As sure as New Year’s resolutions will be broken by the end of January, the beginning of the month will be rife with predictions for the hot trends in the year ahead. And now that we’ve entered the year 2020, the start of a new decade (although some say it starts in 2021) and a year ripe for vision-related puns, the prognostications seem to have taken on new importance.
The big question is, whether we’re looking one month, 12 months or a decade ahead, are these trends built to last? Or, will they fall by the wayside, like all those discarded gym memberships? Which ones will we be talking about in 2021 and which ones will go the way of rainbow bagels? Which ones will have industry insiders excited and which ones will fill consumers’ Instagram feeds? Here’s my take on two of the trends you’ve likely been hearing about. I’ll be looking at others in the coming weeks.
Will Plants Keep Growing?
Yes, we know! Plant-based diets and plant-based foods have been trending for the past few years. In fact, this trend is so ubiquitous I was reluctant to put it on my list. I’m not even sure we can still call it a trend. While taking a break from writing this post, I passed a nearby Maison Kayser and saw the sign touting its plant-based menu items. Now I’m not sure that a croissant made without butter is still a croissant, but it’s just one (literal) sign that plant-based has become a must-have in food companies’ product portfolios, menus and marketing efforts.
Clearly consumers are not only buying it (I’m fighting the temptation to add another literally here) but they’re also hearing and talking about it. Search the phrase “plant-based” in Google News and, as of this writing, you’ll get more than 14 million mentions in .39 seconds. On Instagram, #plantbased is featured in more than 25 million posts – outpacing #iran (19 million posts), #impeachment (327,000 posts) and #megxit (just 6700 posts but I suspect that one will grow).
So, why call it a trend? For one thing, its exponential growth looks like it will continue unabated. In July, the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and The Good Food Institute announced that U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods were up 11% over the past year – five times that of the overall US retail food market. Forbes, meanwhile, cited the prediction of some retail analysts, that plant-based meat substitutes could account for 50 percent of the meat industry by 2050. And, although Food Navigator reports that there are signs of deceleration, it seems everyone in the food industry is either jumping into or expanding their reach in the plant-based food game.
My prediction: You’ll need a weed wacker to keep this thing from growing. So, while companies jumping into this ocean will have the opportunity to ride the wave, it’ll be a challenge to cut through the clutter. Think bold and breakthrough if you want to make noise.
Will CBD Go Up in Smoke?
Speaking of weed wackers, that just might be the way companies interested in the cannabidiol (CBD) market are looking at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) right now. First, a quick snapshot: In July, the Brightfield Group predicted that 2019 sales of products containing CBD would top $5 billion, a 700% increase from 2018, Google News found 25 million stories with the phrase “CBD” and #CBD appeared in 8.6 million Instagram posts.
But the FDA may have put the kibosh on CBD when it announced in November that it is illegal to make and sell any food product with CBD or to label it as a dietary supplement. It followed that announcement by sending 15 warning letters to companies selling products with the hemp-based ingredient.
If that’s the case, then why does it seem that companies have gone rogue? Some trend reports from food trade shows like Expo East and the Fancy Food Show would have you believe that CBD product introductions are rampant although I was surprised by the dearth of product at the shows I attended in 2019. Still, the FDA itself acknowledged that products containing some form of CBD “seem to be available almost everywhere.” And consumers seem to be buying it: a Washington Post investigation demonstrated how easy it was to buy CBD-containing products on Amazon, despite the company’s policy to bar the sale of anything containing that ingredient.
But didn’t hemp get legalized a couple of years ago? That’s where this gets confusing. The 2018 Farm Bill effectively removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act. However, according to the FDA, the bill preserved the FDA’s authority to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds. This is true regardless of whether the cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds are classified as hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill. What can be marketed are products containing hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder and/or hemp seed oil, which were recognized as safe in 2018.
My prediction: This is one plant-based product with a long road to hoe before it becomes mainstream. Given those murky rules, it’s unlikely that any of the major food companies will enter the CBD market unless an upstart company comes along and challenges the FDA. Smaller companies may take the risk -- and hope to go unnoticed by the FDA – but that means going unnoticed by the general consumer. The simple advice: be prepared. If you’re selling a product with CBD, understand the risks and plan ahead. If you’re selling a product with a GRAS hemp ingredient, make sure consumers know what they’re buying.
Next week, we’ll ask, “Will the best ideas get scrapped?” and “Should I get excited about date-ing?” If you want to get a sneak peek or talk about how these trends may impact your business, contact me at Ilene.firstname.lastname@example.org.