From the wildfires in California and Greta Thunberg’s zero-emissions voyage across the Atlantic to the increasingly devasting floods in Venice and tropical storms around the globe, the world asks: “What can we do about climate change, and how can I make an impact in my daily routine?” Increasingly, consumers look for cleaner, greener products and food—labels such as ‘non-GMO,’ ‘organic,’ ‘paraben-free,’ and ‘local products’ (all of which fit in with sustainable food trends) are more common than ever before.
In concert with this trend, the demand for organic food is increasing faster than growers, farmers and factories can produce it. In the United States, organic fruit and vegetables grew to a $17.4 billion industry and accounted for nearly 15% of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales in 2018 – and we’re on track to see an even bigger increase by the end of 2019.
For 2020, we expect to see a rise not only in sustainable and organic food options but also in several other trends showing consumers will lean even further in favor of these food practices. Here’s what we predict as the emerging “clean” and sustainable food trends for 2020:
- Bio Plastics. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last decade, it’s that single-use plastic is one of the most environmentally damaging products, and the sleeping giant of consumer opinion to the knowledge that food and product packaging account for 40% of all single-use plastic. We expect to see a continuous increase in plant-based plastic packaging or “bio plastics” in 2020. These are products made of renewable biological sources as opposed to fossil fuels and sometimes are fully edible. 2019 saw the first edible water pods, which made their debut at the London Marathon to replace plastic water bottles, and places like Thailand made use of banana leaves as a more sustainable way of packaging food products. We expect to see many more of these innovative packaging methods to emerge in 2020.
- Plant-based or Alternate Proteins. While Meatless Mondays started the movement more than 15 years ago, 2019 was the power year for plant proteins with the rise of the Impossible Burger and new vegan/vegetarian protein options available at mainstream fast-food chains like Qdoba and Burger King. U.S. consumers bought 157 million units of plant-based meats in 2019, growing the industry by 23%, and it’s anticipated to continue climbing year over year. Similarly, we’ve seen more brands coming out that utilize alternate proteins. Trident Seafoods has released a seafood-based protein noodle made from wild Alaska Pollock – which is a smart and sustainable seafood choice. And we don’t see alternate proteins falling from the limelight any time soon. With companies like Chirps Chips making a favorite snack from cricket flour, to the world’s favorite chain restaurants boasting new, plant-friendly options, and even a new protein made from air, we’re betting 2020 will be another standout year for innovative proteins hitting the market.
- Natural Additives and Supplements. The single multivitamin in a thing of the past, and by now it’s likely you know someone or are someone who incorporates a natural supplement (or five) into your diet for the organic health benefits. Golden lattes to promote gut health, coconut oil-infused “bulletproof” coffee to ramp up your brainpower and (everyone’s favorite) versatile CBD-infused products made headlines, recipes and trendy social media content across the United States in 2019. And companies are starting to market not only the health benefits but also the way these ingredients are sourced. For example, the sustainably driven essential oil producer Nelixia is on a mission to show the world where these raw materials for everyday products such as soap and cooking spices come from and to be more transparent about raw materials that are endangered from climate change. As consumers become more tuned into healthier standards of lifestyle and wellness, as well as where their supplements are coming from, 2020 will see even more naturally occurring health supplements lining the walls of our grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Sustainable Sips. According to VICE, the higher the alcohol percentage in a beverage, the higher the carbon footprint per ounce—so beer is the most sustainable, with wine following and spirits trailing the pack. And there are some very specific waste issues associated with making certain kinds of spirits. Take, for example, tequila production. Pulping an agave plant produces a lot of waste, which is acidic and can contaminate soil and water tables if not disposed of correctly. Dulce Vita Spirits has an entire sustainability program, and Beam Suntory is producing the first-ever tequila to utilize hydrolysis to increase flavor and decrease waste and water usage. Not surprisingly, one of the first industries to form a climate action group is the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance, which, in turn, created a label indicating if the California wine you drink is coming from a vineyard practicing sustainability. Sustainable craft breweries and climate-conscious distilleries are also becoming the norm, and 2020 will see even more emerge from the woodwork (and barrels).
- Produced-at-Retail Veggies. Retailers and grocers are taking things even further to cut down on transportation and CO2 emissions caused by the food industry. The rise of the farmers market and consumer interest and investment in locally produced food has had many in the grocery business thinking – why not grow our produce right where we sell it? A grocer in Berlin is using InFarm, a self-contained hydroponic agricultural center that lets consumers shop for food in the most local way possible – literally, in the aisle. This in-store produce center has made its way over to Seattle in select Kroger stores, and the mega-grocer said it will expand to 15 stores by April 2020. Fruits are not yet available in these vertical hydroponic gardens, but these on-site and in-aisle farms are something to keep an eye on in 2020!
So, how can you be more sustainable in 2020? Lifestyle adjustments take time, but it’s time well spent in the name of helping make our climate future healthier for all. It can seem overwhelming, but here are five easy steps to being more sustainable in your home and everyday life:
- Quit purchasing plastic water bottles. With all of the insulated, trendy water bottles on the market, why would you drink out of plastic bottles!?
- IMPACT: Promote healthy oceans, combat single-use plastic products
- Buy in bulk. When you bring your own bags or mason jars to the bulk section, you eliminate the need for plastic packaging entirely—and most bulk sections will save you money and fill your pantry with healthy, yummy staples.
- IMPACT: Combat single-use packaging products, add more natural foods to your diet
- Celebrate Meatless Mondays. Did you know producing a single quarter-pound beef burger uses 425 gallons of water – enough to fill 10 bathtubs? Skipping meat once a week makes a HUGE difference, and with all the great recipe sources out there, it should be a delicious sacrifice! Need more information on where to look and where to dine? Check out the Good Food Institute and their report cards on plant-based options.
- IMPACT: Promote plant-based protein, promote water conservation
- Compost your leftovers. Composting has become the norm in cities like Seattle, but did you know that your food compost can go right into your yard waste? No yard, no problem—there are composting programs across the united states that will come and pick up your compost for you!
- IMPACT: Nourish future home gardens or local farms though compost soil
- Enjoy seasonal foods and befriend your local farmers. Not only are seasonal ingredients tastier when they are, well, in-season, there is nothing quite like a lazy Sunday brunch followed by a trip through your local farmers market. The vendors are passionate and knowledgeable, and trust us—their products speak for themselves when it comes to flavor and nutrition.
- IMPACT: Support local economies, eliminate long-distance food transportation
Which of these sustainable food trends appeal to you? Share with us how you plan to integrate sustainability into your lifestyle – or already are!