SFA Trendspotters Name 2019 Trends

The Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter panel has named its 2019 food trends, including plant-based foods, cannabis, and responsible packaging. The panel, which is made up of 10 specialty food professionals from across the industry, seeks to identify unique trends each year that will shape how food is created and consumed.

“The specialty food industry is growing rapidly, and much of this can be attributed to innovations happening in areas like sustainability, the plant-based movement, and desire for deeper regional flavors,” said Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association.

This year, the panel identified eight trends that are sure to make an appearance throughout the year.

Plant-Based Food

It’s not just for vegans and vegetarians anymore. Plant-based products are becoming increasingly popular as consumers seek healthier and more sustainable alternatives. New plant-based options will continue to have a retail presence and are expected to rise across the foodservice sector as well.

Regional Palate Shift

Millennials and Gen Z are driving a shift in interest to regional foods from Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. African foods like fonio, ras el hanout, and biltong are popping up on the radar, as well as South Asian and South American regional cuisines. In addition, savory-sweet snacks in the style of street fare will become more popular across retail and foodservice.

Cannabis Products Across Categories

Though the segment has its challenges as cannabis is still illegal at a federal level, the Trendspotters says to look for more cannabis-infused cooking oils, teas, chocolates, baked goods, snacks, and even beer or pasta to hit the market this year, many with high-end packaging and clever marketing.

Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Packaging

Consumers are more socially conscious than ever, and they expect company values to reflect it. In 2019, producers will begin displaying more on-package certifications and accreditations, and the packaging itself may be upcycled from plant-based materials such as tomato peels, kelp, or mushrooms.


Also known as yuca, cassava is a starchy, tuberous root native to South America. It is both grain- and gluten-free, and while the root is high in carbohydrates, the leaves are rich in protein and lysine. The leaves, especially, are taking center stage, as products like cassava leaf chips or cassava leaf jerky are debuting on retail shelves. Foodservice will also take note of the cassava’s value and start using cassava flour in baked goods or tortillas.

Fermented Functional Beverages

Sales of ready-to-drink functional beverages are expected to continue climbing through 2019. Kombucha may be the most notable, but it is certainly not the only fermented beverage on the market. Products like mushroom brews, drinking vinegars, and kvas (a traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented grain beverage) are also gaining notoriety for their myriad health benefits.

Edible Beauty

Named as one of 2018’s emerging trends, collagen-infused foods and beverages are still a huge hit with consumers looking to combat aging. However, topical beauty trends such as argan and almond oils are coming to the forefront, helping consumers hydrate their skin, restore elasticity, and reduce the visibility of wrinkles.

Ice Cream Renaissance

As consumers begin to seek more dairy-free alternatives, the ice cream market is reinventing itself with options such as coconut, almond, or soy-milk ice cream. In addition, consumers can gain health benefits with products like Halo Top’s high-protein, low-calorie ice cream, or options with vegetables blended in. New and unique flavors, such as black sesame or jasmine, are also being introduced to the market.

As these trends emerge throughout the year, they will give way to new innovations or products.

“The Trendspotters are seeing major shifts in how consumers are eating. These shifts are providing us with amazing options, along with the opportunity to change how we eat and how food is created. Old favorites like ice cream are being reinvented, while at the same time, we’re seeing foods and flavors from around the world increasingly adapted into our everyday meals. It’s an exciting time for specialty food, and we expect to see even more growth and innovation throughout 2019,” notes Purcell.

Members of the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel include:

  • Polly Adema, PhD, director & associate professor, Master of Arts in Food Studies, University of the Pacific San Francisco Campus, San Francisco, CA
  • Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, global food analyst, Mintel, Chicago, IL
  • Ken Blanchette, QA director fresh depts., Center of Excellence, FreshDirect, Bronx, NY
  • Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, professor, culinary arts and food science, founder and director of The Drexel Food Lab, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA
  • Kara Nielsen, vice president, Trends & Marketing, CCD Helmsman, Emeryville, CA
  • Melina Romero, manager, Trend Practice, CCD Helmsman, Emeryville, CA
  • Stan Sagner, writer and producer, NY, NY
  • Tu David Phu, chef, Oakland, CA
  • Kriti Sehgal, CEO, Pure Fare, Philadelphia, PA
  • Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming, James Beard Foundation, NY, NY

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