In its annual survey of professional chefs, the National Restaurant Association identified the food and beverage trends that will be prevalent on menus in 2020. More than 600 American chefs, all American Culinary Federation members, answered an online survey in which they were given a list of 133 items in 12 categories identified in partnership with Technomic Inc.
The survey finds that many more alternatives will show up in foodservice establishments this year. Among those is eco-friendly packaging, plant-based proteins, revamped classic cocktails, specialty burger blends (mushroom-beef burgers, etc.), and unique beef and pork cuts.
“These trends reflect Americans’ desires to combine the tried and true with the new and different,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association. “This mix of comfort and edginess is a microcosm of the world we live in. Consumers want something different, but want to keep what satisfies them at the same time, and more than 1 million restaurants around the country are ready to meet those wants and needs.”
According to the report, eco-friendly packaging tops the list for 2020. Protection of the environment is on the minds of consumers, so they will look to spend their money at places that reduce use of packaging that can’t be recycled or composted, and use more environmentally responsible alternatives.
The off-premises market fuels this trend. Many adults spend time traveling to and from work and other obligations, with 42% of employed adults saying they spend more time commuting than they used to (that number rises to 52% for millennials). That leads to increased meal consumption happening outside restaurants, which brings a need for packaging materials that hold food quality.
In recent years, many foodservice establishments have added plant-based protein or meat alternatives to the menu. Some started offering the option in test markets, quickly expanding the offering to all or nearly all locations nationwide.
While creative marketing helped propel plant-based proteins, that alone doesn’t make a trend sustainable. Consumer excitement is high for these menu options. Mushrooms in particular could be a top protein, as survey respondents ranked it as the hottest produce item and can be added to specialty burger blends.
Here are the top ten food and beverage trends for 2020:
- Eco-friendly packaging – Diners will look to establishments to reduce use of packaging that can’t be recycled or composted, and use more environmentally responsible alternatives.
- Plant-based proteins – American diners are looking for meat alternatives that taste great, mimic meats, and fit a variety of diets.
- Delivery-friendly menu items – Convenience remains a hot trend this year. Off-premises dining is projected to account for more than 60% of restaurant traffic 2020.
- Healthy bowls – Incorporate lean proteins (including poultry, eggs, and fish) with leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds, root veggies, and whole grains.
- Scratchmade foods – Consumers want foods that are freshly made.
- Creativity with catering – Diners increasingly desire experiences in their foods, reflecting their personalities and lifestyles.
- Revamped classic cocktails – Alcoholic seltzers and reimagined Manhattans are rising in the beverage category.
- Stress relievers (ingredients that promote relaxation/relieve stress) – This includes whole grains, fatty fish, avocados, nuts, and bananas.
- Specialty burger blends (mushroom-beef burgers, etc.) – Consumers seek new flavors and dietary profiles in innovative burger blends.
- Unique beef and pork cuts – Beef cuts such as hanger, Vegas strip, and oyster steaks are sizzling, while hot pork cuts include pork belly, pork skirt steak, and pork rib roast.