2020 is finally here! For ages, folks have been trying to imagine how the world will look today!

Well, as we walk (very quickly) into this new decade, we are entering what many are describing as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, fueled by exponential advances in technologies like machine learning, 3D printing, robotics, bio-engineering, sensors, and sophisticated data analytics—as well as continued shifts in cultural and societal expectations. Being able to both sense and quickly respond to these unique 21st century changes and opportunities calls for a whole new way of leading.

Prepared Foods 2020 Predictions

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

In a book due out this spring, I introduce the concept of Leadering (vs Leadership), because a dynamic environment demands we shift from thinking of leadership as a static noun, to embracing it as a dynamic verb. Leadering is a wholesale shift from believing you “know,” to cultivating the ability to learn—both as a human and as an organization. And it’s understanding that financial sustainability requires looking longer-term, designing with empathy, and providing value for all stakeholders.

We have shared this concept with many of the world’s largest food and beverage companies to help them harness the potential of the moment, because if we’re to ensure a safe and thriving future for ourselves and the generations to come, we’ll have to change not just the ways we farm, prepare or package our foods, but also the way we lead. What will this shift in mindset create?

In just the past year, we’ve seen some huge changes as regional burger chain White Castle introduced the plant-based Impossible Slider, increasing sales by 250% (over stores without), and helping gain distribution for Impossible burgers to more than 5,000 locations in the US and Asia. This in turn spurred one of the year’s most sustainable IPO raises for Beyond Meat, up 163% since its launch in 2013, and now with a market capitalization of $1.5 billion.

Elsewhere, we’ve witnessed a fast and global backlash toward single-use plastic, targeting straws in particular (an estimated 500 million are used in the US alone). And in August, we were tremendously encouraged as 181 CEOs of the country’s largest corporations pledged to build sustainable growth by prioritizing people and planet ahead of just profits.

What’s ahead? Already precise robot farmers are increasing yields, dramatically reducing pesticide use and run-off—all while creating healthier systems. Advances in machine learning, sensors and robotics are propelling the growth of vertical farming in both scale and scope, with projections it will grow to about $6.4 billion dollars by 2023. Albeit smaller, the 3D food printing market also is growing and projected to reach $525.6 million in the next few years.

Excitedly, the protein market is in for a radical shift as increases in global demand are met with more sustainable options grown in labs, crafted from plant-based components and/or sourced from insects. Both consumers and the planet will continue demanding more environmentally respectful packaging solutions. And supply chains will continue to incorporate blockchain-type solutions to create greater visibility, efficiency and traceability.

So as you read through this year’s predictions, take a deep cleansing breath and let yourself imagine what our collective future holds as you experiment, learn, collaborate and audaciously guide your organization forward!