2020 food tech trends
What will you be eating?
2019 was an exceptional year for food and food tech!
This year we saw an explosion of vertical farms like Plenty and Box Greens and the expansion of Gotham Greens to New England-yay! Cellular agriculture made significant advancements--so advanced that they warranted nomenclature studies and discussions. Terminology-wise, this year in food marketing, "vegan" transition to "plant-based."

Fast-food chains adopted plant-based meat is and it's no longer just for vegetarians. Beyond Meat had a record-breaking IPO, growing 163% on day one. Impossible foods not only put themselves on the map but expanded to Asia. And my personal favorite, Oatly, took the world by storm! (I mean, come on, have you seen their cute cartons!?!? They even have a barista version!)

Now 2020 upon us, innovations in food are changing what we eat, how food is produced, and even how we think about food. We've gathered six of the top trends we see coming in food and food tech for your consumption in 2020.
Summary: Food will be more customized and delivered to you more often (in more sustainable packaging). Trips to the grocery store may include a stop by the in-store vertical farm, or at the very least, you'll be able to buy food grown at a local vertical farm. Plant-based options will continue to evolve, bringing more meat, dairy, and upcycled wheat-free flour alternatives. Socially, people will be chilling out with less alcohol and more adaptogens.
1. Food and nutrition customized to you
Did you know, in 2019, that there are over 87,000 combinations of drinks you can order at Starbucks? Well, that's just the beginning of personalized food, folks! Specialty brands, like Three Trees (dairy-free 'milk') and Memento (nootropic/ketogenic creamer,) are just a few examples of yummy products tailored to specific dietary needs. Big food companies are learning that a one-size-fits-all approach is not applicable anymore, and will be adapting to fit more of their offerings into the vegan, keto, gluten-free, etc. buckets. Keep an eye out for significant changes on your grocery shelves as more products made just for you come to market.

You will need to look no further than your genes to find out what foods are best for your body. While 23andme democratized the self-administration of genomic tests, companies like genopalate are taking things a step further by offering personalized eating plans based on your genes. And if you haven't heard, Viome (and a plethora of other gut-based research companies) now provide specific nutrition advice and microbiome supplements based on the microorganisms in your stomach. Similarly, Nourished will 3-D print personalized vitamins based on your body's unique needs and health priorities.

Personal health data (that you don't need a doctor for) combined with more options at the grocery store should help make us healthier, more informed food decisions in this next decade.
Food delivery via bike in Italy (Photo by Kai Pilger)
2. And brought to your house
In 2018, food delivery was a $34 billion industry, and Forbes predicts it will become a $200 billion industry by 2025. While CBRE notes that restaurants will continue to partner with third-party delivery companies, like Caviar and Door-Dash, but in-house solutions will also become popular given the hefty surcharges associated with third-parties.

If you haven't heard of ghost kitchens, you will in 2020. Restaurants with a growing at-home market are foregoing their front-of-house and building out separate kitchen facilities to meet and capitalize on delivery demand, hence the name ghost kitchen. These alternative spaces remove the stress on chefs and extra time needed for preparing to-go orders in the middle of their lunch or dinner rushes. They can be an economical solution for heightened delivery demands, especially when several restaurants can share the same space, like Local Food Hall, in San Francisco.

Say goodbye to food prepping and stay on your diet! Food companies like Thistle (plant-based and gluten-free), Sakara, and Urban Remedy (organic and plant-based) offer specific meal plans delivered to your door. For example, Urban Remedy features the usual salads and bowls but also has meal plans tailored for anti-inflammation or digestive wellness (which include food and "meditative practices.")
3. More food will be grown vertically & in controlled environments
Vertical farming is on the rise with new locations of established vertical farms, like Gotham Greens and Bowery Farming coming to Baltimore and Plenty expanding to Los Angeles. These moves positively signal that business is viable enough to allow for scaling up--which has been a significant concern of and a hindrance to the controlled environment agriculture industry.

You'll see more specialty food products coming out of controlled environments too. For example, Oishii, a Japanese vertical farm in New Jersey, grows delicate strawberries originating from the foothills of the Japanese Alps. The farm perfectly replicates the specific climate where these beauties would grow naturally in Japan and picks them at the height of ripeness (verified by measuring sugar count once they glean a glossy appearance). The strawberries are then hand-delivered day-of to happy chefs and happy omakase eaters. This specialty market is just the beginning as vertical farms fine-tune critical environmental elements and explore the use of heirloom seeds.

