In recent years, we’ve seen that consumers increasingly want the food they eat to be fresh, healthy, trustworthy, and convenient. We expect this to continue in 2020, pushing the industry in new directions. Here are iTrade’s predictions for food trends in 2020:


1. Fresh is Best

The largest deciding factor for many consumers in where they choose to shop for groceries is the quality and availability of fresh foods—fruits and vegetables in particular. The differentiation along this metric, however, has been shrinking as more and more grocery stores offer a selection of fresh produce and expanded ready-made offerings. The mere availability of fresh foods is becoming necessary but not sufficient to draw in new customers. 

To compensate for the closing gap in the availability of fresh produce, retailers will have to differentiate themselves by the contents of their produce section. To do that, we expect retailers to continue the expansion of organic offerings and widen their assortment as consumers seek more niche fruits and vegetables.

2. Plant-based Eating

If veganism took off in the last decade, then this is the decade plant-based eating goes mainstream. Many consumers today are opting to eat less meat. They’re partaking in “Meatless Mondays” or vegetarian weekdays, often pushed by a concern for the meat industry’s environmental impacts. Even Burger King began selling the Impossible Whopper, and reportedly plans to add Impossible Foods’ plant-based pork sausage to its breakfast menu.

And it isn’t just meat that’s being replaced. Because people are looking for dairy-free and gluten-free options, or are just finding new ways to add vegetables to their diets, there has been an explosion in all sorts of substitutions for traditional foods. We’re now seeing plant-based cheese, cauliflower used for pizza crust, and lots and lots of pea protein. If foods aren’t being replaced completely, they’re being made into hybrids, fusing cow’s milk and almond milk or combining beef and mushrooms into hamburgers.

Plant-based eating is disrupting the food industry from end to end, but it also represents a huge opportunity for growers to think about their products in new ways and find fresh markets for their fruits and vegetables.

3. Increased Transparency in the Supply Chain 

In 2019, we saw several major food safety concerns. The E. coli outbreaks associated with romaine lettuce had consumers running scared through January when the outbreak was finally declared over by the CDC. To address food safety, the industry is starting to embrace increased transparency throughout the food supply chain. We are well on our way to broad-scale traceability

Food safety may be the leading factor in the creation of new regulations and requirements to tackle transparency and traceability, but it’s not the only factor. Consumers are turning increasingly to brands they find trustworthy. Transparency into the origins of their food can help brands build that trust. Traceability has the potential, not just to trace outbreaks to their source, but to let consumers see exactly where their food came from and how it got to their grocery cart. 

4. Grocery Pickup & Delivery

While the restaurant business is raging about ghost kitchens, grocery stores have also been shifting toward pickup and delivery services. It seems every industry has delivery on the brain recently and groceries are no exception. Customers want convenience, and it looks like food retailers are ready to meet their demands. 

So far, convenience-tailored grocery experiences have been largely confined to specific stores or services. Amazon Go stores have brought cashier-less shopping to some major cities, Walmart has integrated pickup and delivery with many of its locations, and Instacart has stepped in as a delivery service for many retailers. In 2020, we predict that more major food retailers will begin to offer their own pickup and delivery services. 

5. Eco-friendly packaging

As consumers seek more environmentally conscious food options, this year will see more restaurants and retailers make the switch to eco-friendly food packaging. Many American cities and states have banned plastic straws in recent years, and it looks like styrofoam is next, having already been banned in cities like New York, Washington D.C., and San Diego, among others. 

There has been some controversy over the impact of these bans—pushing responsibility and cost on individual consumers and small businesses—while most pollution comes from a handful of industries. Yet, these policies have the potential to meaningfully reduce waste when adopted by major companies, and as consumers turn to brands they find trustworthy, sustainable packaging will become a standard component of corporate responsibility. Starbucks, for example, has outlined sustainability goals which include a 50% reduction in landfill-bound waste by 2030, along with halving its carbon emissions in both its operations and supply-chain, and conserving or replenishing 50% of the water used in its operations and coffee production. 

We predict that in order to build trust with customers and make meaningful waste reductions, more brands will turn to eco-friendly packaging in 2020. 

From sourcing a wide variety of fresh produce to implementing top-to-bottom traceability, iTradeNetwork is your partner in evolving and advancing your business in 2020 and beyond. Right now, we’re offering 1 year of traceability solutions to suppliers at no cost, so your brand can easily join us at the cutting edge of industry transparency. Check it out here.