Grab your crystal ball and dust off that pack of tarot cards, it is time to review our predictions for the biggest food trends of 2019 – and what this means for brands. Kombucha, cold brew coffee and acai bowls are all going to be left in the past as we step into a new year. So, what’s on the menu?

Fake meats and snacks

We know that veganism is not a new trend, with “plant-based” restaurants and cafes popping up everywhere faster than you can say tofu. Yet as science moves forward and people are turning more and more to a meat-free diet, the industry and food brands are looking for more creative ways to promote vegetarian foods, in a way that will appeal even to a seasoned meat eater.

Eggplant and mushroom are often used in vegetarian foods in place of meat but after fifty mushroom risottos and grilled eggplant, it starts to become a little stale. Plus, if you’re not 100% meat-free but you want to try and have a few meals without, then it isn’t as appetising as that juicy beef burger already on the menu.

So, what’s the answer? Well, with Lord of the Fries Beyond Meat “bleeding burger” which is designed to look, cook, and taste like a meat patty and fried “chick’n” made from seitan, the future is full of foods which will make a vegan stop in their tracks and question whether they have been served the wrong meal.

It would make sense then for any food brand that can to make reference to being vegan on their packaging and use it as a marketing tool. Even if it is not made to be vegan, we don’t want every brand to start making fake chicken nuggets, there are so many foods out there which are without trying to be: olives, hommus, crackers… It wouldn’t do much harm to reiterate the fact that these foods are plant-based once in a while. People don’t have to be fully vegan to completely cut back on their meat and dairy intake thanks to the health benefits, so even those who view themselves as “flexitarian” will appreciate any marketing around it. And, World Vegan Day is November 1st, FYI.

Like anything based around this movement there is always the backlash of “if you decided to stop eating meat then why are you trying so hard to find replacements with taste and look like it?” But it is a simple answer really. Vegetarians and vegans stop eating meat, most of the time, because of the environmental and ethical issues, not because they don’t like the taste of meat. So if you can get something which is just as delicious but without harming our planet and any animals in the process, then why wouldn’t you?

Eco-friendly and sustainable packaging

The battle against plastic straws to save the turtles was a huge one, with massive chains such as McDonalds and Starbucks jumping on the initiative. There was also the ban on plastic bags which saw a dramatic increase in people bringing their own to stores and a whopping 80% drop in the number of plastic bags used in Australia. Plus, more and more people are buying reusable cups for their morning coffee which is a big deal when you think about how much coffee we drink. Now that we have got the attention of everyone about the harm single-use plastic is doing to our environment, this certainly isn’t the last straw.

As we become more aware of the environment and how our choices are impacting the planet, it is no surprise that companies are trying to change their packaging to be more eco-friendly. Single use plastic just isn’t sustainable for our planet and it creates 13 million tonnes of waste every year. Luckily, there are many ways we can get around it: from companies such as Aquapak which create high performance plastics made from HydroPolTM for food which can then be recycled with little to no environmental impact, to Free The Seed whose packaging is made from organic materials which will naturally decompose within six months. More and more companies will move towards this approach, and our supermarket shelves will be filled with biodegradable, eco-friendly and sustainable packaging.

We are not expecting every brand to recall all their products off the shelves and suddenly make sure all their packaging is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, but being aware of it is important: do a campaign on how to reuse the existing packaging (coins in hummus jars and a jam jar as a vase), try and incorporate it into the newer products, or just encourage a bit of recycling on the packaging or in advertising.

Convenience Foods

Possibly the complete opposite of the last point, but convenience foods which can be eaten quickly and without much preparation are on the rise. Gone are the days of doing massive weekly shops and meal-prepping for the entire week ahead (although this is still common). Instead, “customers are shopping more frequently but with a smaller basket”, meaning it is most likely that evenings are spent nipping into the store to buy something quick and easy to eat on the way home, without much forward planning.

It is easy to see why. We’re working longer hours, we’re trying to fit in the gym and have a social life, and batch cooking food is time-consuming. This means there has been a huge rise in the amount of quick and easy convenience food we can pick up: ready made salads, rice you can heat in the microwave, and pot meals that you can add hot water to which gives you full meal in minutes. They don’t have to be unhealthy either: although ready meals are notorious for being full of salt and packed with preservatives, companies such as YouFoodz are showing that you don’t have to compromise on healthy eating just because you don’t have the time. They create ready-prepared and easily microwavable meals out of fresh ingredients and their popularity shows that this is just the beginning of nutritious yet quick convenience foods.

There is also the rise of companies like HelloFresh who create meal kits and boxes full of already weighed out ingredients and easy recipes which are designed to be just as good as if you were eating in a restaurant. Although not as quick to prepare as throwing something in the microwave (recipes take on average 30 minutes to cook), it takes the hassle and time out of shopping for ingredients and deciding what to cook.

Convenience also doesn’t have to mean quick and on the go foods, but also technology: with apps like Deliveroo and UberEats it has never been easier to get food at the push of a button. Although it hasn’t quite taken off as much as other countries, “digital ordering of food services has doubled in volume in the last five years” in Australia and in most cases, spending money on this service isn’t an issue – people (we’re guessing hungover people) are willing to spend the extra on having restaurant-quality food delivered straight to their door. This shows that the consumer is willing to spend more money on food which is more convenient: think snack packs, prepared gift boxes and no-cook foods. It doesn’t take much to make things a little easier for the consumer but the stats show that they’re willing to pay more for the ease.