4. Grocery stores & food packaging will be more local, sustainable & safe
Here at, we want people to know where their food comes from, and soon, you'll be able to see it growing in your local grocery store. Vertical farms, like InFarm and ComCrop, are partnering with grocery stores to bring consumers the freshest produce possible because it's cultivated and picked in-store. Keep an eye out in your local QFC, or (if you're in Singapore) FairPrice Xtra.

Plastic is (finally) not in vogue, and food companies big and small are taking note. Trader Joe's is working on packaging improvements to remove up to 4 million pounds of plastic annually. Inventors are thinking outside of the bag and experimenting with all kinds of materials like a compostable plastic wrap upcycled from shellfish shells, a compostable container made from sugarcane waste and biodegradable bowls that you can eat.

Traceability via blockchain is another trend we've heard a lot about but will see put into action more next year. This growing area in tech allows you to see exactly where your food has been 'from farm to fork". Given a large number of e.coli contamination reports in the US this year, having a point to point history of where your food has traveled will make food safety efforts more efficient and rigorous.
Gluten-free flour will stay on-trend. Photo by Vlad Kutepov
5. You will eat more plant-based, upcycled products
If 2019 was the year of the vegan, we predict 2020 will be the decade of "alternative proteins and upcycled food."

Seaweed is evolving. No longer will it merely be a sleek wrapper for your sushi or a quick Trader Joe's snack. It's feeding livestock, being made into shoes, and powering marathon runners from a tiny capsule. A report from Markets and Markets predicts that the commercial seaweed is going to double in value from $13 billion in 2017 to over $21 billion in 2023. The Ecological Society of America even gave it 15 minutes of fame by publishing an article on how it removes carbon. Seaweed is not only good for you but good for the planet too!

Gluten-free flours were all the rage this year, and this trend continues to grow. Renewal Mill is turning unused okara into a flour that has way more fiber and fewer carbs than the 'old school' wheat-based flour. Planetarians is another rising star in the upcycling world turning spent sunflower (and other agricultural bi-products) into a high protein and high fiber flour.

Move over acai; moringa is 2020's new superfood! A tree native to tropical and sub-Himalayan climates, it's been medicinally used in various cultures for ailments ranging from snake bites to anemia, seizures to gum disease. Legends say it also has some aphrodisiac qualities, as well. Look for it in a powder form from Kuli Kuli Foods or in tea.
6. Drink-wise, chickpea will be the next oat milk and you'll be chilling out instead of getting wasted
First, there was aquafaba, the water that garbanzo beans live in when they're canned. (If you didn't know, this is an excellent substitute for eggs or egg whites). Then the gluten-free crowd used it as flour. And now, it's about to compete with oats and almonds in the alternative milk category too. Yup, garbanzo bean milk is totally a thing. An Israeli company called ChickP is working on a chickpea drink touting a higher protein content than other alternative milk out there.

Bars and grocery stores in the US have begun stocking CBD beverages and getting mixed reviews. While CBD is legal--kind of--in America, it's benefits have not been scientifically proven, at least not enough to be added into food or beverages per new FDA regulations.

It's worth noting that while most of these brands are primarily marketing themselves with trendy CBD, they're also adding helpful adaptogens, nootropics, and other nutritional supplements that help boost the body's chill factor. For example, l-theanine, an amino acid that calms the brain, is a popular ingredient found in some of these. However, you get it, "chill" is going to be trending in 2020.
Speaking of adaptogens, we're seeing a worldwide trend towards imbibing more calming substances and less alcohol. I don't know about you, but several brands of zero-proof cocktails like Seedlip and Curious Elixirs have popped up on our Instagram this holiday season. On drink menus globally, we've seen whole sections dedicated "low alcohol" drinks. Our livers will definitely thank us for adopting this new trend.

Cheers to 2020 and happy eating in the new year! We're really excited that there are so many fantastic new things happening in food. What foods or tech are you most looking forward to in the new year? Tweet us @evolve_ag to keep the convo going!
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