The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation has published five trends for food and nutrition in 2020.

Interest in sustainability has grown for the past few years, and while in 2020 the topic will mature and evolve, IFIC believes that confusion still surrounds the exact definition of sustainability. When the 2019 IFIC Foundation’s annual Food and Health Survey asked whether “environmental sustainability” was a factor in purchase choices, only 27% responded in the affirmative. This is a decrease from previous years when 35%–41% of consumers said that sustainability was a factor in their purchasing decisions. The lower number could be due to consumer confusion since 63% of consumers admitted that it is hard to know whether the food choices they make are environmentally sustainable

IFIC predicts that consumers will become more concerned this year about the role the food system plays in climate change, such as the effects of agricultural production, food waste, and transportation of goods. “Environmental concerns will continue to drive greater adoption of plant-based diets,” writes IFIC in a press release. “However, consumers’ conceptions of plant-based diets vary. About one-third (32%) of consumers say a plant-based diet is a vegan diet, while another 30% define it as a diet that emphasizes minimally processed foods that come from plants, with limited consumption of animal meat, eggs, and dairy.”

The organization also expects consumers to become increasingly disinterred in fad diets and “get thin quick” regimens and instead will become more interested in sustainable concepts like “intuitive eating”, which IFIC defines as focusing less on food restrictions and “more on natural cues our body gives us, like when we are full, and on healthier relationships with food overall.”

A fourth trend that IFIC foresees for this year is that Americans will take a renewed interest in old classics but with a twist. For example, plant-based “milks” have been around for years—think soy, almond, coconut, and rice—but 2020 will see oat milk soar in popularity. In addition, a traditional hamburger has been a staple of the American diet for decades, but this year consumers’ comfort level with technologies means that cell-based meat will become more viable.

“Despite (or perhaps because of) growing acceptance of innovative and diverse food alternatives, familiarity will hold a greater pull for many Americans,” writes IFIC in its press release. “Consumers in 2020, especially older ones, will base many of their purchase decisions on the brands and ingredients they know.”

According to the 2019 Food and Health Survey, 70% of Americans reported that trust in a brand had at least some impact on what foods and beverages they buy. Those factors are even more important to older consumers—brand trust impacts purchase for 85% of those aged 65 and older and only 66% of younger consumers. Most consumers (63%) said that recognizing ingredients on a product label impacts their decision to purchase at least somewhat.

Press release

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