented foods such as yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi."
Cereal and bar brands clamored to add probiotics to their products this year — without the solid science to back up the trendy move. Save your grocery budget for natural sources of the gut-friendly bacteria instead.
The best probiotic foods include:
- Greek yogurt
- Sauerkraut and kimchi
8. Carbs Will Get Vegged Out
First came zoodles, then came cauliflower gnocchi. Now, companies such as Green Giant are expanding carb swaps even more with cheesy cauliflower Veggie Tots and cauliflower-broccoli Veggie Hash Browns so you can sneak in more vegetables at every meal and snack of the day.
"The sustained success of our veggie swap-ins makes it clear that swapping carbs with vegetables is how consumers now want to eat. The carb-conscious trend has gained incredible traction," says Jordan Greenberg, executive vice president and chief commercialization officer for B&G Foods, the parent company of Green Giant, in Parsippany, New Jersey.
"Over the last year, we've seen a 15 percent increase in sales in products that made a claim about reducing carbs on the packaging," Greenberg says. "A jump this big is certainly an outlier."
"Sometimes, these are great. I love a lunch of zucchini noodles with grass-fed beef meatballs, for example," Glassman says. "But many veggie-boosted products have a health halo. Beware of items like cauliflower chips that are essentially regular tortilla chips with just a tiny amount of cauliflower mixed in for something trendy to tout on the front of the package."
Hyman is all about amping up the produce power and expects this trend to continue beyond 2020. "I'd like to see more 'plank-style' vegetables, such as zucchini or eggplant, that can replace noodles in lasagna. And I think we'll see more baked goods and desserts that incorporate vegetables, such as pumpkin or sweet potato," she says.
No one will tell you not to eat more veggies. But there's a big difference between homemade zoodles and a serving of your favorite packaged food with a mere dash of produce sprinkled in. Look for vegged-out picks that list their star produce as the first ingredient.
Veggie swaps we like:
- Green Giant Cauliflower & Broccoli Veggie Hash Browns (available at various grocery stores)
- Green Giant Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Veggie Tots (available at various grocery stores)
- Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi (available at Trader Joe's stores)
It's always tempting to dive right in to shiny new food trends, especially when you're really craving a (blended) burger. But like every decision you make around mealtime, choosing which 2020 food trends might work for you takes careful consideration of nutrition facts and expert recommendations. Here's hoping we've helped you sort through the noise before you shop for probiotic cereal, sip low-alcohol wine or order a crabless crab cake.
- United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service: “Food Prices and Spending”
- Ugly Produce is Beautiful: “The Ugly Produce Problem and Food Waste”
- Whole Foods Market: “Whole Foods Market Predicts Top 10 Food Trends of 2020”
- World Wildlife Fund: “Palm Oil”
- Ganeden: “Probiotics in Nutritional Bars”
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: “Livestock in Food Security”
- Mosa Meat: “How It’s Made”
- Maastricht University: “What is Cultured Meat”
- Journal of Animal Science: "The Environmental Impact of Dairy Production: 1944 Compared With 2007"
- Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction: "Wasted Catch: Unsolved Problems in U.S. Fisheries"
- International Food Information Council Foundation: "2018 Food and Health Survey"
- NPJ Science of Food: "Muscle Tissue Engineering in Fibrous Gelatin: Implications for Meat Analogs"
- Princeton: "A More Potent Greenhouse Gas Than CO2, Methane Emissions Will Leap as Earth Warms (Nature)"
- NIH: "The Neurotoxicity of Alcohol"
- Grand View Research: "U.S. Wine Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report, By Product (Table Wine, Dessert Wine, Sparkling Wine), By Distribution (On-trade, Off-trade), Competitive Landscape, And Segment Forecasts, 2018 - 2025"