2020 Food Trends Reshuffled by COVID-19

nutritional bars and coffee

With consumer behaviors making dramatic shifts during COVID-19, some of 2020’s most promising food trends are slowing while others take off

The marketplace disruption caused by COVID-19 spells uncertainty for the year’s most anticipated food and beverage trends, including mocktails and plant-based meat alternatives. As the last several weeks show, even the most comprehensive insights can’t account for unpredicted events. 

However, we can examine current consumer preferences while waiting to see which products and categories rebound and which fade way, making room for new trends.

To give a real-time look at trends in the marketplace, Kerry’s North America consumer insights team reviewed recent data and expert commentary from within the industry to explore some of the trends once predicted to rule 2020. We found that some appear to be tapering while others continue unaffected. We’ll be watching these, and the year's new COVID-19-inspired rising food and beverage trends, as we continue to revise our outlook on the future of food and beverage.

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garnishing a mocktail
Mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages:

At the start of the year, mocktail bars were popping up in new markets and beverage experts were hard at work crafting products high in botanicals and low in alcohol. That changed as COVID-19 became a central focus for consumers. Alcohol sales have been on the rise, indicating people are moving away from the alcohol-free movement—at least for now. But this may be only a temporary pause in the trend of turning away from alcohol. As the consumer values of health and wellness come back into focus, low- and no-alcohol beverages may resume their popularity.


plant-based meat on pizza
Plant-based meat alternatives:

As consumers stock their fridges, freezers and shelves for the coming weeks, sales for both meat and meat-alternative products have seen a lift. This may shift in the coming weeks and months due to two factors: some meat manufacturing plants have recently had to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks, which may change consumer perception and could result in limited meat stock. And, because some hypotheses tie the origin of COVID-19 to meat, omnivore consumers may begin to shift even more toward plant-based solutions.


vanilla beans in bundles
Sustainable-first products:

As 2019 came to a close, consumers were the most committed they’ve ever been to purchasing products that aligned with their values, including the ethical treatment of the planet and its people. But as grocery shelves emptied and employment numbers hit record lows, idealism was replaced by thoughts of frugality and scarcity. There will likely be a decline in organic and sustainable food purchases, at least while consumers find their footing. But, with environmental concerns also linked to the virus’s origin, there’s a good chance this consumer value will soon make a strong comeback.


frozen berries
Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables:

The want for fresh produce certainly isn’t a new trend, but it’s been a steadily growing one, especially for clean label and sustainable consumers. But, with quarantine practices calling for fewer trips to the grocery store, consumers are refamiliarizing themselves with the frozen food department. There, some people are finding frozen products they were previously unaware of, such as frozen avocados. Many are stocking up on the same volume fruits and veggies as before, just supplementing with at least some coming in frozen form. As consumers notice a reduction in spoilage, they may start to shift permanently toward frozen produce.


wellness drink
Probiotics and wellness ingredients:

Products with ingredients perceived to be beneficial to one’s health have steadily grown over the past several years. Due to current events, they are positioned to be a breakaway hit in 2020. Consumers concerned about immune health are shopping for products with a range of ingredients including probiotics and various herbs and spices. But with stress and anxiety high, ingredients that support sleep and mental wellness are also gaining rapid traction in the marketplace, including those formulated with ingredients being studied and promoted for their positive effects on sleep and mental health.

To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting the food and beverage industry, including changes in consumer preferences and purchasing behaviours, visit Kerry’s COVID-19 resource page.

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