2024 Food & Beverage Trends: Flavors that Captivate and Connect
Food and beverage trends are top-of-mind with formulators throughout the annual product development cycle. But as the calendar year draws to a close, interest in “what’s new, what’s next, and what’s disruptive” begins to grow.
In Part 1 of our exploration of trends to watch in 2024, we shared several North American cultural shifts affecting behaviors and expectations of food and drink brands. Now, let’s examine how you can captivate and connect with people through flavor. Our flavor predictions for 2024 focus on meeting needs for energy, refreshment, delight, and new memories.
Energize Me (But Hold the Jitters)
Energy remains a hot topic in North America:
- According to trend-watcher Tastewise, social discussions around “energize” increased 41% in the past year. Energizing foods and beverages fulfill the need for nourishment, satisfaction, and wellness.
- A recent International Food Information Council survey shows that 4 in 10 Americans will change eating patterns or diets to get more energy to feel better.
- And FlavorSum’s proprietary research with North Americans shows that while almost half can find foods and beverages to deliver energy, only one-third are satisfied with the results.
Give Me More than Energy
Coffee ranks as a top choice for energy in North America, with 3 in 4 people drinking 3 cups on average every day. Fewer rely on energy drinks, with 32% of Americans and 18% of Canadians choosing a canned or bottled boost. But people are looking for more than the four-to-six-hour uptick that caffeine provides.
FlavorSum research points to up-and-coming ingredients food and beverage brands can use to deliver energy without the jitters and with additional welcomed adaptogenic benefits such as:
- Improved mood and stress relief (L-theanine)
- Heightened cognitive function (Ginkgo biloba)
- Reduced anxiety (Rhodiola, maca)
Sustain Me with (Plant) Protein
Although protein doesn’t provide a direct source of energy, FlavorSum research revealed that 45% of North Americans name protein as a path toward endurance and stronger performance.
Metabolizing protein in foods and beverages is a “long game.” The process helps people feel satisfied longer, delay hunger pains, and maintain healthy energy levels for sustained performance.
Food and beverage trends show the evolution in protein sourcing is shifting to a wider variety of plants. Mintel reports: “Along with proteins from peas/chickpeas, potatoes, legumes, and cereals, 17% of patents disclose protein from sources including hemp, marine plants, algae, fungi, insects, and protein produced via precision fermentation.”
Global: % distribution of active patents for food and drink disclosing plant-based protein source, June 2023
Flavors that Cue Energy
North Americans named tropical fruit flavors as the trending profile for 2024 in a recent FlavorSum survey. And Tastewise confirms their prediction, with conversations about ‘tropical flavors’ up +65% in the last year.
Tastes of the tropics vary, but when showcased alone or combined with other tropical or citrus notes, they deliver a bright, sweet-tart zing that supports alertness and energy. And many options within the tropical fruit flavor family provide some natural masking of energy or protein ingredients. We expect more energizing launches featuring flavors like:
- Mango Combinations
North Americans prioritize refreshing foods and beverages:
- “Refresh” as a topic grew +30% in social discussion over the past year, addressing the need for fresh and, surprisingly, indulgent tastes.
- More than 70% of North Americans name hydrating beverages their #1 choice for rejuvenating or invigorating their bodies.
- Beyond physical benefits, refreshing foods or drinks contribute to renewed emotions by providing enjoyable and relaxing experiences.
Offer Me Natural Refreshment
Across refreshing beverage segments like hydration drinks and plant-based or flavored waters, FlavorSum research reveals over half of North Americans name electrolytes as an ingredient to support hydration. But we expect natural ingredients will gain momentum in 2024. The chart below shows more than half of refreshing beverage drinkers link watermelon with refreshment, with slightly fewer agreeing that coconut has hydrating properties.
% of North Americans Agreeing Ingredient Fits with Hydration
Refresh My Mood
While beverages may be top-of-mind when seeking refreshment, foods can revitalize body and spirit through fun and delicious tastes. Mintel reports that food launches positioned to ‘refresh’ increased by +14.5% across the post-COVID years.
Food categories leading innovation to refresh include:
- Dairy-based ice cream and frozen yogurt, with launches that promise to refresh up +50%.
- Water-based ices launched +36% more products with refreshment claims.
- And grain-based products like ready-to-eat cereal, snack bars, and cookies saw a 44% gain in launches with refreshing characteristics.
|“Chilled and Refreshing”||“Cools…as You Eat”||“Bright and Refreshing”|
Flavors that Refresh
Citrus flavors are nature’s little bundles of Zen, helping people feel refreshed and happy. Discussions about citrus flavors are rising, up +25% in the last year, and we expect the profiles to expand in 2024. Beyond familiar favorites like lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange, look for more novel citrus fruit flavors, including some hybrids or with provenance, to gain attention. For example, blood orange, a more complex orange profile, is now generating awareness through brands like Dracula Citrus.
