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2020 Culinary Trends & How to Sell Them

As 2020 approaches, the events industry is preparing to usher in a fresh slate of culinary trends to make the new year an exciting (and delicious) one. Today’s clients want convenient yet sophisticated food experiences with fresh, natural, additive-free food. If you look at the food industry as a whole, you’ll see a similar shift towards transparent food sources and preparation. This isn’t going away, so it’s time to embrace it.

Younger generations, especially, are emphasizing the story behind the food. Millennials and Generation Z members are becoming highly aware of the social and ethical impacts of their consumption habits, so they want to know everything from how their meal was sourced to the values of the business or farm it came from.

Pair these values with an increased number of allergies and dietary restrictions, and it’s clear that transparency and clean ingredients are crucial to success in 2020.

Here are a few other trends that you can expect to see in the next year and beyond.

Plant-based protein

As vegetarianism and veganism reach an all-time high in popularity, clients are looking beyond typical animal protein staples like chicken, pork, beef, and seafood. Instead, we’re seeing a rise in demand for plant-based proteins — tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, split peas and seed (like hemp, flax, and chia) are all powerhouses of nutrition and will take centerstage on dinner plates at many receptions this year.

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Afro-Carib flavors

African-Caribbean cuisine is all the rage this year, with inspiration drawn from the northern half of Africa. It emphasizes distinct spice mixes found nowhere else in the world and is composed heavily of flavorful cuts of meat and seafood and root vegetables like yams, cassava, taro, and sweet potatoes. Plantains and coconuts often lend a sweet, tropical flavor to the mix, with lentils, rice, and bread, providing a hearty foundation for this savory cuisine. It’s worth noting that Afro-Carib dishes typically come with some heat, so be mindful of spice level and lighten it up as needed for Western palates.

Hemp oil

CBD infusions

You’ve undoubtedly seen the CBD craze throughout grocery stores and health stores; now, it’s going to be a popular choice for event clients. High-end cocktails have held their place in events for some time, but the legalization of CBD (cannabidiol) in many states means these cocktails will be that much more powerful. Contrary to popular belief, CBD oil doesn’t get a person “high”; it lacks the psychedelic component and, instead, is simply a big mood elevator. That means that mocktails can benefit from this trend as well, for those who prefer not to drink alcohol. 

Expect to see CBD-infused cocktails, beer, wine, spirits, and even water, as CBD essences can be added into drinks as a powder, oil-based tincture, or water-soluble form. Thus, CBD will undoubtedly add value and profit to beverages, leading the trends in 2020 and beyond. Just be sure to do your homework before plunging in, as every state has different rules, and you’ll want to cover your bases legally.

Event clients are increasingly aware of the importance of choosing the right foods for their guests as an extension of who they are. The menu is a reflection of a wedding couple’s personalities or a corporate client’s values, so food is always a top priority — and, now, that priority is heavily influenced by fresh, natural, and healthy trends in the greater food industry.

Meryl Snow

Owner, Feastivities Events, Philadelphia, PA and Senior Consultant, Certified Catering Consultants

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method.  As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.She is the author of Booked It! and Cha-CHING!

Meryl Snow

Catersource Advisory Council Member

Founder of