All sorts of crops can be turned into flour beyond wheat – many of them with added nutritional benefits. Whole Foods specifically cites banana, cauliflower and Ethiopian teff, but one could just as well select other ancient grains like einkorn and emmer.
Retail brand Superfood Bakery has trialled chickpea and tigernut; other chefs have experimented with using green banana flour as an alternative to sugar, while cereal brand Bambeanies has toyed with coconut flour for the same reason.
Alternative flours can also be made from food waste, including cauliflower stalks. Campden BRI has shown that transforming butternut squash skin into flour can qualify resulting products for a high-fibre claim, combining health benefits with sustainability.
Foods from West Africa
Food Spark first began talking about West African food back in 2017, while Waitrose predicted flavours from this part of Africa would be big in 2019. The exploration of the cuisine may have progressed slower than predicted, but it certainly has picked up, from grains like fonio to plants like plantain.
“The trio of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers form a base for many West African dishes,” according to Whole Foods, some of which start-up DVees injected into its West African-inflected condiments.
Plant-based, beyond soy
While soy-based alternatives may still have a significant presence in the plant-based category, the trendiest companies are seeking out other options that aren’t associated with deforestation and allergies, according to Whole Foods.
Mung bean (used by Just for its animal-free egg), hempseed (favoured by a number of chefs for its nutrient content), pumpkin, avocado, watermelon seed and golden chlorella are all among the ingredients the retailer cites.
Chickpea and jackfruit are also popular options, used in plant-based sushi, pepperoni and sandwiches. Pea protein, meanwhile, is popping up in everything from Birds Eye’s meat-free burgers to prawn and smoked salmon from Sophie’s Kitchen – as well as, of course, the Beyond Burger.
Other companies with innovative plant-based substitutes include Just Wholefoods, which has made plant-based mince out of sunflower seeds; Gold & Green, which make oat-based products; and Miyoko’s Kitchen, which is developing nut-free plant-based cheese.
Everything butters and spreads
Do nut butters sound old hat? Well, in a way they are, as we pointed out in an article earlier this year. At the same time, the category still appears to have room to grow – especially since, like flour, there are all kinds of things that can be turned into butter, from Brazil nuts to cacao nibs.
Transparency as well as keto and paleo diets are driving this trend, and products that succeed will be shouting about their sustainability credentials and ethical sourcing.
Rethinking the kids’ menu
“Taking more sophisticated younger palates into consideration” may mean more opportunity for adventurous kid-friendly meals, as youngsters are encouraged to explore beyond the chicken nugget – at the very least it should be organic, or perhaps even a beef shin alternative!
Fermented flavours, spicy tastes and other growing trends in the adult sector could be ripe for entry into the children’s category. We’ve previously talked about children's ready meals tentatively getting more adventurous, but several companies have also tried to strike a balance between appealing to the tastes of little ones and the nutritional desires of parents.
Out-of-the-box, into-the-fridge snacking
“Hard-boiled eggs with savoury toppings, pickled vegetables, drinkable soups and mini dips and dippers of all kinds” – chilled fresh snacks are taking the place of ambient granola bars, according to Whole Foods.
Greencore announced in September that it was looking to acquire companies that specialised in chilled snacks, while Wheyhey are also exploring how to expand its protein-packed offering into the fridge.
This essentially focuses on ways that sustainable farming can improve the environment, whether by restoring degraded soil or increasing the carbon-fixing properties of the land. Brands that can demonstrate commitment to these tenets will be hot topics in 2020, according to Whole Foods.
Just last month, the National Farmers’ Union suggested that new technology in the market makes it possible for more climate-friendly agricultural initiatives that don’t involve curbing meat consumption, while the concept of agroforestry (where crops and trees grow in harmony) is already being used to promote certain products, such as guayusa tea from the Amazon.
Monk fruit, pomegranate, dates – there are all sorts of alternatives to straight sugar popping up in the market. While some of these have dubious claims to being a healthier alternative, there has been a clear interest in exploring alternative approaches to sweetness.
Chefs have experimented with stevia, erythritol and agave syrup to create sweet notes, as consumers express greater concern over their sugar intake. Our nutritionist, Dr. Laura Wyness, has previously written about some of the options open to industry, as more technologically advanced experiments appear on the horizon, including fruit-based coatings and sugar molecules.
Consumers don’t have to go full vegan to feel like they're making a difference. Companies whose main product is meat have realised this and are experimenting with ways to blend meat and plant protein. While the most high-profile example recently may have been BrewDog’s Hybrid Burger, it’s something Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, among others, have played with in the sausage category.
Taking it beyond meat, the company behind BabyBel has talked about making products that combine animal dairy with plant-based alternatives, while cooperative Dairy Farmers of America has blended together nut milks and dairy milks in the hopes of appealing to the flexitarian populace.
Non-alcoholic drinks are everywhere already, but Whole Foods believes that what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning: “Think alt-gin for gin and tonics and botanical-infused faux spirits for a faux martini.”
So big a market has this particular area become that Food Spark’s publisher, William Reed, recently announced the launch of a new trade show dedicated to the category. Low 2 No Bev is scheduled to take place June 17th-18th, 2020, at The Old Truman Brewery.