On the menu in 2020: kimchi, harissa, Impossible Burgers

Prognosticators foresee us digging into healthy dishes and wider international cuisine

SHARE On the menu in 2020: kimchi, harissa, Impossible Burgers

Microgreens are among the nutritious super foods likely to win over new converts in 2020.

Martha Irvine/AP

Kimchi will be in. Plant-based meats are on the rise. And kale is still having a moment.

Those are some of the foods predicted to be among the most popular American eats in 2020.

And when Americans nosh, increasingly they will forgo the restaurant reservation and choose to chow down in their own kitchen. Roughly 46% of dinner meals purchased from restaurants are now eaten at diners’ homes, according to the NPD Group.

”The biggest shift in consumer behavior right now is our preference to consume food at home,’’ says David Portalatin, NPD’s food industry adviser, who noted that Americans are taking advantage of the ability to use an app to order from a restaurant, or buying groceries online, then picking them up or having them delivered.

Feel-good food

A key driver for what diners are ordering and buying is a focus on health, as Americans seek out what they believe to be more nutritious snacks and meals.

”Over the last year, we’ve seen how important it is for people to feel good about what they eat and order, driving an even greater increase in socially conscious and health-conscious dining,’’ said Jeanette Mellinger, head of Uber Eats User Research

The foods Uber Eats expects to be most in demand next year include oat milk, the savory noodle soup known as udon, and foods made with ingredients perceived to be health boosters like collagen.

The wellness focus fueling these shifting tastes is different from health movements of the past, Portalatin says. 

”Today’s wellness goals are less about things like diet and exercise and more about this idea of living well,’’ he says. Shoppers will be loading their carts with items that are natural, minimally processed or deemed to be super foods with medicinal benefits like microgreens, the plant ashwagandha or the algae spirulina.

“We may still eat something indulgent like chicken and waffles,’’ Portalatin says, “but it may have a Manuka honey topping to make us feel better about it.’’

Tastes expand globally

The craving for international flavors that has fueled the popularity of dishes like udon and the Vietnamese soup pho is expected to continue. And foods like kimchi may satisfy more than one trend, offering a taste of a global cuisine while promising potential health benefits.

Korean foods have been in demand for a while. Orders restaurants place with distributors for the shaved beef known as Bulgogi have experienced a triple-digit rate of growth, Portalatin says.

“We’re also seeing [the popularity of] anything from the Mediterranean [and] North Africa,’’ he says. “So flavors like harissa, and tahini, Aleppo chili. Those kinds of flavors and cuisines from those parts of the world will continue to gain momentum in 2020.’’

Americans also love to tweak the old with the new. They may be interested in trying a dipping sauce made with the Indonesian pepper paste sambal, for instance, if they can put a dollop on top of old-fashioned chicken tenders.

Restaurants that take culinary favorites and “innovate or elevate the form of those foods in some way, that’s what the consumer will really embrace,’’ he says, adding that’s what helped ignite the chicken sandwich frenzy that set off a fierce competition between Popeyes and its fast food rivals earlier this year. 

It’s “not that a breaded chicken sandwich is anything new,’’ Portalatin says. “That’s been around forever. But when you give consumers a new option to try, everybody goes crazy and rushes out to get’’ it. 

More growth for plant-based options

Breakthroughs in taste and texture, and a desire for more nutritious options will also help spur the growing popularity of plant-based foods. 

Dairy alternatives, like almond milk, draw a bigger share of consumers than plant-based meats, according to the NPD Group. But meatless patties like the Impossible Burger and those produced by Beyond Meat propelled the plant-based meat category to $946.6  million in sales as of October, a 10.2% spike as compared to 2018, according to Nielsen.

“It’s still a relatively small behavior,’’ Portalatin says, adding that U.S. restaurants sell 280 million veggie burgers annually as compared to nearly 8 billion burgers made from beef. “But it has seen phenomenal growth.’’

Among consumers, 16% use plant-based alternatives to dairy or meat products on a consistent basis and 89% of that group do not identify as vegan or vegetarian, Portalatin says,

”I think you will see consumers continue to seek protein and other nutritional benefits from plant-based sources,’’ he says, “whether that comes in the form of a snack food that is made from high-protein plant ingredients, or whether it’s a plant-based version of meat.” 

Some Instagram friendly items like starfruit are expected to maintain their recent popularity in the new year, Uber Eats says, while a few other top trends have been perennial picks.

“We’ve noticed a few veggie favorites are here to stay,’’ Mellinger says. “Our customers continue to enjoy cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts. And given this healthful eating trend globally, we don’t expect those to go anywhere anytime soon.”

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