The future of food: It’s blue, it’s convenient and locally sourced

by Louise Burgers. The future of food is natural and convenient this new decade. The frozen foods category will expand exponentially, as will convenience food, in tandem with the growth in the movement towards plant-based diets – particularly when it comes to ethically and locally sourced ingredients, sustainable and regenerative farming. In fact, the future of […]

by Louise Burgers. The future of food is natural and convenient this new decade. The frozen foods category will expand exponentially, as will convenience food, in tandem with the growth in the movement towards plant-based diets – particularly when it comes to ethically and locally sourced ingredients, sustainable and regenerative farming.

In fact, the future of food will be led by science and the exploration of a more sustainable future as we hurtle towards that future with 10 billion people to feed by 2050 on a planet with diminishing resources.

This is the view of food futurist and trend forecaster, Hannerie Visser of the famed Studio H in Cape Town, who presented her annual food trend report, Future Food Report 2020/21, at a brunch at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Thursday, 30 January 2020, where even the food by executive chef Rudi Liebenberg was deconstructed to reflect the current food trends, in collaboration with Studio H. Guests were greeted with turmeric shots, chilled hibiscus tea, African bird eye chilli and mango shots; pastries made with ancient grains; flat breads with activated charcoal; nut butter; regenerative farm eggs; wasted cauliflower and watermelon rind with chickpeas; fried cauliflower; fried chicken on ancient grain brioche; blue spirulina and ginger ice cream and beetroot and oregano ice cream; topped off with a sweet potato latte with cardamom and cinnamon spices.

Future Food 2020/21, Belmond Mt Nelson, Cape Town, South Africa

Visser travels around the world to source and sample the latest edible foodstuffs on offer, tracking food trends for each new year. A sample table set up at the opulent venue contained products sourced from around the globe to give guests a taste of what was on offer from both local and global suppliers: from broccoli puff chips and chickpea chocolates; the latest flavour combinations; to brownies baked with cricket and worm protein; and the algae Spirulina, used to spotlight the rise of ‘blue food’ as a popular colour for food design in 2020; as well as more unusual natural ingredients like hibiscus flowers, plantains and pine, which are forming part of plant based diets.

“Blue is the food colour of the year,” declared Visser, pointing out that this also dovetailed neatly with Pantone’s colour of the year for 2020, which is also blue.

The mega-trends that informed her latest food trends include the health trend which is a cultural shift that permeates all levels of society; gender-fluidity which is driving radical change in society; and new convenience and healthier eating habits, which is propelling entrepreneurs to come up with solutions, like food delivery. The trend to “snackification” will “signal the end of the meal as we know it”, explained Visser, saying it challenged gastronomy.

The rise of dark kitchens was another trend – pop-up kitchens serving gourmet food only for delivery, indifferent to service and ambiance, with their focus being ratings, reviews and distance to their customer.

Another archaic tradition to fall by the wayside are restaurant critics and dining guides, as online communities increase their powerful voice, meaning that the new food critic is “you, the customer”, said Visser.

And of course: sustainability and climate change concerns will come to the fore more and more as consumers demand to know where their food is sourced from; ask for earth-friendly ingredients and whether their brands are packaged in eco-friend packaging or no packaging at all. The voices will only get louder: Generation Z is Greta Thunberg.

Expansion of retail categories

Convenience is a major trend driver in the FMCG category in retail right now. The time where families sat down for a meal each night, is over. Our busy lives, commuting, after school extra-murals, and smaller family units, mean that gathering the family for a home cooked meal, all together around a big table, is now mostly reserved for special occasions.

Broccoli puff snack

Another major trend is the increase in plant-based diets, driving new categories where vegetables, fruit, flowers and fungus are incorporated as alternatives to traditional meat protein and flavours; as well as the move towards packaging-free natural foods for sustainability. Snack boxes, out-the-box, drinkable soups, dips, puffed and popped snacks made from vegetables such as chickpeas and Brussels sprouts, will be all the rage – moving from the health shops to supermarkets in store.

Food design trends will feature pared down dining to reduce stimulus in an over-stimulated world. The new generation wants to own and buy less, reducing tableware, crockery and traditional kitchenware. They want zero waste and this means consuming and owning less.


Micro trends identified by Visser, include:

  • The frozen foods category will double in size as consumers seek convenience, with recipe innovations making it more appealing.
  • There will be a rise in alco-pops as the new generation of youth will go for alcohol-free drinks.
  • The ubiquitous kids’ menu with its limited choice of toasted sarmies and chicken nuggets will disappear as millennials procreate and pass their more sophisticated food tastes onto their children.
  • Vending machines with healthy food options are popping up all over the world.
  • The healthy salt category is set to expand as consumer seek healthier alternatives.
  • Alternative sugars will move beyond the chemically-laced category of sugar substitutes to include fruit sugars from pomegranates and dates, for example.
  • Blended meat will become a whole new important food category, as vegetables are added to meats, i.e., 25% mushrooms to a burger patty.
  • Food halls with community dining is set to explode in 2020, predicted Visser, as a place where communities gather to eat and socialise. Cape Town already has several spots at the V&A Waterfront (with a new communal food experience opening in Spring 2020); the Blue Bird Garage market on Friday nights in Muizenberg; the Cape Vineyards food market on Thursday nights during summer and Sundays in winter; and the Noordhoek Farm Village food market on Wednesdays during summer; as well as the legendary food markets in the Cape Winelands.
  • Local flavours and ingredients: part of the sustainably sourced movement is to prioritise local and seasonal ingredients and here in Africa, East and West African food and flavours will continue to rise in popularity.
Flavourful combinations

