The Top Foodservice Trends of 2019

Amanda Holtz

by Amanda Holtz

Senior Account Executive

Being trendy isn’t as effortless as we make it seem, but at Marriner we know it’s vital to be up to date on all the trends to survive Agency life. Why? Well, if we were all boring people with boring lives and no sense of style, we’d make pretty boring work for our Clients as well.

In order to stay ahead of the curve, we Marriners are eager to know everything about the latest and greatest. It’s part and parcel of the innate curiosity that drives Marriner’s quest for Clarity. But it’s not a piece of cake. Being this fabulous takes some serious preparation, research and vision.

Throughout 2019, our team searched through the interwebs like catfish, walked countless miles of trade show floors, spent hours interviewing industry influencers and tapped into the creative minds of next generation of makers, all to find those important nuggets that make sure that our Clients came out ahead. Of course, there were tons of trends popping up in the food industry. We picked a few that reigned most influential for our squad. Here’s our 2019 Year in Review.

Trend #1: Cocooning

Apparently, cocooning was a trend in the ’80s, coined by trend forecaster (how do I make that my new title?) Faith Popcorn. It basically means to stay at home, insulated from perceived danger. Now, I don’t know about the danger part. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that cocooning was totally back in action (or lack thereof) this year. So much so, actually, that this trend proved to be more of an overarching theme guiding a few others throughout our research.

I will speak on my own millennial behalf when I say that after work, all I want to do is snuggle up with my dog, throw something on Netflix and order some food. Just a few years ago, my options would have been limited to pizza and whatever Redbox movie I had that week. In 2019, consumers had it all: Netflix, meal kits and low grocery store prices are a few of the many factors that enabled us to stay at home.


Forward-thinking grocery retailers, food manufacturers and commercial foodservice operators were hungry to capture their share of the cocooning consumer’s stomach. The NPD Group reported in 2018 that revenue from deliveries had jumped by 20% and the overall number of deliveries had increased by 10% during the previous five years,¹ and this certainly didn’t slow down. Technomic projected in 2018 that food delivery would grow by 12% per year during the following five years.²

Even finding last-minute cash for the pizza boy became a thing of the past. With a touch of my thumbprint on my iPhone, I could have anything my heart desires delivered to my doorstep. Oh, and I didn’t choose pizza—I had Filet Mignon.

This demand for deliveries is dramatically changing the restaurant industry. Besides having to redesign restaurants to take the delivery phenomenon into account, operators are now enticed to modify menus and pick ingredients that hold up well during travel.

One issue for restaurant delivery is combating the stigma that food doesn’t taste as good when it’s carried out or delivered, and foodservice manufacturers recognized the importance of helping restaurants ensure that food travels well.

That’s why Lamb Weston, maker of innovative potato products, introduced “Crispy on Delivery.” Combining their potatoes and the right packaging, Lamb Weston employees created a container with venting technology to make sure that fries are delivered to doorsteps in dine-in condition.3

Image: Lamb Weston

Meal Kits

Millennials and the iGeneration disrupted the institution of dieting with ever-changing short-term solutions and fad diets, causing a kind of serial dieting. Whether they were trying keto, vegan, Paleo, etc., consumers demanded fresh foods, specific to their chosen lifestyle, in the correct portions, exactly when they wanted it. Oh—any meat better be a perfect medium rare, too.

This serial dieting, crossed with the influx of review-savvy foodies, forced food innovators to change the way they design products and packaging. This evolved into a build-your-own fast-casual model that encouraged consumers to participate in the meal making, thus the creation of meal kits. Forget meal prep—meal kits are prepackaged recipe boxes that include everything needed for a perfect meal with minimal chopping and zero shopping.

Image: Los Angeles Times

Meal kits continue to rise. In fact, according to Datassential Foodbytes May 2017, 53% of consumers who have never used a meal kit service say they would consider subscribing in order to cut down on grocery trips.4 But meal kits aren’t just a handy to-your-door solution—they also come in all shades of diets.

With the rise of food delivery services, meal kit companies found new strategies to fit into the on-demand meal space to be as convenient as humanly possible. That’s why there are now a plethora of meal kits in third-party delivery services, including Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates. Wegmans, Publix and Target hopped on the meal kit train as well, creating their own branded kits to sell in their stores.

Bring the Bar to You

So, you’re probably thinking, ok, cocooning and food. I get it. But when people want to grab a drink, they’re still headed out on the town, right? Not necessarily. Research from Mintel revealed that 28% of younger millennials (ages 24–31) drink at home because they think that going out requires too much effort.5 More than half of all American consumers would rather drink at home,5 and the cocooning lifestyle has made that more acceptable than ever before.

