No longer relegated to specialty grocers and select restaurants, health food has become central to North American consumers’ lifestyles. Yet as much as options like organic and gluten-free have become standard fare, health food is anything but boring. Instead, the category continues to evolve, with health foodies serving as the new trendsetters.
As consumers look more closely at the mind-body connection, food and drinks that promote wellness from the inside out have become stylish, cool and indulgent. This consumption also extends to snacks and sweets, as consumers expect these items to still satisfy their nutritional needs and even serve as meal replacements at times, which requires more wholesome, nutritious and often premium ingredients.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic changes the world, consumers still generally want to consume food and drinks that can help them feel good mentally and physically. That means that following flavor trends from our 2020 North American Top Trends Report will likely become more prominent in 2020:
Tea has long been associated with health and mindfulness, but North American consumers have only scratched the surface of this plant. In 2020, as consumers look for more innovative, sophisticated ways to incorporate wellness into their lives, tea is taking on an elevated role.
That means that floral, herbal blends that became popular in years past, but which technically were not from tea plants, will make way in 2020 for bold, exotic tea varieties, such as Chinese Lapsang and Assam. These tea flavors are not only showing up more as beverages but also in syrups and infusions, which can be used creatively, such as with ice cream.
The growing category of kombucha, which hits at the intersection of several trends including the use of tea, fermentation and low-alcohol/non-alcoholic drinks, will also become more prominent in 2020. In addition to being a popular beverage on its own, we anticipate kombucha popping up as an ingredient in more drinks and dishes.
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The food as medicine trend continues with consumers trying to fight stress, boost moods and increase energy using the next-generation of adaptogens. These earthy-flavored ingredients, used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic healing, are being added as both a taste and wellness enhancer among both chefs and mixologists.
Specifically, next-gen adaptogens like mushrooms (particularly reishi and chaga varieties), holy basil, curry leaf and rhodiola are contributing to the future of food and beverage. These plants and fungi can appeal to consumer demand to heal from the inside out, without sacrificing taste. In addition to the rise of mushroom-powered hot chocolate and coffee, look for more combinations of adaptogens as chefs and mixologists play with health and flavor pairings.
Drink to Your Health
With the rising purchasing power of Millennials and Gen Z and their proclivity to drinking a bit less alcohol than past generations comes the trend of more health-conscious drinks. That’s not to say that consumers are forgoing booze — the craft scene remains important — but the latest trends in beverage involve more non-alcoholic and low-ABV options.
Beyond kombucha, this means beverage companies and bartenders are creating healthier concoctions, with the juice bar and mixology worlds colliding. For example, when creating cocktails, mixologists are incorporating more health-forward, plant-based ingredients, such as basil, cilantro, elderflower, sorrel and orange peel. Sea buckthorn is also on the rise, such as how Chef Anthony Strong of Prairie in San Francisco delivers a little bit of health with a little bit of booze via a bright orange cocktail that contains sea buckthorn, ginger, lime juice, club soda, Cocchi Americano and gin.
Alcohol producers are contributing to this wellness trend too, such as with more botanical and low-ABV options like vermouth. For example, Escubac, a new spirit from Edinburgh-based Sweetdram distillery, has been gaining momentum, as this gin-esque liquor combines warm spices with floral and herbal botanicals.
As these trends exemplify, health and wellness will be major drivers in the food and beverage industry, not just in terms of offering up healthy ingredients on their own but by contributing to new flavor profiles and new types of dishes and drinks.