As we begin 2020, I’ll share my thoughts on what to expect this year. I do not claim to be a prognosticator; nevertheless, here are my predictions:
• There will be several mergers, some of which will be sizable; this is a continuation of a trend present for several years.
• The top supermarket concept in 2020 will be a proliferation of the ‘Go’ types of stores, where shoppers can enter a small convenience-type store, pick out what they want, scan purchases, and leave quickly. Convenience and timesaving measures will be offered by supermarkets to retain and attract more shoppers. Brick-and-mortar will remain important but utilization of existing retail space, coupled with unique customer service offerings, are the wave of the future. Delivery and grocery pickup will continue to be pushed by retailers (though pickup is less costly for retailers).
• We will likely see a greater divide between high-end and deep-discount supermarkets; as the deep discounters become better at fresh, middle-ground merchandisers will get tugged and pulled, making it a rocky road for them.
• Urban growers will proliferate, a niche needed to bring more local food to city consumers.
• Technological growers, using small footprints for producing fruits and vegetables, will advance in large numbers.
• Transportation firms will add more technology to address driver safety concerns and deal with continued government regulation. Self-driving technology will continue to advance, but will not be used for at least ten years on a wholesale basis.
• Drone deliveries of produce will inch closer to reality next year.
• Fast food restaurants will rollout plant-based meat alternatives on a mass scale.
• The emergence of new banana varieties will be seen, but the Cavendish will remain the banana of choice (though the spread of TR-4 has growers scurrying to find a Cavendish
• Radishes and endive will be among the “comeback vegetables” next year; cabbage and kohlrabi are also being mentioned as ‘hot’ items.
• Flavor will define which fruit is hot in 2020; grapes are a prime example. Up to now, color has dominated, but Cotton Candy opened the door for merchandising beyond color. Other grapes, bearing such names as Moon Drops, Witch Fingers, and Gum Drops are expected to take off.
• Other fruits, such as the Blazeberry and Rose berries, alternative takes on the familiar, should do well next year. Berries, in general, should continue to do well as they align with low-carb diets.
• In the apple category, the Cosmic Crisp has hit the market—it’s expected to be a popular brand.
• The noodle trend, so prevalent this year, will continue to be hot next year. As vegetables become the go-to carb replacement, products such as zucchini noodles should do very well.
A year from now, we can see how precise my crystal ball was in forecasting. One thing I know for sure: the industry will continue to change and innovate.
Happy New Year.