While the content of this third annual December issue devoted to a look ahead is focused on what we can see happening in food, beverages, and ingredients in 2020, it’s impossible to ignore that we’re entering the third decade of the 21st century. Not what you thought it would be like when you were a kid, huh?

If you grew up in the Golden Age of TV sci-fi, you sure expected a lot more out of the 2020s. Yet the technology already here, and that which is emerging, is astounding — especially when you take a step back and view it through the eyes of a 10-year-old in 1968. As infuriated as Siri makes me, I have to marvel daily at the technology that’s wrapped up in something as quotidian as an iPhone. More than that, I wonder what the world my son, born in 2018, will be like. Children born today are expected to live well into the 22nd century. My awe/ire-inspiring iPhone will seem to them as a rotary dial phone seems today.

I rifled through literally dozens of studies and predictions of the coming years in foods and beverages to help prepare this last issue of the 20-teens. There were plenty of predictions about the specific “hot” and “up-and-coming” foods, flavors, and ethnic cuisines projected for the near term. We deal comprehensively with those throughout this issue. But in looking further ahead, there was one overriding theme: responsibility. Whether the study was conducted by a processor, ingredient company, consumer research group, or an association, responsibility in some form was a recurrent mantra.

It can’t be stated more directly nor with any greater emphasis: The food and beverage makers of the future — already working hard at this, by the way — are going to have to double down on the delivery of responsibly made (and marketed) products for the global consumer, whether planning for the 2020s or all the way to 2100.

That responsibility entails a now-mandatory consideration of our planet’s environment,  resources, and people. Any company that fails to focus on sustainable practices, minimal ecological footprint, and community support will be swiftly outed and face a tidal backlash. Simply put, it’s cheaper now in the long run for a company to respect the earth and the people it works with and among than not.

This leads into responsibility to the consumer, and responsibility to science. In the studies of what consumers predict and expect the 2020s to be like, across the board responsibility was expressed, in terms of clean label and transparency. Consumers want fresh food fast, and in convenient formats, with recognizable ingredients. They want these products to not only be generally healthy but help support multiple issues related to mitigation of disease risk, dysfunction, and disease itself plus energy, and aging — without failing to be incredibly delicious and appealing.

But this is where responsibility to science comes in. The 2020s will, optimistically, see the fading of fad nutrition and bad nutrition. It’s true, “nutrition gurus” and self-styled food police remain rampant today. So, too (thankfully) does a new and healthy skepticism. With the inescapable victory of the Information Age, we are very near an end to the myopic focus on a single ingredient (“raspberry ketones!”) or the demonization of one.

The “Meat Is Deadly!”, “Sugar Is Poison!”, “Fat Is Fatal!”, and “Salt Will Kill You!” paradigms are less and less able to “play in Peoria.” Not that everyone has a nutrition science degree now, but the availability of, and access to trustworthy information is increasing exponentially, almost assuredly as a backlash to the rampant misinformation of the past few decades. But for food and beverage processors, keeping in the consumers’ corner will benefit us all.