Flavour trends from Visser on display at the presentation:

  • Brussels sprouts: Visser said, “Everyone is falling in love with Brussels sprouts” and that the rise of this much-maligned vegetable is connected to research that found that Brussels sprouts are as rich a source of nutrients as that of kale (which we can all agree on is pretty inedible).
  • Spirulina: This is the micro-algae that could help solve some of the world’s biggest food problems, said Visser. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that can be consumed by both humans and animals. It can grow in both fresh and sea water, it is nutritious, high in protein and a powerful antioxidant. Like the coconut trend before it, it can protect against practically every ailment. But in this case, it may actually be true – it already has status as a powerful health supplement.
Insect protein snacks
  • Insects: Scientists, food developers and designers the world over are still looking at insects as a major future food and products are already being packaged and marketed, as evidenced by the samples Visser included in her live demo. Disguised as chocolate squares, the insect protein was hardly distinguishable, presenting as nutty, slightly peppery and nothing stranger than date squares. Quite palatable (and yes, this editor did try the cricket and worm snacks in front of witnesses, in the interests of honest and fair reporting).
  • Revenge of the chickpea: Chickpeas will dominate on multiple platforms said Visser, who had a sample from a brand already present on shelf in our local Spar retailer and the Wellness Warehouse. She says hummus is set to grow to a $877 million business by 2024. Chickpeas are also the key ingredient in puffed snacks that are nutrient-rich and low-carb and a tasty low carb alternative to crisps.
Blue spirulina & ginger ice cream, beetroot & oregano ice cream, celery & apple ice cream, served by the Belmond Mt Nelson.
  • Ice cream with hidden veg: Ice cream with hidden vegetables is a trend hitting our shelves soon – think mint chocolate chip with pureed spinach or beet flavoured oat milk soft serve, added Visser. Will our children ever forgive us? Hiding veggies in ice cream is worth years of therapy. I mash up peas, which my child hates, in potato mash to hide them, but this is a far worse a deception.
  • Power butter: “Say hello to butter 2.0,” said Visser. Yes, there are even more things we can make butter out of, now that dairy is becoming less popular: alternative spreads and butters beyond typical tahini, cashew, almond, peanut and chickpea. Alternative butters like watermelon seed, for its nutritional value, or seasonally popular pumpkin butter, will be popular in 2020, Visser said.
  • Hibiscus: From the home décor category to the dining table: new and unique floral ingredients are making their debut in foods and beverages as consumers look for ingredients that support a more plant-based diet and have health-enhancing properties. Keep an eye on hibiscus, says Visser, it’s not just for the garden. It makes a delicious fruity-tasting tea too, as we discovered at the Mt Nelson.
  • Gochujang: Gochujang, the fermented Korean chilli paste, is now all the rage.
  • Tajin: This Mexican spice staple of chilli and lime seasoning is having a “major moment” the world over, added Visser.
  • Epicurean chocolates: Flavoured chocolates are still challenging taste buds everywhere with even more adventurous flavor combinations, Visser said.
  • Pine: “Another flavor inspiration from Noma, the birthplace of a lot of food trends, is pine. You will find everything from candied to fermented pinecones, pine candies and kombucha on their menu,” she said. Another example of how the lines are blurring between décor and dining!
  • Peri-Peri: Peri-Peri is taking over hot sauce aisles the world over, with our own home-grown Nando’s leading the way while championing women farmers.
  • Tamarind: Tamarind is a leguminous tree bearing edible fruit that is indigenous to tropical Africa. Visser pointed out that the paste is popping up on menus from Jackson Boxer’s Brunswick House in London, to Wesley Randles’ The Commissary in Cape Town.
  • Koji: Koji, the ancient mold responsible for miso and soy sauce, is used to create molded dishes in the world’s top restaurants, Visser recounted.
  • Plantains: “Name a fruit more versatile than a plantain and I’ll give you a cookie.” This was the caption of a recent Bon Appetit feature, said Visser. Plantains are being spotted on retail shelves all over the world in all forms.
  • Pickled eggs: How can pickled eggs not be a food of the moment if the Noma fermentation lab, fermented 6,000 wild partridge eggs for the game and forest season menu at the end of last year? asked Visser. Quite.
  • MSG: The much-maligned MSG is coming out of its time-out as Momofuku founder Dave Chang, an unapologetic MSG fan, said Visser, has a new line of seasoned salts in such options ad “tingly” and “spicy”. “It adds the kind of flavor enhancement that you get from MSG, but with ingredients that are naturally high in glutamic acid, like tamari, kelp and mushroom powder,” Visser explained.


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor of She’s spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa  consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global game changer in the next decade.

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