Other citrus flavors to watch include:
- Star Fruit
- Buddha’s Hand
- Shatian Pomelo
Food and beverage trends often examine the growing interest in functional benefits beyond essential nutrition. In 2024, the FlavorSum team anticipates more innovation that provides people with opportunities to delight in the eating experience.
‘Delight’ within food and drink resonates in the social space, with discussions up a whopping +179% in the past year. Beyond the link with great taste, delight fulfills the need for guilt-free, satisfying outcomes.
Make Delight Shareable
Several years ago, trend-watchers named multi-sensory eating experiences as a growth opportunity. The prediction reflected the explosion of combination and contrasting flavors like salted caramel or sweet and hot. Then, textures evolved to include chewy with crispy or gooey with crunchy. And a recent FlavorSum blog post examined the sensory links between color and flavor.
While engaging multiple senses remains a viable path for delighting individuals, formulators can address a growing need for connection by creating shared delights. Innova reports the #1 method people use to manage stress is spending time with family and friends. Food and beverage can be a unifier.
- Mintel offers evidence that shared delight is expanding, reporting a 68% increase in North American launches of foods and beverages that highlight “sharing.”
- Large-format ready-to-drink cocktails are one example that illustrates how people are increasingly responding to convenient, quality drinks they can share with a group.
Surprise and Reassure Me
Unexpected taste experiences delight through the essence of surprise. We anticipate growth in trends like charred fruit flavors migrating into other categories like ice cream or sweet baked goods. Smoked wines and cocktails are becoming more mainstream. Global innovations like li hing mui, dried and pickled plums, or apricots coated with salt and licorice powder are crossing into multiple categories and countries.
But developers can also deliver delight through reassurance about ingredient sourcing, alignment with needs like convenience and wholesomeness, and supporting desires to care for self and family.
|Charred Peach Sundae||Smoked Old Fashioned||Li Hing Mui Cookies|
Flavors that Delight
Delight is often synonymous with indulgence, and we expect complex flavor and texture combinations will continue to play a role in 2024. Creativity will drive the ‘delight’ food and beverage trend, leading to experiences such as:
- Lemon-lime paired with white chocolate in sweet baked goods
- Hot honey combined with butter toffee in snacks
- Cookie butter flavor topped with white chocolate in novelties
Wholesome flavors remain essential across most food and drink categories. Delight arrives in pairings that connote simplicity, fun, or approachable global combinations, like:
- Dark chocolate coconut
- Crème Brulée
Help Me Make Memories
The taste, smell, and texture of foods and beverages are evocative, bringing back memories of the eating experience and its place and time. Foods effectively trigger more profound memories of feelings and emotions, the mind’s and body’s internal states. Nostalgic flavors remain popular in North America to help remember the past, but in 2024, the FlavorSum team anticipates growing interest in creating new memories.
Let Me Taste the Seasons Year-Round
Seasonal flavors offer a sweet combination of anticipation and happy memories, and the well-known appeal of seasonal flavors or “limited editions” continues to grow.
- Mintel reports North American launches highlighting seasonality increased by +28% in the last year.
- Over half of Mintel’s tracked food and drink categories showed more seasonal activity.
The global supply chain and versatility of flavors enable people to access seasonal favorites year-round. And the idea has appeal. Tastewise reports conversations about “year-round seasons” increased by +24% last year. Beyond enjoying the taste of seasonal flavors, people value the link to celebrations and fun.
Does the desire for year-round access to seasonal flavors mean Pumpkin Spice will remain on shelves for 12 months? Probably not, but seasonal flavors like apple pie are now available across categories all year to help people create everyday moments of happiness.
Personalize My Favorites
Everyone has unique connections to flavors, but tapping into commonalities across the North American culture can help people personalize their memory-making experiences. Beyond birthdays, occasions where food and drinks build happy memories include:
- Sporting Events
Although any flavor linked to an event or setting can support memory-making, the FlavorSum team predicts growth in stone fruit flavors like:
- Tart Cherry
Stone fruit flavors often carry the essence (and memories) of their growing season, with complex, intense sweet-tart profiles delivering a memorable experience.
Personalized seasonal flavors can tap into local or global fruits such as pawpaws, honey bell oranges, guavasteen, mangosteen, or Cherimoya.
Celebratory tastes are now extending beyond birthday cake and s’mores to include memory-rich flavors like gingerbread, banana-boats, and orange brownies.
|Pawpaw Gelato||Honeybell Juice||Mangosteen
Which Flavor Experiences Will You Create in 2024? Partner with FlavorSum to Create Lasting Connections with Your Brand!
If you’re evaluating food and beverage opportunities for 2024 (or 2025) and have questions about the optimal direction for your brand, FlavorSum will support your success. From insights like our 2024 Food and Beverage Trends to expertise with flavor creation, applications, and commercialization, our team is here to help you achieve your goals. Contact us to discuss flavor solutions that deliver delicious tastes and build loyalty.