This year we at Mattson decided to focus on technology given who and where we are—a food and beverage insights, strategy, innovation and development firm located at the place where Silicon Valley and San Francisco meet. We’ve always thought of our location as being the epicenter of food trends, and these days it couldn’t be more true.

Here are four predictions for 2020 food and beverage trends.


High Stakes for Great Fakes

The latest debate over plant-based meat and milk alternatives is whether or not they’re fake or processed. Impossible Foods makes a burger they claim uses 96% less land, 87% less water, and 89% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The company is so staunch in its beliefs that it’s doing the right thing that officials simply won’t accept the fake meat rhetoric. They recently claimed that their product “is as ‘processed’ as a freshly-baked apple pie. Nobody judges the safety and wholesomeness of a recipe by the number of ingredients.”

Prepared Foods 2020 Predictions

Check out our December 2019 issue for more food & beverage predictions!

A few new CPG brands also celebrate their technical process. Atomo is touting its “molecular coffee,” without the bean. Their version of the brew will address the challenges that coffee beans face in a world of growing consumption, which can drive deforestation. In addition, climate change puts pressure on coffee growing and growers. Atomo hopes to release that percolating pressure with a formulated coffee.

Endless West makes formulated spirits, like their first product Glyph, “molecular whiskey — no aging or barreling needed...made overnight, in California,” versus over years for traditional whisky. They’re less about sustainability and more about celebrating the “creative capacity of science.”

It’s no wonder both Atomo and Endless West are from tech capitals Seattle and the Bay Area, with founders from the tech industry. They’re unapologetically all about the tech.


Food Tech for the Planet

Younger consumers don’t consider sustainability an option these days. With a looming climate crisis in their future, they’re making decisions today based on how a product impacts the environment, or better yet, what the product is doing to cure the damage that’s been done.

Last year saw Annie’s launch the first packaged product claiming regenerative agriculture ingredients, which they describe as protecting and intentionally enhancing soil. We believe regenerative may become the new organic once there’s a critical mass of farmers to build the supply chain. But this is years away.

Cultivated meat—grown from cells as opposed to raising and slaughtering animals—is an answer to the problem of cattle methane emissions. With increasing standards of living in countries around the world, comes increasing demands for more meat in traditional diets. The cultivation of meat is one way to give people what they want:  beef, pork, chicken, and seafood, with lower greenhouse gas emissions. This technology, too, is many years away from being able to make an impact on GHG, but there’s plenty of money flowing into the sector to speed scalability, much of it from tech titans like Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla.

We are on the cusp of major innovation around straws and food packaging, given a looming ban on single use plastics in general. But what about the liquid in the cup or the food in the plastic clamshell container? This is where plant-based foods come in.

Ripple says its products are created specifically to address climate issues. The peas used to make Ripple milk, they say, are grown with little or no irrigation, and far less than dairy, almond, cashew, or coconut milk.

Plant-based food company Miyoko’s Kitchen recently announced its intent to work with a California farmer to convert land from dairy to plants that would enable development of non-dairy cheese and butter for human consumption.


High Tech Ingredients (& Shortages)

At Mattson, we formulate with and work for ingredient companies that allow product developers to do amazing, never-before-possible things with food.

As one single example, take the consumer desire for low- and no-sugar natural products that will continue into all categories, as we’re already seeing. To do this well, we need to go beyond the stevia leaf. That’s why food tech is necessary.

A sugar reduction-enabling ingredient maker proudly claims, “DouxMatok is a food-tech company,” delivering sweetness more effectively to taste receptors using their proprietary technology. Talk about embracing science.

Amyris is making sweetener with yeast, using fermentation to isolate pure Reb M, the molecule responsible for sweetness in stevia molecule, which means it has a clean true taste, without all the leafy baggage.

With all the activity that’s going on in plant-based foods, there is another side to the high tech ingredient business: scarcity. Many of the on-trend proteins are in short supply, like pea powders and textured pea proteins. Mung bean is interesting, but still not quite scaled for broad use. And if you need methylcellulose (used in both meat and plant-based burgers) in your formula, you’d better have some in stock. The good ones are on backorder.

This means that there’s an opening for new options to the usual plant-based suspects. Mushrooms are coming to the rescue, with companies like MycoTech and Ecovative making functional ingredients from both the ‘shroom and the mycelium.

We’re already working with pumpkin seed protein, chickpea protein, quinoa protein, and more. If a food is high in protein, there’s someone out there isolating it for use in plant-based foods. Sugar reduction and protein are just two of the many areas experiencing an explosion of ingredient innovation.


Meeting In The Middle

Flexitarian behavior is so widespread these days that you can see die-hard, cigar-smoking meat eaters chowing down on an Impossible Whopper. But not only. These same dudes will return to meat the next day. It’s this less-than-fully-committed-to-meat behavior that encourages plant-based food makers that this thing can be big.

Some products are taking a different approach. Rather than rely on the consumer to go all-in for a plant-based meal, i.e. make a choice between beef or plant-based, they’re offering products that are half-and-half. No tradeoff needed. The mushroom and beef blended burgers at Sonic Drive-in and Monterey Mushroom’s Let’s Blend retail “ground” products are great examples.

Recent introductions indicate that this concept goes beyond beef, with Live Real Farms’ dairy and almond milk blends. The company that makes Babybel cheese has recently announced their intent to launch a cheese that’s a hybrid of dairy and plant-based. And Perdue Farms has launched a hybrid chicken nugget that’s a blend of chicken and vegetable nutrition.

These products leverage the technology necessary to make plant-based products stable, but incorporate real dairy, chicken, or beef to deliver the flavors and textures consumers crave. Whether these products get hit with claims of being processed or fake has yet to be determined. But given that plant-based ingredients are in such short supply, this may be the only way new players can enter the market in the near future.

Mattson also covers grocery and foodservice retailing trends—all those places involved with where and how consumers get food. Mattson’s top predictions for 2020 include two more headings billed as “Restaurants, Reimagined” and “Work: It’s Where to Go For Fresh Food.”

In the first reference, Mattson examines the growth of such companies as CloudKitchens, Kitchen United and Zume—all new businesses filling the void for foodservice operators scrambling to satisfy fresh home delivery demand. In the second case, Mattson looks at new companies such as Byte, Eat Club and Zero Cater, which specifically target workplace eating opportunities.