We’ve been familiar with home brewing as a niche hobby for a long time; however, companies recently made that time-intensive process a whole lot easier for the average Joe. LG released a capsule-based system, called HomeBrew which makes it possible to brew more than a gallon of beer with the touch of a few buttons. Each capsule includes everything needed for the perfect countertop brewski, with malt, yeast, hop oil and flavoring.6

For liquor lovers, Drinkworks and Keurig created a soda-based cocktail machine called Drinkmaker. It uses the same concept as the original Keurig, providing pods with the exact amount of ingredients to create a consistent, single-serve cocktail.7

Image: Drinkworks

Trend #2: Functional Foods

But just because people want to hide in their houses, doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about their health and wellness. In fact, consumers are hungry for foods that provide some type of wellness benefit. Functional foods go beyond labels of “low fat” or “high fiber” in that they explain the function that will help people’s bodies. Two that may sound familiar are kimchi and kombucha, known for their gut-health benefits. In 2019, this Asian influence was a continuing trend in the functional food realm, which is getting increasingly trendy. We saw these foods in ice creams and other desserts, appetizers and even alcoholic drinks on menus.

Although the last thing we needed was another version of kale, the E. coli scares of 2018 caused a lot of people to boycott their familiar greens. Supermarket owners tried to reshape the public’s opinion of lettuce, but it wasn’t the easiest thing to erase. Supermarket News predicted the rising popularity of a new green in 2019 with the mainstream introduction of celtuce, which can be used as a source of hydration in smoothies and even as a noodle replacement.8 This thick-stemmed veggie has attributes of celery and lettuce, offering the best of both worlds.

A New Spin on an Old Favorite

The first functional foods that come to mind may be fiber or protein. However, in 2019, those were not enough for the average consumer. Kellogg introduced a new cereal called HI! Happy InsideTM. With the tagline “it’s time for a gut check,” Kellogg promoted this cereal as having prebiotics (basically food for bacteria), probiotics and fiber to go that extra mile to help support digestive wellness.9

Similarly, eggs are a functional food known for their compact protein and omega-3s. But packaged hard-boiled eggs aren’t necessarily the most appetizing snack. PECKISH is a new company that created an on-the-go version of hard-boiled eggs, with trendy, eye-catching branding and a claim of being perfectly cooked. Each pack comes with two eggs and a little crunchy quinoa dip made with spices and seeds, coming in funky fun flavors, from fried rice to maple waffles.10

Rob Levine, Marriner Partner and VP of Account Strategy, and I loved this brand so much that we ordered a case of PECKISH eggs for the office. The verdict? They were pretty good! Nothing groundbreaking here, but it really shows how far a little ideation and creative branding can go, especially considering that two PECKISH eggs retail at $4.50, in comparison with Eggland’s Best, which goes for $3.17 (10 hard-boiled eggs).

Image: Peckish

Trend #3: Better-for-You Secondary Menu

If we’ve learned anything from millennials, it’s that they don’t do anything half-assed. When they feel strongly about something, it tends to consume them, and this movement toward wellness is no different. Conscious eating became a kind of religion for some consumers, leading to the rise of nontraditional sources for creating healthier, happier and more balanced lifestyles.

As consumer demand rose, businesses bought into the trend. In 2019, restaurant operators offered healthier options not just alone as entrées, but also in other menu parts. Holistic ingredients and functional food trends bled into kids’, dessert and even cocktail menus.

Restaurants offered more holistic desserts, using grain-free granola, alternative sugars, and even quinoa and hummus in their sweets. As predicted by Whole Foods, frozen treats got a healthy twist in 2019 with avocado, hummus, coconut water and artisan cheeses.11

In the past, kids’ menus focused on fun shapes, sugary breads and greasy fried foods. This year, we saw a rise in organic ingredients, artisan breads and upscale additions. Restaurants such as Red Lobster stepped up their game with chilled lobster rolls for the kiddos, killing two birds—trendy and healthy—with one stone.

Many people have always avoided alcohol. However, this holistic lifestyle and movement toward healthier eating was embraced by society, and opting out of the vodka soda became a trendy and acceptable choice. We noticed a big increase in mocktails on the menu and fewer people feeling embarrassed about ordering a virgin cocktail.

“People want to not be intoxicated but still want to be part of the bar life,” said Boston-based bartender Matthew Garofalo. 13% of consumers agreed that mocktails are a good alternative to alcoholic drinks, with younger women as the target market for mocktails, according to the global market research firm Mintel.

Trend #4: CBD-Infused Foods

Unlike its counterpart, THC, CBD won’t actually get people high. Instead, it’s used for its therapeutic properties to calm anxiety, ease pain, and treat inflammation and even seizures.

