As in the world of celebrities, food ingredients garner “celebrity status” on menus in what seems like an overnight transformation. Avocados, kale, cauliflower – a few “celebrity foods” that every fruit and vegetable aspire to be. Plastered on t-shirts, celebrated in hashtags, demanded by chefs on menus, boasted on front labels of consumer-packaged goods, even featured in magazines on which celebs are eating which celeb food that day.

Some may say avocados are the “Beyoncé of food celebrities” – just take a look at client Avocados From Mexico’s commercial during the 2020 Super Bowl. Super relatable, right? It wasn’t too long ago when low-fat everything was on trend. Thank goodness for our trusted dietitians and nutritionists who drove home the fact that good fats, like avocados, are wonderful for you and provide many health benefits. Cue avocado toast – a menu trend that has yet to peak. In fact, a recent report shared domestic avocado consumption has increased six-fold from 436 million pounds to over 2.6 billion pounds between 1985-2019.

Photo Credit: Avocados From Mexico

You may remember a time when salads were made simply of iceberg and romaine lettuce – before kale came onto the scene. Between 2007 – 2012, U.S. kale production increased by nearly 60%, according to the Department of Agriculture. Today, you find kale in much more than just salads…kale smoothies, kale pesto, kale chips…you name it and the people say, “kale yeah!”

Then when gluten-free became all the rage (for health and dietary reasons), cauliflower was the hero veg offering a carb-y replacement for all your faves. Cauliflower pizza, cauliflower rice and the cult-favorite cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joes. Between 2017-2018, sales of “cauliflower-centric” refrigerated dishes rose 108%, according to Nielsen. Last year alone, there were 36 different categories across the grocery store that featured cauliflower as an ingredient.

Though this overnight rags-to-riches perception is not quite as it appears. It takes much more than just luck to become a food celebrity. A future food-celeb typically has a strong nutrition profile and is approachable for the everyday user and yet, versatile for chefs and home cooks to take one step further. And while at times seen as “good timing,” the future food-celeb must tap into a consumer trend – whether it be creative salad concoctions to fuel healthy aspirations, indulgent and yet healthy alternatives for gluten-free, or education and inspiration around the good fat revival. Ultimately, an ingredient on the cusp of being “found” needs strong positioning. A marketing campaign to identify applicable and relevant consumer trends, raise awareness of the nutrition profile and strong health benefits, partner with chefs and influencers to experiment and innovate in the kitchen – all with the goal to educate, inspire and drive demand.

Datassential’s MenuTrends research outlines four specific phases that identifies ingredients from early stages (inception) to celebrity status (ubiquity):

  1. Inception: Where food trends are born, commonly found in fine dining and ethnic independents.
  2. Adoption: The phase when food trends are gaining traction but are still unique. They’ll now be found at progressive fast casuals and specialty stores.
  3. Proliferation: The food trends are adjusting for mainstream appeal and can be found in casual chains and across grocery.
  4. Ubiquity: At this point in the cycle, the food trend is at a point of maturity and can be found virtually across all sectors of the food industry.

As we look ahead at 2020 and beyond, what are the ingredients we anticipate being the next food celebrities? Here are a few of my predictions:

  • Jackfruit – Plant-based eating is growing in popularity and so are meat alternatives. While meat imitation is very popular right now (Impossible + Beyond), I anticipate a demand for more natural, less processed sources of meat alternatives, such as jackfruit. Plant based eaters are already starting to catch onto the fruit that shreds and cooks just like pulled pork. In fact, jackfruit exports to the US, Europe and Britain grew to 500 tons in 2018, with expectations to reach 800 tons by the end of 2019, according to Kerala’s agriculture minister VS Sunil Kumar.
  • Collagen – You are what you eat. So why not eat the ‘fountain of youth?’ Collagen is poised for growth in 2020 as more consumers are seeking “functional health” and expecting more from the foods they consume. The global collagen market is projected to reach $6.6 billion by 2025 with an annual growth rate of 6.5%, according to a new report by Grand View Research. 
  • Pea – Ah, the mighty pea. Formerly known as the dinner side dish that kids were forced to eat, peas are now added to meat alternatives, veggie burgers, protein mixes, snack bars, milks and more. Between 2016 – 2018, food and beverage products containing pea protein saw a 19% compound annual growth rate, according to data from Innova Market Insights. And by 2025, the global market for pea protein is projected to reach $176 million, according to Allied Market Research.
  • CBD – From all the conversations around CBD, it’s no surprise that this ingredient is on trend – but I predict CBD to be integrated into more consumer-packaged goods found in groceries & retail, in addition to away-from-home dining occasions, such as coffee shops and brief LTO features in fast casuals. Rich Maturo, vice president of Nielsen’s cannabis practice, shared, “We project that the U.S. hemp-based CBD market could be a $2.25 billion to $2.75 billion industry in 2020. These conservative projections already account for hampered FDA rulings and other possible speed bumps for the hemp-CBD marketplace.”

For more insights on food and beverage trends and marketing, subscribe today to the Weekly Buzz. And if you’re interested in taking your food ingredient to celebrity status? Drop us a line!