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Top Five Stories of 2019

Denis Storey
December 21, 2019

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To say 2019 was a big year in the food, beverage, and dietary supplements segments would be an understatement. Sales in the food and beverage space surpassed $7.8 billion, a 3.8% jump over 2018.

Perhaps more telling, after years of sluggish growth online, food and beverage is now the fastest-growing e-commerce space.

After a hiccup in 2018, dietary supplements bounced back in a big way in 2019, with usage hitting an all-time in the United States. According to research from the Council for Responsible Nutrition, "77% of Americans reported they consume dietary supplements. Among all age groups, adults between the ages of 35-54 have the highest usage of dietary supplements at 81%."

While 2019 sales numbers are not yet available, U.S. sales exceeded $42.5 billion in 2018, driven by increased consumer awareness and demand for weight-loss solutions, healthy living, and overall better fitness. Analysts expect 2019 sales growth of about 7 percent.

What drove revenue – and conversations – in the food, beverage, and dietary supplement sectors in 2019?

CBD and Hemp

After the latest farm bill passed through Congress late last year, legalizing industrial hemp, CBD, and hemp products set the market ablaze. A report published by Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics predicted CBD would become a $20 billion market over the next four years – in the United States alone.

And while dispensaries still make up the bulk of the market, "General retail stores (food, drug, mass, and others) will account for 63% of CBD spending in 2024, as resolutions to the legal issues around selling CBD as a food additive or supplement are resolved."

This market is already huge – and it's only going to get bigger as the more significant players get involved.


The back and forth with China over tariffs rippled across the economy, most notably in the food and beverage sectors, and especially for dietary supplements since so many of the ingredients used in these products come from China. Analysts estimate – at least for now – that the tariffs could cost U.S. supplement makers as much as $2.4 million. Most expect this trade war to extend well into the new year.

Plant-based Foods

If there's any market niche that rivals CBD these days, it's the growing mainstream appeal of plant-based protein products. Even fast-food giants such as Burger King have started putting Impossible Burgers on their menu. This month, grocery heavyweight Kroger's rolled out a plant-based meat pilot program in partnership with the Plant-Based Foods Association. The program targets 60 stores in Illinois, Indiana, and Colorado for a four-month trial run. But the plant-based protein craze isn't limited to meat. While alternative dairy and egg products have been increasingly popular, some companies have started making plant-based desserts, proving this is more than a fad.

Consumers Take Control

Online grocery shopping took hold in 2019, proving that consumers are firmly in the driver's seat. Whether it's delivery or pick-up, a growing health food market, or so-called "clean labels," consumers are steering the direction of the food and beverage market in a way we've never seen before. Store to the door is the new farm to fork. Even Coca-Cola plans to roll out a test subscription service in the new year. But it's not just about what products they want, or how they get them. They care about how they're made and packaged, too. Consumers are calling the shots now, and manufacturers are listening.

Dairy's Dive

This past year was tough for the dairy business. In short, production is up, and sales of traditional milk products are down. Consumers are increasingly skipping past cow's milk and buying from the growing selection of milk alternatives. As a result, the number of dairy farms has fallen, too. Dairy's not dead, by any means, but the industry faces some tough choices ahead.

Honorable Mention: Popeye's Chicken Sandwich

Based on social media traffic alone, the controversy over the nascent chicken sandwich wars would have topped the list. As entertaining as the online spat was, the story offered a couple of lessons. One, it further illustrated the power of social media when it comes to 21st-century marketing. But, as Popeye's restaurants across the country sell out ahead of long lines of unhappy customers, it emphasizes the importance of a robust supply chain – especially if you're going to throw shade at your competition on Twitter.

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