Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Expanded plant-based options, elevated kids’ fare and alcohol-free beverages are on the menu for 2020

Expanded plant-based options, elevated kids’ fare and alcohol-free beverages are on the menu for 2020
(Image credit: Image: Pixabay)


Several trends that emerged or gained a foothold in the food industry in 2019 will continue to grow in the coming year. Here’s a look at three of the top trends you can expect to see in foodservice and food retail in 2020.

Plant-based, the next generation

Plant-based foods — especially meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger — were one of the biggest trends in food this year. In 2020, chefs and food brands will continue to highlight vegetables in ways that substitute them for animal protein, and the applications will go way beyond plant-based burgers, Nation’s Restaurant News editor Bret Thorn predicted. 

“Expect to see more tacos, sausage, meatless balls, plant-based loaf, chili and so on incorporated into menus as chefs become more accustomed to using these products as normal items in their walk-ins,” he writes in a recent round-up of 2020 trend predictions. He also forecasts that plant-based substitutes for eggs, cheese and seafood will show up on more menus next year.

In addition to dishes that put plants in the spotlight as a replacement for meat, the coming year will also bring more plant-forward dishes that use vegetables and grains to supplement smaller portions of animal protein. Whole Foods included meat-plant blends on its list of top 10 food trends for 2020, and Baum + Whiteman likewise named the trend among its 11 hottest trends for restaurant and hotel dining.

Meat-and-plant products currently on menus and store shelves include blended beef and mushroom burgers a la the Blended Burger Project, but Baum + Whiteman predicts 2020 could bring a new twist to the blended approach.

“Quite possibly, the next generation of these products will be part plant-based and part cell-based,” the consultancy predicts. “They’re all aimed at a mass market of Americans who seek flexitarian ways of cutting back…but not giving up…on meat.”

Booze-free cocktails continue to bubble up

Another trend that’s been brewing for the past few years and is gearing up to take over 2020 is low- and no-proof cocktails. 

Baum + Whiteman and Whole Foods both included alcohol-free drinks in their trend forecasts, noting that the newcomers to this category often imitate the flavor profiles of spirits and classic cocktails. Kimpton called out “all buzz, no booze” as one of its top beverage trends for 2020, naming coffee spritzes and botanical-infused sparkling drinks among the non-alcoholic drinks it thinks will take off next year.

For those who still want to imbibe but like their drinks to pack less of a punch, cocktails that feature lower-proof spirits will be widely available, Nation’s Restaurant News editor Joanna Fantozzi predicted. 

“Watch for ‘softer liquors’ to become more popular on restaurant menus at independents and chain restaurants alike, and expect liqueurs, sherries and port to become ingredients of choice for the bartender who wants to create low-ABV libations that are just as creative as the harder stuff,” she writes.

Kids’ menus mature

Many of the trends that have been growing on mainstream menus over the past several years — plant-forward cuisine, global flavors and whole grains, to name a few — will trickle down to children’s menus in 2020.

“We’re predicting more availability of healthy items on children’s menus that allow kids to explore new flavors,” the National Restaurant Association’s Senior Vice President of Research Hudson Riehle told Business Insider. “We can expect to see kids’ menus incorporating more global flavors — from Mediterranean cuisine to West African dishes.”

Millennial parents want their children’s food to have the same flavor, nutrition and carefully chosen ingredients as what they buy for themselves, and their grocery carts will reflect this, Whole Foods predicted. The retailer mentioned non-breaded salmon fish sticks, fermented foods and pastas made from alternative flours as some of the emerging products in this category.

Related stories:


If you enjoyed this article, sign up for GMA SmartBrief or Restaurant Smartbrief to get news like this in your inbox, or check out all of SmartBrief’s food and travel newsletters as we offer more than 30 newsletters covering the food and travel industries from restaurants, food retail and food manufacturing to business travel, the airline and hotel industries and gaming.