Plant-Based Foods Create a Tidal Wave of Culinary Change
The SRG Culinary Team and external council of experts shine a spotlight on the food story of 2020 and beyond
SRG’s Top 10 Cutting-Edge Trends Report is heading into the new decade. Fueled by a deep understanding of the global food landscape, the SRG Culinary Team and external council of more than 175 experts and trend spotters are shining a spotlight on the food story for 2020 and beyond, and it’s one that everybody—from truck drivers to school teachers, elite athletes to amateur home cooks—is looking at.
The plant-based movement is not just a culinary trend, but a major lifestyle shift. It rapidly moved from fringe-foodie interest to full-on phenomenon. Plant-forward foods are cropping up in more ways, inspiring more diners to join the food revolution. Not-so-subtle plant swaps are sweeping the snacking aisles. Fast-food favorites are finding their meat-free guises.
Check out our December 2019 issue for more food & beverage predictions!
From fermented fungus steaks and cantaloupe burgers to pond-grown milk, there are seemingly no limits on the creative takes that fully put forth the plant.
At SRG, we’ve got our eyes on the innumerable ways our food world has already been uprooted, and we have our finger on the pulse for how the plant movement will grow in the future.
1. The Trend is to Blend: The James Beard House initiative of blending meat with mushrooms for health and sustainability—the movement that arguably sparked the broader plant-based phenomenon—has spread its influence into the CPG world. From dairy and nut milk hybrids to jerky and mushroom splits to ready-to-eat varieties of the patty that started it all, watch for blends to blossom in even more categories.
2. Poppin’ Produce: The classic salty, crunchy, crispy snack aisle has already been plant-ified. But now, gone are the days of stealth health. Newer forms unabashedly celebrate the plants within. From chewy, tender coconut jerky and crispy puffed cauliflower bites to snackable asparagus spears, watch the fresh produce aisle make its center-of-store takeover.
3. The Expanding Plantscape: The plant-based landscape is rapidly expanding, proving there’s no one right way to embrace the craze. Whether 100% fresh-from-the-farm plant cuisine or the growing innovations in cellular agriculture and “motherless” meats, consumers have so much choice when it comes to no-meat eats.
4. Fast-Food Flip: Fast-food faves have rapidly embraced plant-based innovations, marrying the undeniable indulgence of iconic builds with the goodness of plants. Watch as even more brands and restaurants make miraculous efforts to serve up plant-based innovations that are both scalable and affordable.
5. Legumes Makin’ News: Chickpeas have moved far beyond hummus, and now even lentils and peas star in foods of all kinds. From sweet to savory—whether featured as is or making creative use of their byproducts—keep looking to legumes as the real shapeshifters of the plant-scape.
6. Plants Served Sparkling: For those looking for a cola choice with more upside, a buzz without booze, or to achieve a sense of energetic equilibrium, look for more plant-based ingredients like hemp, chicory root, mood-boosting herbs and botanicals, and even plant-sourced waters to continue to serve up new sips.
7. Serving Up ‘Shrooms: Originally touted for their meat-like texture, mushrooms and other funky fungi are proving they’re good for so much more. From a new coffee swap to puffed ‘shroom snacks to achieving what no plant-based innovation has done before (hello, “whole-muscle ‘meat’”!), we’re all about to see that there’s not much the mighty mushroom can’t do.
8. Sea-Stainable Solutions: Sustainability seekers are shifting their focus to the oceans. Sea-based plants like kelp and other seaweeds are going to shine as nutritious, tenderly textural, and more sustainable subs for meat and wheat, while various land-grown innovations are just getting started to provide relief for the most overfished seafood populations.
9. Fruity & Funky: Fruit is finding new footing in the plant-based movement in salty, savory, and decidedly not-sweet formats that put it at the center of the plate. From creamy banana milk to meaty cantaloupe burgers, veggies will have to share the spotlight because it’s about to be fruit’s time to shine.
10. Quacking About Duckweed: Duckweed, or water lentils, is an aqua plant that grows on the surface of ponds. Made up of a whopping 65% protein and fiber, it may be able to offer what other dairy alternatives struggle with: hyper-sustainability and super-dense plant-based nutrition. With this possible rising dairy-free star, can’t you just taste the lentil latte now?
11. Trendspotters Bonus! Tune in to The Great Debate: And we’re not talking politics. With the number of new plant-based offerings exploding in retail and foodservice, are they all considered healthy? Watch the debate heat up in 2020 as the movement grows, and look for industry dialog and consumers asking the critical questions around health, wellness, and balance.
Originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of Prepared Foods as Green Wave.