Although the legality of CBD is still a gray area, many brands raced to be early adopters in the movement. This anticipated full legalization caused people to find ways to put CBD in just about anything. I even once got a CBD oil-infused massage at a spa to enhance relaxation. But the newest trend in CBD this year was adding it straight to food. Sure, we’re used to hearing about people putting marijuana in pot brownies and gummies, but the legal form of CBD took that a couple of steps further. You can now find a plethora of CBD infused retail treats from coffees to beverages to fine wines. Ben & Jerry’s made headlines with their plan to launch a CBD-infused ice cream as soon as cannabidiol is approved by the FDA.

Restaurants began jumping on the CBD bandwagon as well. CNN referred to CBD as “the latest ‘it’ ingredient to hit menus,”12 as CBD appeared in infused whipped cream, creative cocktails and even turned into an upsell as an additive to pizzas.

Image: Food Business News

Trend #5: Waste Reduction

We’ve become a throwaway society, and consumers are pushing a movement to give organics a second life. But, as with any environmental craze, consumers don’t just want to be the pioneers alone but also want to push businesses to do the same.

That’s no real surprise, seeing that consumer-facing businesses account for 40% of waste by weight, costing $54.7 billion.13 This consumer pressure is really getting through to businesses, as 80% of operators have ramped up efforts to reduce food waste.13

Many universities, cafés and restaurants got ahead of the curve by committing to waste reduction pledges, in order to beat the consumer-driven movement.

Fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s and Chipotle, reduced waste in their restaurants all around the world. This was a great business move for them, as it not only bettered the environment but also had a big impact on their wallets and reputations.


In 2019, foodservice operators were tasked with walking an interesting tightrope, as we saw a contradiction between consumers wanting to relax at home but also wanting a healthy lifestyle focused on wellness. These health-conscious, cocooning foodies expected the best new thing, and they wanted it to be instantaneous and perfect the first time around.

Today, it’s clear that holistic lifestyle choices are important but that consumers don’t want the same old thing either. The sweet spot is taking these trends and putting a new spin on them, to get people talking about a brand.

With the influx of Yelp reviews and Instagram mega foodies, the trendier the food was, the better. We can all take notes from The Bagel Store in NYC, which broke the internet with its rainbow bagel.14 A few trendy twists of food coloring and some social media sharing put this shop on the map.

In the same sense, an over-the-top kombucha ice cream cone with CBD sprinkles could make a mom-and-pop ice cream shop skyrocket. All it took was one trendsetter with a foodstagram account to stumble upon it and share a photo with followers. That’s the world we live in now, and in order to survive, we need to always be one step ahead.

Obviously, CBD sprinkles weren’t for everyone, nor every brand, so finding the right trendy connection was necessary. Connecting a brand with a progressive movement, such as waste consciousness, turned out to be a low-risk boost to the brand’s reputation and lead to some serious positive buzz.

However, to maximize these trends for your business, it’s important to make sure you fully understand your brand and brand purpose. Chasing trends for the sake of being current can be a dangerous game. Knowing which trends to avoid while identifying those that can push your brand forward and help your brand connect with the hearts and minds of your target audience is smart business. Having a partner like Marriner that’s constantly learning, researching and building implications of the ever-changing trends in foodservice…now you’ve achieved Clarity.

To speak with Marriner about how these and other trends could positively impact your business, drop us a line. Reach out to David Melnick, VP of Strategic Partnerships at 410.715.1500 or for a fun and meaningful strategic conversation.



  1. Foodservice Delivery in U.S. Posts Double-Digit Gains Over Last Five Years With Room to Grow, The NPD Group, 2018.
  2. Rush Wirth, Sara. The stats are in: Consumers are upping restaurant delivery, Restaurant Business, 2018.
  3. Lamb Weston Solves for Fries Delivered Hot and Crispy, Lamb Weston, February 2018.
  4. Datassential FoodBytes, May 2017.
  5. US On-premise Alcohol Trends Market Report, Mintel, 2018.
  6. LG to Unveil Capsule-Based Craft Beer System at CES 2019, LG, December 2018.
  7. Dellinger, AJ. The Keurig for cocktails is now available in a couple of states, Digital Trends, May 2019.
  8. Fantozzi, Joanna. 10 food trends for 2019, Supermarket News, December 2018.
  9. Kellogg Debuts New HI! Happy insideTM Cereal That Contains the Power of 3-in-1, Kellogg, November 2018.
  10. Sonoma Brands Introduces PECKISH, a Revolutionary New Fresh Protein Brand That Heroes the Brilliant Simplicity of Eggs, Sonoma Brands, January 2019.
  11. Our Top 10 Food Trends for 2019, Whole Foods Market, November 2018.
  12. Devash, Meirav. How CBD has become the USA’s coolest food and drink ingredient, CNN, October 2018.
  13. Foodservice Food Waste Action Guide, ReFED, 2018.
  14. Restaurants getting big boost from social media food photos, WCAX, April 2019.
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