With 2019 behind us and 2020 in full swing, we’re gearing up for what’s to come in the food and ag industries this year. From food innovation to reducing plastic waste, we’ve prepared our predictions on what you can expect in the coming year.

Food mashups you didn’t know you needed in your life

Many consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the foods they eat, or the ones they don’t. In an effort to anticipate consumer preferences, manufacturers are creating food mashups that combine ingredients.

Live Real Farms, a brand owned by Dairy Farmers of America, launched new drinks that combine fluid dairy milk and plant-based alternatives. These products include oat and almond beverage blends in various flavors. With hopes to tap consumers experimenting with food choices, companies like Live Real Farms are developing products that don’t necessarily meet consumer demand, but rather provide them with options they didn’t know they wanted.

Also on the horizon are combinations of meat and plants. Tyson Foods released a chicken and vegetable nugget blend while beef and mushroom combination burgers are also on the rise. These creative combos will lead to new market growth and provide alternative food options for curious consumers.

Consumers pounding the protein

Protein, protein, protein. Now more than ever, consumers are on the hunt for protein of all types. Whether it’s meat, vegetables, powder, supplements, beans, dairy or eggs, they’re clearing the shelves of protein sources.

Plant protein is continuing to carve out a place in the market, with an expected rise in consumers purchasing plant protein. This sector will likely follow trends like organic and gluten free in remaining a smaller component of the food industry rather than a major portion.

Many consumers, however, aren’t as impressed by plant-based alternatives as protein sources. They’re continually digging deeper into the ingredients list to ensure the protein they are consuming is nutrient dense. So, contrary to trending food mashups, some consumers may favor keeping plants as plants and meat as meat. Regardless, consumers are on the hunt for protein and you can expect their search will boost demand for protein sources across the board.

CBD in everything, and we mean everything

CBD, or cannabidiol, was a hot topic in 2019 and the hype surrounding it won’t go away anytime soon. From gummies to bath salts and even pet treats, CBD has found its place in the market. Alongside the uptick in communication surrounding CBD, access to products and increasing affordability are projected to drive continued growth in this market.

There is skepticism around the efficacy and transparency, however. CBD is extremely hard to regulate and some companies have been feeling the heat for not accurately representing their product ingredients. Expect 2020 to be the year when the movement for transparency becomes larger and stronger, along with integration into even more products.

Sephora recently launched a line of cosmetics containing CBD oil. Other industries are also incorporating CBD into their products, especially within the beverage industry including beer, protein shakes and hot drinks. Moral of the story; CBD might be controversial, but the market is growing. Keep an eye on this exploding industry.

Catch-phrase of the year: regenerative agriculture

The phrase that’s taken the agriculture industry by storm has become a theme for 2020. So, what does regenerative agriculture even mean? There may be varying definitions, but regenerative agriculture falls into the realm of sustainability and is becoming a catch-phrase to watch.

This trend is rooted in addressing climate change and includes initiatives ranging from increasing biodiversity to enriching soil, capturing carbon, improving watersheds, and enhancing the health and vitality of farms and ranches. Overall, regenerative agriculture has its sights set high.

While regenerative agriculture starts at the farm level with on-farm practices, companies like General Mills and Danone are investing in research and tool development to help farmers implement best practices and take further steps toward creating climate stability. More companies are expected to venture into this area of sustainability to establish themselves as stewards of the land, environment and people.

Throwing away plastic for good

For some, the rise in plastic use is the final straw on the camel’s back. With over eight million tons of plastic polluting the ocean alone, plastic-free advocates are standing their ground to reduce waste. And speaking of straws, U.S. consumers use and discard between 170 and 390 million plastic straws each day.

So, what’s being done to stop this? Companies are turning to plastic alternatives like reusable straws and paper takeout containers. In New Zealand, produce is sold without the confines of plastic wrapping to reduce waste. This trend has keenly been dubbed “food in the nude.”

Overall, plastic use is declining with major states like California and New York imposing legislation to support reduced waste. Both states have placed bans on single-use plastic bags and many other states are falling in line behind to support this movement. At the end of the day, consumers and companies alike will become more aware of plastic waste and take action to combat it.

But here at C|O, we’d like to think a yummier solution to this would be taking a walk down memory lane to the days when we drank Coca-Cola through Twizzlers.

C|O Insight

Consumers are more vocal now than ever on how they want their food produced, packaged and provided. With the continued rise in social media use and information dissemination, it’s critical that food and agriculture industries stay current with consumer preferences.

Our team of foodies and agriculture junkies focuses on topics and issues that matter to the industry. We know it can be challenging to navigate the changes swirling around us every day, so we’re here to help you build and protect brands and reach audiences with compelling messages. Let’s talk when the time is right to handle your next strategic marketing and communications challenge: Mark Gale, mark.g@co-nxt.com.