Meeting Mentor Magazine

July 2024

8 Need-to-Know F&B Trends for 2020

Today’s attendees have very discerning tastes when it comes to what they want to see on their plates at an event. When everyone’s a foodie, what’s a planner to do? Stay on top of the latest food and beverage trends, of course! Here’s a roundup of the latest F&B trend forecasts from food industry insiders on what your attendees likely will be clamoring for in 2020 and beyond.

1. Ethnic and Cross-Cultural Cuisine on the Rise:
When Kimpton surveyed more than 130 chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from 75 Kimpton restaurants and bars for its 2020 Culinary and Cocktail Trends, almost 40% said Levantine cuisine (Israeli, Turkish and Lebanese influences) will be most influential this year, including S’chug, a Mediterranean hot sauce, and muhammara, a Turkish red pepper and walnut spread. When it comes to drinks, almost half said Mediterranean tastes will prevail, though spirits from China, Japan and Korea will be getting more play.

Fusion also will be hot, with more than half the Kimpton chefs saying they like to mix and match cultural cuisines, such as Mexican and Southeast Asian, and French and Scandinavian.

Another world cuisine we may see more of this year, according to the Whole Foods Top 10 Food Trends for 2020, is West African. While each of the 16 West African nations has its own specialties, they are commonly based on tomatoes, onions and chili peppers and accented with peanuts, ginger and lemongrass.

For U.S. cuisines, look for hyperregional variations, says this Food & Wine culinary trends article. Look for Appalachian, Lowland and Creole dishes to start cropping up on menus, said a Nashville-based chef in the article. Another American cuisine to be on the lookout for, according to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA’s) Restaurant Industry 2030 report, is Native American.

2. Flavors Get Funky
Kimpton chefs expect to be experimenting with sour ingredients such as rhubarb, tamarinds and vinegar this year, as well as exotic peppers such as Gochujang, piri piri, Espellette and Hatch chili peppers.

To get that umami kick in today’s increasingly plant-based menu, many will be adding smoky flavors, according to the Food & Wine report.

3. Sustainability and Locally Sourced Still Growing
According to the Kimpton forecast, “Sustainability will continue to take center stage. Restaurant and bar managers, chefs and bartenders are crazy about composting, incorporating zero-waste techniques and eliminating single-use plastic items.” In fact, eco-friendly packaging was rated the hottest of the 133 survey options covered in the NRA’s 2020 Culinary Trend Forecast. This trend is, at least in part, driven by increasing local legislation and regulations and a growth in sustainability initiatives in restaurants in general. The chefs in the NRA study also gave high ratings to zero-waste dishes, which repurpose scraps that otherwise would go in the trash.

Also still growing in popularity are collaborations with local farmers and distillers. This dovetails nicely with a trend noted in the Whole Foods report that points to a continuing uptick in regenerative agricultural practices, which farmers use to restore depleted land and create long-lasting environmental benefits. Don’t be surprised to find your chef able to discuss how local sources are using these techniques to reduce the eco-footprint of their farms.

Even fish and other seafood options will be more sustainably sourced, according to the Food & Wine article. “I see a trend of more chefs searching out sustainable fish and seafood options — let’s get our guests willing to try other options besides salmon and shrimp!” said Andrew Carmellini, chef and owner of NoHo Hospitality and Rye Street Tavern in Baltimore, in the article.

4. Cocktails With a Twist
Don’t look for a boring old lemon or lime garnish; bartenders at Kimpton restaurants say they’re getting exotic with garnishes now, including burning sticks of wood and scented squares of paper adhered to the glass. They named mezcal as the spirit of choice, with wines going natural and organic and beers that veer to the sour side.

For those who want to go alcohol-free, cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is also starting to go mainstream, according to global hospitality company Benchmark’s top F&B trends for 2020. CBD oil, the nonpsychoactive compound found in marijuana, now is finding its way into everything from sparkling waters to coffee, tea, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages — and possibly onto a catering menu near you in the near future.

5. Mocktails Worth Drinking
The low-alcohol trend is anticipated to continue coming on strong this year, and nonalcoholic cocktails, spritzers, botanical sparkling drinks and exotic fruit teas are expected to continue growing even as Dry January fades into the rearview mirror. Some companies now are producing alcohol-free botanical-infused spirits and zero-proof aperitifs that could be wending their way to your 2020 bar menu.

Nitro coffee and cold-brew alternatives also are growing in popularity, according to Kimpton.

6. Alternative Diets Go Mainstream
No surprise to any meeting professional who’s had to juggle ever-increasing requests for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian and keto meals, the Kimpton foodies say the alternative diet trend is here to stay.

7. Vegetarian/Vegan Changing Up
When it comes to vegetarian/vegan diets, tofu may be losing its place as king of the plant-based protein, according to the Whole Foods forecast. Instead, look for mung beans, hempseed, pumpkin, avocado, watermelon seed and golden chlorella. Nondairy vegan spreads also are making the scene in 2020, according to Whole Foods: Your attendees may find themselves “buttering” their bagels and “cheesing” their crackers with watermelon seed butter, macadamia nut butter and spreads made from trending superfoods like pili. For those who crave pulled pork but want to hold the pig, check out jackfruit, which Benchmark’s top F&B trends for 2020 identifies as “a force in the food industry as a meat alternative” in 2020. According to Kimpton, we’ll also be seeing more desserts going vegan in 2020.

And this vegan trend is here to stay: According to the NRA’s Restaurant Industry 2030 report, we can expect plant-based proteins to continue to gain market share over the next 10 years.

8. Meet the New Meat
For those who don’t want to go entirely plant-based, meats also are getting a makeover. Some chefs will be blending plant-based ingredients like mushrooms and barley yeast into meatballs and burgers, says the Whole Foods report. In fact, the burger/mushroom-blend proteins ranked just below plant-based proteins in the NRAs’ top 2020 restaurant trends.

Even fully animal-based meats will be higher quality, according to the Food & Wine article. In part driven by the rise in keto, paleo and other protein-based diets, more people are looking for high-quality, hormone-free meat in restaurants and, most likely, on their banquet plates as well. — Sue Pelletier





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