Mareya Ibrahim

By Mareya Ibrahim 

2020 — the year of perfect vision and giving peas a chance. So, what do the coming year’s food trends hold in store for us? The short answer is a whole lot of plant-love, served up in a health-conscious way.

As a word of caution, don’t fall for just any label claiming to be “plant-based” — know the ingredients behind it. Every meat and dairy category is out to capitalize on what I’m calling the “plant-based effect.” This means shoppers will need to get savvy about what they’re biting and sipping on every day.

1) The Buzz is Manuka

Used in beauty products across categories and as a home remedy for thousands of years, the topical benefits of this “nectar of the Gods” are vast. Legend has it that Cleopatra bathed in honey, along with milk. As an edible, the bee-knitted sweetener is normally just relegated to that — sweetening. But all that is about to change.

Manuka is the “it” honey, harvested from the Manuka bush which grows primarily in New Zealand. While the jury is still out on whether it’s truly more beneficial than raw, unpasteurized honey, it is certainly a potent anti-inflammatory, praised for its anti-cancer properties.

Manuka’s luxury price tag and influencer fan base makes it an enticing addition to drinks, a sparingly used replacement for syrup (warning: it’s thick), or taken by the spoonful as a food-based supplement (think juice bar add-on).

2) Allergen-Free? Way to Be!

Paleo, organic, gluten-free, dairy-free — these are all labels we’re now used to seeing on packages as brands get on board with those respective bandwagons. Moms — who make over 70% of the food-purchasing decisions — are all about protecting their flock. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, children have food allergies more often than adults — and it costs the U.S. over $25 billion annually. That’s not even including the devastating effects of hyper-allergic reactions, which can be deadly.

The “trigger” allergens are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Any product or menu item that excludes these categories can easily be labeled an “allergen-free” safe haven. Some food trends that fit neatly in this category include oat milk, grain-free pasta, plant proteins (see trend #3), sunflower butter, seeds (flax, chia, hemp), gluten-free grains (quinoa, sorghum, amaranth, etc), and veggie noodles.

3) Air-Fried Everything

“I’ll have it French, hold the fry.” Imagine how liberated people feel, now that they can have all the crunching without the guilt! A definite insta-worthy trend, watch for it in food service as restaurants search for more healthy options without the grease splatter — including better-for-you donuts and chicken tenders. Along with air-fried everything, look for some creative side-dish options using different types of fruits and veggies, like sweet potato (see trend #8), taro, green beans, parsnips, chickpeas, and apple slices.

4) Give Peas a Chance

Just one of these mighty tiny greens got under the Princess’s skin, but peas are no longer the lowly subjects of the plate. Full of phytonutrients, protein, and Omega 3’s, this non-starchy veggie is taking over the plant-based world. The prevalence of peas as a plant-based protein will continue to lead the way as consumers demand cleaner, safer, non-GMO, and non-soy options that are also allergen-free.

Global pea protein sales were estimated around $73 million in 2016 and are forecast to quadruple by 2025 (according to Grand View Research). You’ll also find them in drinks, plant burgers and meats, gravy options, and waffles. See them shine in whole form as a snack, as well as gracing the plates of neighborhood restaurants and 3 Michelin star establishments alike.

5) Puffed Up

Just add air. These puffs aren’t your 80s variety cheese doodles coated in fluorescent dust. A quest for healthier, non-fried options paves the way for sophisticated snacks, cereals, and finger foods that use a variety of whole grains and are rich in protein, fiber, magnesium, iron, and potassium (and relatively low-calorie).

Look for puffed foods made with gluten-free grains like millet, sorghum, rice, and quinoa in items like cereals, snacks, and large cracker-like bread substitutes for avocado toast (that trend is not going anywhere). You’ll also see veggie-forward snacks as a way to get kids eating healthier, featuring kale, broccoli, and spinach, and loaded up with nutrient-dense add-ons like flax, chia, and hemp. These options are both fun and diverse in flavor profiles, featuring Indian, Spanish, Moroccan, and Mediterranean-inspired spices to please adult palates, too.


CBD Lattes and Frappuccinos at Starbucks? Maybe not yet, but some independent cafes have already started serving up the hemp-spiked drinks and menu items. In 2020, be prepared for the full-blown CBD takeover in restaurants and spas, cafes and grocery/convenience stores. While business is booming — CBD sales in the U.S. are projected to hit as high as $22 billion by 2022, up from $262 million in 2016 (according to Brightfield Group) — there’s still a lot of confusion over dosing, state laws, and labeling. CBD is still wandering the Wild West.

Soon, however, you’ll find CBD-infused products up and down the aisles, in everything from snacks to beverages, coffee to chocolate. Watch that scene unfold before your eyes in what’s considered one of the most exciting new food and beverage categories in decades.

 7) The “It” Antioxidant: Black Seed (Black Cumin, Black Caraway) Tomb Raiders’ Treasure

Thank the tomb raiders for this discovery! Buried among the treasures of King Tut, Nigella Sativa (often referred to as Black Seed, Black Cumin, or Black Caraway) is the life-extending secret of the pharaohs. Nicknamed the “blessed” seed in Arabic, science proves it to be quite the little miracle. Nigella Sativa is chock-full of the powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant thymoquinone and is also proven to help with around 100 other conditions based on real scientific data.

Sales of black seed oil increased 202.5% from 2016 to 2017, according to a 2018 report from American Botanical Council. Watch the whole seed show up in spice blends, snacks, baked goods, and other “seedy” places, while the oil finds its way into dressings, sauces, and soups.

While celery was the ‘tidal wave trend’ of the 2019 with a sales increase of almost 500%, celery root, its cousin, is making headway in 2020 with a 20% increase in sales this year according to Robert Schueller of Melissa’s Produce.

8) The Color Purple Becomes 2020’s “It” Veggie: Purple Yams/ Purple Sweet Potatoes

You can thank Instagrammers for this trend. The opulence of the purple veggie (aka. Ube, Okinawan sweet potato, and other varieties) makes for a stunning picture, and that regal color is just sheer magic when it comes to health. Full of anthocyanins with potent anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and anti-obesity effects (according to the National Institute of Health), sweet potatoes and yams are largely interchangeable in their usage.

Available in dehydrated powder and whole veggie form, you’ll soon see them show up in everything from smoothies to soft-serve, baked goods to mashed potatoes, chips to granola.

Mareya Ibrahim is a chef, holistic nutrition coach, author, and award-winning entrepreneur and inventor. She is the founder of Grow Green Industries, Inc. and the creator of the Eat Cleaner line of food wash and wipes. Mareya is the author of “The Clean Eating Handbook,” a signature chef to the New York Times bestseller “The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life” by Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman, and a contributor to Recipe Rehab.