By Ryan Livingston
Being a curious bunch, we spend a lot of time at Curiosity pondering and wondering not only about how things are now, but how they worked in the past, and how things might be in the future. Why are things popular now? Will they still be popular tomorrow? Where are things trending in different industries now and how does that compare to what was trending last year? One category that has held our curiosity is food & beverage. Would trends from 2018 such as gut-healthy products and plant-based proteins stay trendy in 2019? Would they be totally replaced? We were Curious. So we took a look.
While some trends from last year, such as the increasing popularity of vegan options and gut-health conscious products continued to find themselves on multiple food and beverage trends lists this year, there were a great many newcomers too—from kelp & sea vegetables to oat milk. For the purpose of this article, we chose three 2019 Food & Beverage Trends that we found to be the most intriguing to do a deeper dive on: CBD products, imperfect produce, and craft brew lagers.
Budding Industry: CBD
According to Forbes, “Cannabidiol (CBD), an extract from the cannabis plant, is one of the surest trends that will explode in 2019,” and that does appear to be the case in both the food and beverage industries. According to Prevention, “both Coca-Cola and InBev—the maker of Budweiser beer— recently announced that they’re looking into developing cannabis drinks.” It should be noted that these products do not get you “high,” as they contain very minimal to absolutely zero levels of THC (the chemical found in marijuana that results in psychotropic effects). CBD is a non-psychoactive compound extracted from cannabis that is promoted as offering all sorts of health benefits, while also being touted as an exciting flavor for your taste buds. According to Iris Dorbian of Forbes “...leading cannabis researchers BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research, project that the collective market for CBD sales in the U.S. will surpass $20 billion by 2024” and that the majority of sales will be through general retail stores and not cannabis dispensaries.
While consumers may be ready for CBD food and beverage products, the FDA has been slower to embrace them. This past April the FDA announced plans to “...jumpstart regulations for the lawful marketing of appropriate cannabis and cannabis-derived products,” and by May the California State Assembly passed a bill that would legalize the retail sale of CBD in foods and supplements. While progress can be slow, with 33 states and D.C. having legalized cannabis for medicinal use, and 10 states plus D.C. for recreational adult use (21+), the expectation for the market is only getting bigger, according to the NYPost, “...retailers such as CVS Health are beginning to sell CBD-infused creams, sprays, lotions and salves at more than 800 stores in seven states; drugstore rivals Walgreens and Rite Aid are now starting to follow suit.” With pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens starting to embrace CBD health products, their welcoming for CBD food and beverage products seems to be just a matter of what's available, and (depending on location) what is legal.
Perfectly Imperfect Produce
While CBD is an interesting and timely trend we are seeing in 2019, other less “sexy” trends will have just as much of an effect on the market. One of these is the rise in popularity of “imperfect produce.” According to The Daily Meal, a whopping 45 percent of all fruits and vegetables produced in the world are wasted every year, and a not-insubstantial amount of that is thrown out simply because it’s not pretty enough to make it onto the grocery store shelf. Within the past couple of years, grocers including Walmart, Whole Foods, and Kroger have begun to figure out ways to sell this “ugly” produce and we can expect more brands — and consumers — to jump on the wagon in 2019. Delish actually states that “Kroger announced it would be launching Peculiar Picks in 2019, a program that will encourage customers to buy produce that is nutritious and tastes fine, but is physically flawed in some way,” firmly establishing that they as a company will be taking wastefulness seriously, and rewarding customers who are buying quality products, even if they aren’t pretty.
Rise of the Lager
One of the final trends to look for in 2019 is in the ever popular craft brews category. According to HopCulture, “The red-headed stepchild of the American craft beer scene for the last five years, lagers are coming back in vogue as consumers tire of enamel-stripping triple IPAs and gut-busting pastry stouts.” That’s right, the most difficult beer to brew well, the lager, is rising to take its place among the popular brews across America’s independent breweries. According to Ben Widseth, VP of marketing for Green Flash Brewing Co., “As craft beer becomes more accessible both from an availability and price standpoint, the craft lager will be a gateway for these consumers into the industry.” Natalie Gershon, VP of marketing for Boulevard Brewing Co. also sees craft lagers as an important part of the industry’s continued growth. “While crazy-flavored beers are still going to continue to generate buzz, ‘beer-flavored beer’ will always have a seat at the table.”
While we’re only halfway through 2019, we’ve started to see many of the trends try and find their foothold for the future. CBD is in more products than ever, and with major companies like Coca-Cola, In-Bev, and Mondelez (Oreo) looking to get into the game, the future could not be brighter. Additionally, Kroger following in the footsteps of Whole Foods and Walmart by launching its Pickuliar Picks program this year, the continued push of retailers to both provide high-quality products while wasting less in the process appears to become more industry standard. Finally, while the growth of the craft brew industry is slowing, lagers could be just the thing the industry is looking for. Refreshing, familiar, and tasting like beer, craft lagers could be just the trick to continuing to bring new customers to the category and retaining those who have already shifted toward smaller breweries.