Through the coming decade, what we eat will be shaped by new tastes, new innovations, and primarily, by new concerns held by consumers. Food businesses will have to offer more personalized food products, more sustainable packaging, and more international tastes (Japanese snack boxes, anyone?) delivered to our doorstop. Younger generations will be a driving force of change in food ways, and food producers are tuning into their concerns and habits. Our culture has shifted from considering food as an energy and sensory pleasure source to an accessible way to relate to culture, to nature, and to friends and communities.

Culture of Novelty + Individualism

Far from maintaining static cultural tastes, our food landscape will be shaped by fast-paced and far-reaching edible desires. We will see an increased receptivity to trying new ideas and new paradigms. In a world where people are apt to bore easily, and the “foreign” is not so foreign anymore, there will be an increased drive for international and new flavors. Similarly, consumers will continue to differentiate themselves and foment their identity through food habits and associations with dietary trends, selecting specific cooking methodologies, and being selective about what fast casual eateries and restaurants they patron.

Trends we’ll see in 2019 and beyond:

  • Snack foods, spices, and pantry products sourced internationally for domestic markets

  • New international flavors incorporated into everyday cooking

  • Spotlight on flavors from regions such as North Africa and the Middle East (particularly as climate change and conflict forces migration from those areas)

  • Food products and dishes used as a way to relate to other cultures

  • Novelty uses of both international and familiar flavors (i.e. Lycka Ice Cream)

  • Plant-based food products, restaurants, and offerings (as opposed to more traditional vegan and vegetarian meat replacements)

  • Curated food delivery of both grocery items and prepared foods

  • Social media and technology as a continued force in shaping our demands for new and novel eating experiences

Middle Eastern Spices. Photo: Allie Wist

Middle Eastern Spices. Photo: Allie Wist

Health + Wellness

While health and nutrition concerns have long been a driving force in food marketing, we will see an evolution of consumers’ definition of “healthy” in regards to food. The covers both new research areas as well as increased concerns about foodborne illnesses in a globalized food system. One of the major trends on the horizon comes as consumers’ increased awareness of the connection between our bodies’ microbiomes and our physical and mental wellbeing. Importantly, many nutritional motivations for eaters go beyond the healthfulness of the product itself, and have much to do with concepts of a personal lifestyle and identity.  

Trends we’ll see in 2019 and beyond:

  • Increasing interest in probiotic-rich and/or fermented foods, yogurts, and beverages

  • Continued focus on protein-dense foods and paleo products

  • Products catered to niche dietary profiles, including ketogenic, low-carb, and low FODMAP

  • Demand for clean labels and simplified ingredient lists

  • Veganism continuing to move from a hippie niche to a strong lifestyle trend, with consumers’ health motivations possibly eclipsing those of animal welfare. (Many people already cite both environmentalism and animal welfare as equal reasons for adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet.)

  • Health-ified junk food offerings, with some looking to lighten up their recipes and others embracing and marketing the indulgence of traditional high-calorie recipes

  • Priority on reducing and removing sugar from packaged products

  • Foodborne illness traceability and prevention measures from food businesses

  • Demand for both health and convenience from fast-casual restaurants, as families and millenials spend more on eating out but have an increased concern for health and nutrition


Environmental Awareness + Greenwashing

An increased focus on marketing foods with an eco-consciousness has led to “greenwashing”—both restaurants and food manufacturers have come under fire for the creation of green halos, touting their foods to be environmentally responsible when they may only make only minimal commitments. We stand to see a growing desire from consumers to source their food from environmentally sound producers, and a more robust demand for accountability of falsified or over-embellished eco labeling. Issues at stake in this area have grown from traditional concerns about pollution and animal welfare to include ocean health, seafood sustainability, food waste, and energy usage.

Trends we’ll see in 2019 and beyond:

  • Increased demand for eco certifications

  • Mission-driven food startups that strive to rise above greenwashing and embrace true sustainable sourcing and transparency (i.e. RollinGreens)

  • Food businesses featuring sustainably sourced and underutilized seafood, focusing on traceability (i.e. OneForNeptune)

  • Food businesses going beyond organic by utilizing fruit and vegetables produced in a regenerative agriculture system

  • Decreased food packaging waste and a reduction in the use of plastics

  • More food startups looking at ways to reduce food waste and increase composting (i.e. Livin Farms)

  • Snack and “jerky” products catering to environmentally friendly ingredients (i.e. Akua kelp jerky)

Equitability Moves Mainstream

While not yet as mainstream of a concern as environmentalism or healthfulness, equitability of our food will be on consumers’ minds in the coming decade. Producers will need to answer questions about how their food was produced and how their production methods do (or do not) contribute to the health of their communities. Many food businesses are forming as B Corporations to ensure continued ethical practices if acquired by a conventional food company in the future.

Trends we’ll see in 2019 and beyond:

  • Investment in good food businesses and B corporation food start-ups (i.e. Seal the Seasons)

  • Mission-driven food products which support smallholders and rural communities

  • Increased food products with fair trade certifications

  • B2B farmer online marketplaces and other platforms which increase payments to farmers and reinforce farmer livelihoods (i.e. To Market)

  • Pasture-raised and free range animal products aiming to increase animal welfare

Food trends in 2019 will be motivated by a wide swath of concerns and desires, not the least of which will be the (still growing) proliferation of dietary habits and nutrition profiles. As globalization increases consumers’ awareness of the impact consumption has on both the environment and on communities, responsibility in those areas will also be a marketing tool for food companies. And technology shapes these trends—social media and the internet will encourage individualized lifestyles, novelty, and hyper-niche interests that will apply to what and why we eat.