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Reflecting on Past Trends Reports


The Food Focus team generates an annual Food Trends Report to highlight key factors that will be front and center in the food discourse in the coming years. As I reflect on the past two (and the development of the next one – albeit later than ideal) I realize that we’ve been quite effective in highlighting issues that are important in food. Given it is the end of the year, I thought I would pat the Food Focus team on the back and highlight some of the key successes. I am clearly cherry picking the best ones - but I hope you will indulge me all the same.

The Rise of Alternate Proteins – 2018 Report

Our 2018 trends report suggested that we would see a significant rise in alternate proteins. In 2018 and 2019 we have seen an explosion in alternate proteins. Beyond Meat has received the most attention but many other innovative meat analogues have also gotten profile. We have seen this driven by restaurants to a significant degree (also in the 2018 trends report) as they offer the products in a forum that allows consumers to try them without a significant investment.

While the discussion on alternate proteins continues, there are sure to be others that will emerge. Perfect Day launched an ice cream with dairy proteins grown in yeast fermentation.

I expect we will continue to see new choices for proteins as we move into the next decade.

Prospering in Protectionism – 2019 Report

Our 2019 trends report suggested we would continue to see uncertainty with respect to trade. We saw China use trade as a tool in achieving their political goals. China blocked imports of Canadian canola and pork based on technical issues but the overwhelming consensus was that it was a pretext to pressure Canada to release the CFO of Huawei Meng Wanzhou. While pork exports have resumed, canola still isn’t moving to this significant market. Canada did address the technical issues with respect to pork export certificates but the motivation to open the Chinese market to Canadian pork likely had more to do with shortages of pork in China due to African Swine Flu.

The re-negotiated NAFTA (now known as USMCA or CUSMA depending on where you are) is not approved yet but should bring some predictability to North American trade. The Trump administration has shown a willingness to use trade as a weapon. 2020 is an election year so there could be the impetus to create new tariff barriers if another issue arises.

Trade continues to be both an opportunity and a threat.

The Rise of the Flexitarian

Our 2018 report highlighted the reduction in meat consumption. We revisited that in a blog post in 2019. We continue to see a reduction in traditional meat consumption. The vegetarian and vegan segments are growing but remain small and are not the main driver of the reduction in meat consumption. A much larger proportion of consumers are simply choosing to eat less meat. The reasons are varied. The population of North America is ageing so individuals generally eat smaller portions. There is a concern about climate change and many consumers perceive that eating less meat will reduce their carbon footprint. The increasing range of choice of alternative proteins (as highlighted above) gives consumers more choice so they can reduce meat consumption without too much sacrifice. This will continue and likely accelerate however, traditional meat proteins will continue to have a place on North American plates.

It is fun to look forward and predict the trends that will shape what we eat and discuss relative to food. We have done a good job of anticipating these trends at Food Focus and will continue to contribute to the discussion with a 2020 report, regular blog posts and episodes of the Food Focus podcast. Thanks for your support and stay tuned for an exciting 2020.

Recommended citation format: von Massow, M. "Reflecting on Past Trends Reports". Food Focus Guelph (70), Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Guelph, December 31st, 2019.


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