Five food trends for 2024
Every year, I scour the food trends predictions to distill them into my own. While my list usually isn’t as avant garde as some, I do try to pick based on what I’m seeing in the forward-thinking foodie chatter.
1 – The trends will be micro – “flash in the pan” – but megatrends will last
Back in the olden days, retailers only had to worry about being ambushed by something new once a month or maybe a week – perhaps in the Parade Magazine in the Sunday newspaper, on a weekly cooking show, or in a monthly magazine. I can remember my mom really getting into garlic, making the Garlic Chicken Garlic, Garlic, Garlic by The Frugal Gourmet when I was a kid.
Something like that would come along once in a while. Nowadays trends happen immediately. You never know when something will go viral – unless you’re behind the scenes working to influence it and it does suddenly take off. Some good examples over that might be familiar are the yellow dragon fruit trend that went viral on TikTok. I still see people recommending it for the same reason it went viral. People are remembering that one.
2. #AD, #PR
I mentioned this briefly, but in the grand scheme of things, expect a LOT more sponsored content, and for it to – hopefully – be labeled as such. The FTC has been cracking down on influencers for promoting sponsored content without proper attribution. Some dietitians recently got caught doing this.
That said, when the idea of TikTok was first floated at a produce trade show, we saw a lot of live videos of sales done live on-camera, direct-to-consumer – even fresh produce sold by farmers. This seemed a little far-fetched until this holiday season. I’m seeing sponsored content everywhere, and the TikTok shop is booming. Fresh produce companies with direct-to-consumer infrastructure (think Harry & David’s) could certainly benefit from something like that.
Is it worth it for a traditional produce company to delve into this type of sales? I think there are some out there with a premium, differentiated product that could definitely benefit.
3. Cooking at home, and ways to make it easier
Consumers have been returning to restaurants, but are experiencing quite a bit of sticker shock when they do. Even fast-food restaurants are getting heavily criticized by inflated prices.
Even somewhere like McDonald’s, which used to be known for its value menu. It’s being criticized on social media by consumers frustrated about $3 hash browns. My own 9-year-old griped for nearly an hour on a road trip about $2 a la carte pricing for a half a slice of bacon.
Before restaurants cry inflation, they need to know consumers are savvy enough to see quarterly earnings reports. During McDonald’s most recent earnings, revenue was up 14%, which the company said was driven by “strategic menu price increases.”
Taking this into account, an overwhelming 81% of consumers said they’re eating more than half of their meals at home. There’s a lot of ways to do this that can bring more fresh produce to the table.
Of the many reasons people choose to eat at a restaurant, convenience is probably the one with the most opportunity for items like retail-foodservice, inspiring displays, mix-and-match meal ingredients, salad kits, fresh-cut, and recipes.
4. Fake meat fizzle
If you’re only seeing the hype, you’d think that plant-based meats are poised for a supermarket takeover. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, plant-based meat alternative sales have been on a double-digit downturn for the past two consecutive years.
And don’t get me started on insect-based alternatives. Did you know cricket flour smells … cricket-y? If we didn’t already have an ick problem with idea, a smell would be the nail in the coffin for me.
Consumers are looking for more simple ingredients – actual plants – and tried and true plant-based alternatives like tofu and tempeh.
Technomic says plant-based milk alternatives aren’t garnering the upcharge they once did at restaurants/
Is this an opportunity for fresh produce to remind people that plant-based starts with plants? I think so.
5. Foods with function – and flavor
Functional foods have been slowly rising in popularity over the past few years, and especially since 2020. Consumers are looking for ingredients that boost metabolism, reduce inflammation, add magnesium, boost brain function, and more.
Trendy ingredients like lion’s mane mushrooms, turmeric, ginger, pumpkin seeds, dates, and matcha join staples like berries, greens, and tomatoes with a super boost of nutrients.
Expect consumers to be shopping for specifics – like carotenoids – rather than just “high in vitamin C.” They’re looking for function and function is more specific than just “good for you.”
I think one of the biggest opportunities the produce industry needs to hammer is that we’re more than vitamin C. We’re more than vitamins – period. This may be a sign that I’m getting older but I think fiber is a fantastic message to talk about.
Fiber means not only, you know, THAT reason, but it also helps regulate how much you eat, and sends messages of satiety to your brain. Even the action of chewing helps remind us that we’ve eaten enough. People want to know that kind of information.
There are so many amazing reasons to eat fruits and vegetables. This is the time to let them shine.