Plant-based proteins, eco-conscious packaging top 2020 industry trends

The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with Technomic, reveals the year’s biggest menu and foodservice game-changers.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Plant-based proteins and eco-friendly packaging will have the foodservice industry buzzing in 2020, according to the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast.

The survey, conducted in partnership with Restaurant Business sister company Technomic, surveyed more than 600 members of the American Culinary Federation, asking them to rate how “hot” 133 menu items and other foodservice concepts would be in 2020.

Plant-based meat alternatives have made their mark on menus across the restaurant industry, from large chains to independent operations. In 2020, nonmeat proteins will “take off in response to increased consumer demand,” the survey found.

Eco-friendly packaging received the highest ranking of any item surveyed, given the ever-growing demand for off-premise options. Consumers are looking for environmentally conscious packaging, and local and state regulations are forcing restaurants into making more sustainable choices.

2020’s hottest produce item? Mushrooms. The multipurpose vegetable, which is popular in specialty burger blends, outranked items such as caulilini (baby cauliflower) and raabs such as arugula, turnip and collard greens.

Here are the top 10 items from the 2020 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast:

  1. Eco-friendly packaging
  2. Plant-based proteins
  3. Delivery-friendly menu items
  4. Healthy bowls
  5. Scratch-made
  6. Creativity with catering
  7. Revamped classic cocktails
  8. Stress relievers
  9. Specialty burger blends
  10. Unique beef and pork cuts

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content

Emerging Brands

5 pre-emerging restaurant brands ready for takeoff

These small concepts are still proving out their ideas, but each shows promise as a potential candidate for the next generation of emerging chains.


This little-known iPhone feature could change restaurant ordering

Tech Check: Almost every customer has a POS in their pocket. Can mini mobile apps get them to actually use it?


Red Lobster gives private equity another black eye

The Bottom Line: The role a giant sale-leaseback had in the bankruptcy filing of the seafood chain has drawn more criticism of the investment firms' financial engineering. The criticism is well-earned.


More from our partners