2019: The Year of Sustainability

When I was in Cleveland, OH over the holidays, we took a tour of the city on a trolley.  Of course one of the items that the driver pointed out was about the Cuyahoga River burning. Yes, in 1969 the river actually caught fire because of all the industrial pollution it had in it.  Time magazine posted a picture of it on the cover and for years it was what the city became known for. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that story!

Fast forward to 2019 and the city of Cleveland now has a sustainability plan.  Their plans include a robust and resilient local food economy, wind turbines on Lake Erie and miles and miles of bicycle trails. So yes, 2019 is the year of sustainability.

Let’s take a look at some of the common trends around food sustainability for this year:

  1. Food answers the questions; where did my food come from and how was it made? We will see more food transparency throughout the entire food cycle. We will see more local and organic stickers in the produce section and non-GMO project, humanely raised and rainforest alliance seals on food product labels.
  2. Organic goes mainstream: Organic sales have jumped almost 9% to more than $21 billion over the last year. The main purchasers of these foods are millennials and Hispanics. It makes sense that millennials would want to buy organic, because they are the sustainability generation and want to purchase foods in-line with their environmental beliefs.
  3. Compassion is in fashion: Faux meat snacks will be hot this year as millennials and Gen Z continue to choose foods that are humane to animals. Products will include Vegan jerky and pork-like rinds made from shiitake mushrooms and Yuca (root of the cassava plant).
  4. Straws suck: The backlash against plastic will continue. It is estimated that 500 million straws are used every day and often these straws end up in the ocean. The animals of the ocean ingest them and it can cause devastating effects like blocking an animal’s airways or ending up in our food supply.
  5. Upcycling: It involves transforming bi-products of food processing or food waste into new products. The difference between upcycling and recycling is that upcycling reuses waste without destroying it to form a new product whereas recycling breaks down the waste to form a new product.  Examples of upcycling include turning fruit pulp into chips or beer grains into granola bars.
  6. Neuro-Nutrition is a new word on the scene. We will start learning more about the connection between what we eat (our gut) and how our brain functions.  Kind of important stuff! Foods like walnuts, blueberries and b-vitamin rich foods like lentils will be on our brains this year “pun-intended”.
  7. Worldly and “Healthy” Breakfasts: We will expand our breakfast tastes to include more healthful foods from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Examples include Shakshuka from Israel which consists of eggs or tofu sautéed in a sauce made of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions and spices like nutmeg served on bread.  Or we will explore a variety of fruits like guava, dragon fruit or passionfruit from Latin America.