8 Specialty Food Trends to Track in 2019

trends 2019

Fermented and functional beverages, plant-based product extensions, cannabis and eco-friendly packaging are four leading food and beverage-related trends singled out by the Specialty Food Association’s (SFA's) Trendspotter panel.

The panel, made up of 10 specialty food professionals from across the industry, seeks to identify unique trends each year that are poised to shape how food is created and consumed, according to New York-based SFA.

“The trend spotters are seeing major shifts in how consumers are eating,” said Denise Purcell, head of content for SFA. “These shifts are providing us with amazing options, along with the opportunity to change how we eat and how food is created. Old favorites like ice cream are being reinvented, while at the same time, we’re seeing foods and flavors from around the world increasingly adapted into our everyday meals.”

This year, the panel identified eight trends expected to play a more prominent role throughout 2019. Click through to view them ...

Photograph: Shutterstock

Plant-based foods

from the ground up cauliflower snacks

Plant-based foods aren’t just for vegans and vegetarians anymore. Plant-based products are becoming increasingly popular as consumers seek healthier and more sustainable alternatives. New plant-based options, such as Halen Brands’ From the Ground Up crackers, featuring cassava flour and vegetable-blend powders made from real veggies, will continue to have a retail presence and are expected to rise across the foodservice sector as well, the panel predicted.

Photograph courtesy of Halen Brands

Regional palate shifts

made by true biltong

Millennials and Gen Z are driving a shift in interest in regional foods from Africa, South Asia and Latin America. African foods, such as biltong, are popping up on the radar, as well as South Asian and South American regional cuisines. Jack Link’s Original Biltong Jerky is one recent launch capitalizing on the shift, and Made by True’s Biltong and Jerky represents a traditional South African style of air-dried beef, with 16 grams of protein and zero sugar per ounce.

Photograph courtesy of Made by True


pod honey drop cold pressed cbd

While legal questions remain about what cannabis products can and can’t be sold at retail, SFA Trendspotters said to look for more cannabis-infused cooking oils, teas, chocolates, baked goods, snacks and even beer or pasta to hit the market this year, many with high-end packaging and clever marketing. In consumer products, Honeydrop Beverages’ CBD Lemonades are a good example of what’s coming to market. The drinks contain 20 milligrams of cannabidiol (CBD), a teaspoon of raw honey and 4 grams of sugar per bottle. Three varieties are available: Revive (Matcha), Relax (Lemon) and Rehab (Turmeric).

Photograph courtesy of Honeydrop Beverages

Sustainable, eco-friendly packaging

lollicup usa strawless lid

Consumers are more socially conscious than ever and expect company values to reflect it, according to the SFA panel. In 2019, producers will begin displaying more on-package certifications and accreditations, and the packaging itself may be upcycled from plant-based materials such as tomato peels, kelp or mushrooms. Earlier this year, Lollicup USA created the Strawless Sipper Lid, regarded as the first of its kind, with a hybrid feature for drinking with or without a straw. The eco-friendly lid is made from PET, which is easy to recycle compared to other plastics.

Photograph courtesy of Lollicup USA


simple mills fine ground sea salt

Also known as yuca, cassava is a starchy, tuberous root native to South America that is showing up in soups and snacks. It is both grain- and gluten-free. While the root is high in carbohydrates, the leaves are rich in protein and lysine. The leaves, especially, are taking center stage, as products such as cassava leaf chips, jerky and soups debut on retail shelves. One recent example comes from Simple Mills, which offers paleo-friendly snacks with a blend of almonds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds, plus tapioca starch, cassava flour, organic sunflower oil and more.

Photograph courtesy of Simple Mills

Fermented beverages

bucha live kombucha

Sales of ready-to-drink functional beverages are expected to continue, accelerating through 2019. Kombucha may be the most notable but is just the tip of the trend as mushroom brews, drinking vinegars and kvas (traditional Slavic and Baltic fermented grain beverages) also gain attention for their many health benefits.

Photograph courtesy of Bucha Live

Edible beauty

silmfast keto

Named as one of 2018’s emerging trends, collagen-infused foods and beverages are a huge hit with consumers looking to combat aging, the panel said. Topical beauty trends such as argan and almond oils are coming to the forefront, helping consumers hydrate their skin, restore elasticity and reduce the visibility of wrinkles. Cabbage and avocados are just two foods ideal in promoting the building of collagen. On the finished-product side, Slimfast Keto meal replacement bars are made with a balanced amount of high-fat, low-carb, keto-friendly ingredients, including grass-fed butter, coconut oil and protein from whey and collagen.

Photograph courtesy of Slimfast

Ice cream renaissance

culture republick ice cream

As consumers begin to seek more dairy-free alternatives, the ice cream market is reinventing itself with options such as coconut, almond or soy-milk ice cream, according to the SFA panel. Halo Top offers high-protein, low-calorie ice cream, and others have varieties with vegetables blended in. Culture Republick, for example, is a premium light ice cream that is made with probiotics. It contains 3 billion live active cultures per pint, as well as 400 to 500 calories, 16 to 18 grams of protein and 11 to 12 grams of fiber.

Photograph courtesy of Culture Republick