07 Nov 2019

By Mark Driscoll, Founder and Director, Tasting the Future

The identification of key trends, whether these are societal, cultural, technological, behavioural, environmental or economic, are key to the success of any organisation or business. Producers, manufacturers, retailers, investors and civil society organisations need to be salient of these trends, which present both risks and opportunities to their business models. Sourcing, product development, marketing and stakeholder/consumer engagement strategies and ultimately business success will be dependent on these future trends.

I set out four of my top ten trends that will, I believe, impact on those companies working within the plant-based foods market during the course of 2020. These trends are based on my own insights and recent conversations with a wide range of businesses, farming groups, academics and civil society organisations working on the sustainable food agenda:

1. Power of Plants, with a Backlash – Demand for plant-based foods will continue to grow rapidly with the market size for plant-based products estimated to reach $140 Bn by 2025. Some estimates suggest that 30% of the core meat market will move to plant-based alternatives over the next few decades. A recent YouGov and Whole Foods Market survey found that 63% of millennials are trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet. Don’t expect plain sailing though. We are already seeing a backlash in some quarters against plant based and vegan diets. The huge rise on plant-based meat substitutes and claims of both significant health and sustainability benefits will be increasingly challenged. There are some significant questions for which I expect to see more focus in 2020 – Are plant-based meat substitutes with high saturated fats and sugars more healthy just because they are labelled as such?

2. Mindful Eaters – Mindful eaters are citizens who want to know much more about where their food comes from and who want to engage with rather than be passive participants of the food system. Although price will continue to drive purchasing decisions, the numbers of citizens who make decisions based on health and sustainability will continue to grow. Signs are that numbers of mindful eaters will continue to grow in Europe/North America, although we will witness more rapid growth of mindful eating in parts of Asia/SE Asia. Provenance and locally sourced ingredients will appeal.

3. Foodie Activism – 2019 has seen a significant rise in climate activism – Greta Thunberg’s Friday school strikes and Extinction Rebellions use of civil disobedience are two such examples. Expect to see a move towards more foodie focussed activism in 2020 as the impact on food (particularly animal based proteins) on climate, biodiversity (e.g. the links between food and the Amazon forest fires) and human health comes to the fore. In the UK for example, a new sister to Extinction Rebellion, called Animal Rebellion, is planning to focus on direct action on the meat marketing, packaging and processing industries, through direct action.

4. Clean Labels – As a result in changing consumer expectations. several food companies have committed to clean labelling in recent months – the use of simple, recognisable and wholesome ingredients free from a multitude of flavourings, preservatives, sugars and GMO based products. We are seeing an explosion of interest in fresh fruit and vegetables in processed foods for example, driven by increased focus by consumers on the effects of food on their health and well-being. Describing foods as ‘healthy’, ‘fresh’ or ‘pure’ with products containing a multitude of ingredients is treated with increasing consumer scepticism and will be increasingly challenged.

For further information on Marks top ten 2020 sustainable food trends visit his blog which can be found here.

Mark will be chairing a panel session the future of plant-based foods in retail/foodservice sector at Food Matters Live. Panellists include representatives from Greggs, PETA, Sainsburys, Planet Organic and Unilever.