As a new decade rapidly approaches, food and beverage manufacturers face shifting consumer preferences, an uncertain economic and political climate, the rise of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer, climate change, and a range of other issues.
Despite those pressures, the future looks bright. 84% of food and beverage executives said they believe sales will grow in 2020 when surveyed by professional services firm Mazars USA this year.
Powder & Bulk Solids examined the available forecasts on food and beverage trends for 2020 to provide the food and beverage segment of the dry particulate and bulk solids handling and processing community with an idea of what developments are in store for the year ahead.
Rising Interest in Non-Wheat Flours
While many food manufacturers are already familiar with non-wheat flours made from nuts, vegetables and fruits like almonds, tigernuts and coconuts, Amazon-owned grocer Whole Foods predicts an uptick in interest in alternative flours among home cooks in the coming year because a variety of new products are available.
“2020 will bring more interesting fruit and vegetable flours (like banana!) into home pantries, with products like cauliflower flour in bulk and baking aisles, rather than already baked into crusts and snack products,” the supermarket chain said. “Consumer packaged goods are getting in on the trend by replacing traditional alternative flours with tigernut flour in chips and snack foods, and tasty pastries made with seed flour blends.”
The gluten-free products market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.1% from 2019 to 2025, with bakery products forecast as the fastest-growing segment during the period, according to a Grand View Research report. The researchers predict the market will be driven by rising interest in healthy diets and demand from those suffering from ailments like celiac disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Functional Snacks for the Win
As Americans’ on-the-go lifestyles reshape eating habits, consumers are expected to embrace functional snacks in 2020 to satisfy hunger outside of meals and meet nutrition needs, according to the “2020 Flavor & Trend Forecast” by marketing and creative services firm THP.
“Brands that will win in this space are the ones who adapt to shifting consumer lifestyles and preferences and offer busy bites that function beyond just satisfying a mid-afternoon sugar craving, offering a caffeinated pick-me-up that’s bite-sized and portable,” wrote THP.
386 million ready-to-eat snacks were consumed in the United States during 2018, according to market research firm NPD Group, and the segment is predicted to grow by 5% through 2023. Functional snacks are a growth category within the already hot snacks market. The Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) forecasts that sales of functional snacks will reach $8.5 billion by 2020.
Subtracting More Sugar in 2020
Consumers are ditching sugary foods and beverages as new reduced-sugar products and alternative sweeteners like allulose become more readily available. Nestle, Barry Callebaut, and Mondelez introduced new reduced-sugar chocolate products in 2019. Just last month, a Cargill-DSM joint venture opened a new $50 million stevia fermentation plant in Blair, NE and Ingredion cut the ribbon on its new production plant for the natural sweetener allulose in Mexico.
Sugar reduction was among the top 10 trends forecasted for 2020 by the Oklahoma State University Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center (FAPC). “In 2019, consumers saw a growing demand for healthier options and 2020 will continue this trend with a decrease in sugary foods,” the center wrote in an article this month. “The sweetness consumers crave will instead be provided by syrupy reductions from fruit sources like pomegranates and coconuts.”
The low-to-no-sugar segment is potentially profitable as well. A survey conducted by Cargill this year found that 54% of consumers will spend more on food products with no or reduced sugar.
Process Improvements on the Horizon
A survey of American food and beverage executives published in November by consulting firm Mazars USA found the most common operational initiatives in progress or planned during 2019 were process-improvement activities (18% of respondents), digital marketing and social media (18%), and new product innovations (17%).
“Process improvement activities are taking center stage and the industry is responding to the economic climate by planning on investing in product innovations, investment in capital expenditure, and increasing number of employees,” the firm wrote in the “2019 Food & Beverage Industry Outlook.”
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of executives said they planned to increase hiring in 2020.
As operations look to optimize their processes from efficiency and energy usage to safety during 2020, companies will have to consider the role that their equipment plays.
Texture’s Time to Shine
Food and beverage industry research firm Innova Market Insights forecasts that more products will be released in 2020 with “textural claims” and that consumers will likely pay more attention to texture when buying foods or beverages in the coming year.
“Consumers increasingly recognize the influence of texture on food and beverages, allowing a heightened sensory experience and often a greater feeling of indulgence,” the company wrote in a recent 2020 trends report. 45% of consumers in the United States and UK say texture plays a role in purchasing decisions, according to Innova’s research, and 68% feel that textures make food and beverage products more interesting.
There are a variety of ingredients available that can change the textures of foods and drinks. But beyond materials, food processing firms can also think about how their mixing and blending equipment or processes can change the texture of products.
Artisan Cheese Comes to the Forefront
Americans are shifting away from processed cheeses as more natural and artisanal offerings become available. Internet-based grocery firm company FreshDirect said it expects that the popularity of artisan cheeses will continue to grow next year.
“Since the past few decades have been dominated by processed cheeses, Americans are hungry for real cheese – and artisan cheeses are growing in popularity,” the company said in its forecast of 2020 food trends. “Artisan cheeses that are more approachable will expand and grow in 2020.”
The US specialty and natural cheese market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.5% from 2019 to 2023 to a value of $18 billion by the end of the period, according to a report published by market research firm Packaged Facts this June.
“Premium and specialty cheeses should continue to outperform the market since cheese is indulgent and many Americans have expanded beyond traditional favorites, cheddar and mozzarella, to full-flavored, higher-priced products,” Packaged Facts wrote. “Mass brands and store brands (over 40% of dollar sales) continue to meet consumer desire for bolder, more robust flavors and gourmet-quality cheeses.”
An Uptick of Interest in Prebiotic Fiber
Many American consumers are already familiar with probiotic foods and beverages like sauerkraut and kombucha, but prebiotics, a type of dietary fiber that help gut health, are less known. 2020 may be the year that prebiotic ingredients and products gain traction.
“Probiotic-rich, fermented foods continue to flourish, but expect growing consumer awareness and product development around foods that contain prebiotics,” Melanie Zanoza, global food analyst at Mintel told the Specialty Food Association (SFA)
The global market for prebiotic ingredients is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.2% from 2019 to 2024, according to market research firm Mordor Intelligence.
2020 – Coming Into Focus
Looking the year ahead, the adoption of healthy eating habits seems to be driving most of the projected trends. In a recent survey of 1600 consumers, 63% said they want to eat healthy most, if not all, of the time. Keto, Paleo, Gluten-Free and plant-based diets are gaining traction. Food and beverage manufacturers will likely continue to keep a close eye on these changes in dietary preferences as the new decade gets underway.
However, the forecasts on artisan cheese and texture show that indulgence is still has a strong pull among consumers. 39% of consumers surveyed by FONA International in late 2018 said they consume indulgent food or beverages two to three times per week. There is no sign that Americans will totally abandon their indulgent eating habits in favor of healthier fare.