Food trend forecast for 2024
No one can predict with certainty what we will eat and drink in the new year, but many are trying.
As my own end-of-year ritual, I sift through a stream of forecasts from major food companies, PR firms, restaurant groups, and market researchers. Then I get on the phone and interview the best forecasters in the field.
I’m not interested in the next viral chick or what will replace mommy and daughters’ dinner. Instead, I study small cultural, media, and economic data points and watch a trend emerge.
So what’s new for 2024? “I like to call it Hello Lou,” said Andrew Freeman, president of AF & Co., a San Francisco consulting firm that has for 16 years published a popular report on food and hospitality trends in collaboration with the branding and marketing firm Carbonate. “There’s a desire for boldness, maximalism, and collaboration, but with this feeling that no matter how much I spend, I need to feel real value for my money.”
People want quality ingredients, but they also want value — especially members of Generation Z, who have emerged as rational, skeptical chefs and restaurateurs who want safe rewards wrapped in adventure.
Luxury can be found less in the cost or rarity of ingredients, but rather in the quality of a product that makes life easier, more interesting and more enjoyable.
“A lot of it is, ‘I just want this great experience to take us away from what’s going on in the news,'” said Jennifer Chu, who helps lead the flavor and color team at global food processor ADM.
But Sally Lyons-White, who analyzes shopping and consumption trends for market research firm Circana, says there has to be a value proposition. “There are definitely tools that people will use in the coming year for portfolio management,” she said.
Here’s what to watch for.
Meals are the year 2023. Next year it will be all about the snacks. These delicious little bites are a low-risk way to explore new cuisines. It’s a canvas of hybrid cultures like a crispy shawarma roll. And snack collaborations will continue to decline like sneakers. (French mustard and Skittles? Milk bars and Taco Bell?) “Snacks can be the best snacks,” said Claire Lancaster, who forecasts food and drink trends at consumer trend forecaster WGSN.
Hydration never takes a vacation
The water will be greater than ever. #WaterTok — millions of people watching other people add syrup and powder to giant cups of water — doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Look for an uptick in the number of water soakers, a “premium hydration” category, and wearable hydration sensors. New ways of using waste to produce water will emerge, such as the cocoa water that remains after cocoa beans are harvested. Water management will be even more important as consumers look for foods and beverages that require less water to grow or produce such as dry-grown beans, nopal-based snacks and beers from companies that use a pond filtration system.
“This is going to be the year of the buckwheat,” said Kathy Strange, Food Culture Ambassador at Whole Foods Market. During a recent trip to Norway, she had foie gras with a crunchy buckwheat topping. In New York City, buckwheat appears in hot chocolate and topping monkfish drizzled with curry sauce. It is seasoned with tea or vanilla and made into drinks. For climate and health, buckwheat is a great cover crop, rich in protein and fibre. Naturally, fans of soba noodles and blinis are not surprised.
Did you think the espresso martini was special? Meal-flavored cocktails would love to have a word. Through the magic of fat washing, purification and infusion, umami-heavy drinks that taste similar to certain dishes will proliferate as our collective taste buds shift from super-sweet to savory. Indeed, in New York, you can order a Waldorf salad-flavored cocktail at Double Chicken Please in New York or a Caprese Martini at Jac’s on Bond. Or do you prefer a Thai beef salad drink from Savory Project, in Hong Kong, or an Everything Everywhere cocktail with gin infused with smoked salmon, vermouth, and caper brine with all the bagel seasoning from Anvil Pub and Grill, in Birmingham, Ala. .?
Concern about what it takes to make food through complex processing methods will explode. “Ultra-processed” will continue its rise as a toxic food phrase, according to Mintel’s 2024 Global Food and Beverage Trends Report. Natural fermentation, cold-pressed oils, burgers from nuts and legumes and good old-fashioned ingredients like butter and cream will have a cachet. The corollary: Ingredient descriptions will become more transparent and detailed (instead of “spicy citrus, you might see “pomelo and habanero”) and include more goodwill for biodiversity, but not in the precious farm-to-table way. “It doesn’t always have to be,” Ms. Lancaster said. “It will be very worthy.”
The heat from the brain blast will transfer into subtle, multi-dimensional flavours, paired with sweet and sour flavors or drawn from layers of flavors from different peppers from different parts of the world. “It’s not just the ghost peppers that come to you,” Ms. Strange said. “It’s more about complexity and what you can create with it.”
Technology of the year (maybe)
AI will be a big part of the conversation, although many in the food space have NFT-level skepticism about the hype. Some of the changes that AI may bring will not be obvious to consumers, such as tightening supply chains, reducing food waste in large kitchens and precision farming techniques. But there may be others, such as new ways to save time in the kitchen or make eating out more fun. One AI-based system, for example, allows a waiter to simply speak to a guest and send the order augmented with information about the customer’s cuisine preferences using voice AI and an earpiece, said Simon de Montfort-Walker, executive vice president and general manager. Director, Oracle Food & Beverage and Industry Central Solutions.
Color expert Pantone declared peach the color of the year, and many food experts followed suit and endorsed peach as the flavor of the year. Others say flavors like cherry blossom and violet will dominate. Wildflowers will abound. It’s all about lightness, femininity and new standards that include kindness, altruism and cooperation. Consider the viral appeal of the huachai, with fresh fruit, strawberry milk and Sprite over ice.
Dish of the year: soup
Soup is the more interesting little brother of bone broth and is the perfect vehicle for mixing cultures, like menudo tonkotsu ramen. It’s also an easy way to enjoy the growing popularity of food from Cambodia, Singapore and Indonesia. For chefs, it’s a low-risk, forgiving way to experiment with new flavors and ingredients. The soup uses vegetables that might otherwise be thrown away. The Specialty Foods Association’s trend watchers expect more soups and soup mixes to be on grocery shelves. Soup is another way to calm ourselves. “Honestly, I wouldn’t be mad if 2024 was the year of soup,” said Jenny Ziegler, director of Mintel Food and Drink.
Other trends: Philadelphia as a food city. The reign of pickled things continues. Desserts using sweetened condensed milk and meringue (but not necessarily at the same time). Pistachios are everywhere, both color and nut. Products that embrace menopause and women’s health. bread. Shrimp toast in new and innovative shapes. The sour taste of tamarind and calamansi. Chilled red wine.
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