The alignment of taste and wellness in 2024

Flavors Spotlight! How to Align Taste with Wellness Trends in 2024

by | Jan 4, 2024

As 2024 begins, many people will start planning ways to improve their quality of life, from looking for a new job to building connections or investing time in interests. Wellness trends often influence goal setting with commitments centered around foods and beverages.

The FlavorSum team reviewed some of the top wellness trends predicted to affect food and drink brands in the coming year. Learn how flavors can help you align your innovations with the wellness areas that resonate with North Americans.

Point Counterpoint: Protein vs. the Diet Culture

As people strive to maintain a healthy weight, many seek solutions that promise more results than the dismal 95% failure rate of calorie-restricting diets. Knowledge of protein as an essential metabolic ingredient is expanding beyond fitness enthusiasts to the general population. Tastewise reports conversations about protein and metabolism increased by +19% in the last year, with protein getting accolades for offering the easy and tasty satisfaction people crave.

Mintel reveals that North American brands in several food and beverage categories are stepping up to launch more options with higher protein content.

List of North American Food and Beverage Categories with High Protein Launches 2018-2023

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

TASTE EXPECTATIONS WITH PROTEIN

Incorporating protein into food and beverage formulations takes talent and patience. And the expansion of protein sources highlighted in our 2024 Flavor Predictions blog means developers have more complex notes to enhance or mask. Flavors with modulating properties (FMPs) act as bitterness masking agents to ensure products have a desirable flavor. While flavor solutions are essential when working with proteins, partnering with a flavor house that offers applications expertise is also beneficial.

Dairy Makes a Comeback

Data from the USDA and Agriculture Canada shows North American per capita dairy consumption ticked up to 914 pounds in 2023 from 905 pounds in 2022. Although the dairy industry faces headwinds of sluggish growth and generational skepticism about its value, some dairy brands continue to bring news to the aisle. Innovation increased +8% in the 52 weeks ending November 2023, with two-thirds of the gains driven by cheese and dairy-based ice cream and frozen yogurts.

Mintel data for North America, 2023 showing dairy subsegments contribution to launch gains
Despite a slow start to innovation, cottage cheese is a notable dairy success story. The cottage cheese renaissance is thanks, in part, to social media channels. Tastewise shows discussions about cottage cheese increased by +64% in the last year. TikTok has more than 240 million views showcasing cottage cheese as a protein boost in pancakes and pasta sauce, on fancy toast, or as the base of a protein bowl. Social media influencer Justine Snacks racked up nearly 400K views on a video of her 30-minute cottage cheese bowl with za’atar roasted vegetables and sweet-and-spicy pepper sauce.

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

HITTING THE DAIRY SWEET SPOT

Although savory profiles make the list of fastest-growing flavors in dairy, sweet combinations lead the way. Brands are incorporating familiar favorites like fudge, more complex combinations like chocolate raspberry or mango passionfruit, and global inspirations like tiramisu to connect with interest in indulgence.

Mintel data showing Top 20 Fastest Growing Dairy Flavors launched in North America

Sleep, Precious Sleep

Image of a hand reaching out from beneath blankets to turn off an alarm clock that reads 7 o'clock
In a recent survey, the desire for a good night’s rest is a top priority for more than half of Americans. Studies show lack of sleep links to serious health issues like diabetes, cardiovascular challenges, obesity, and a weakened immune system. Research also points out the relationship between sleep and metabolism, meaning more rest can help with weight management.

Food and beverage brands are innovating to support the need for sleep. Launches highlighting sleep claims jumped +26% in the last year (Mintel). Although hot beverages laid the groundwork for a restful night, recent introductions happened in cold cereals, RTD teas, and flavored water.

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

ALIGNING WITH CALM

Flavors can cue functional benefits, and profiles featuring berries, botanicals, or citrus align with calming properties. Combination flavors that can support sleep or rest claims include:

  • Orange pairings with honey, mint, tangerine
  • Lavender complements strawberry, blueberry, lemon, orange, or honey
  • Ginger with honey, orange, pineapple, blueberry, and peach

Comfort and Joy

Wellness trends reflect desires for a life well-lived. People are shifting away from linking health with deprivation. A recent survey of Americans between 13 and 39 reveals that almost 80% believe wellness is “anything that makes you feel good,” and most (90%) agree wellness looks different for everyone. The continued interest in nostalgic foods and flavors is leading brands to focus on simple nutrition that offers comfort and joy.

As people strive for a win-win between taste and health, trend watchers predict more migration to healthy and flexible eating plans. For example, #mediterraneanfood had a notable 76 million TikTok views in the past year. People are also investigating lifestyles in the blue zones, regions of the world that are beating the average for longevity with cultural (and cost-effective) habits.

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

DELIGHTFUL TASTES

As highlighted in our 2024 flavor predictions, creativity leads when delivering joy through flavor.

Indulgence often connects to joy, but delight happens with unexpected pairings like butter toffee spiced with hot honey or white chocolate combined with citrus. Wholesomeness is a key element of comfort, so simple flavor combinations like strawberry-lemonade or vanilla-apricot can build product appeal.

Natural Energy

The craving for energy to get through a fast-paced day hasn’t diminished, and people see energy as a pathway to feeling better. While caffeine remains a top energy source, getting a higher ‘energy IQ’ leads some to look for more natural sources.

FlavorSum’s proprietary research with North Americans shows ingredients like B vitamins, green tea, and ginseng link with energy. Trending ingredients offer energy plus extras like improved mood and stress relief (L-theanine), heightened cognitive function (Ginkgo biloba), or anxiety reduction (Rhodiola, maca). People have a range of energy-boosting foods and drinks available, from simple solutions like oatmeal or yogurt to treats like popcorn, nuts, or dark chocolate.

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

ENERGIZING EXPERIENCES

The benefit may be the goal, but the taste will keep people interested. Flavors appearing in more launches with energy claims include:

  • Berries (+55% more launches)
  • Fruit Punch (+350%)
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter (+40%)
  • Mango-Peach (+50%)
  • Strawberry-Watermelon (+300%)

CBD Health

CBD continues to expand across the North American landscape, showing up in foods and beverages, supplements, and cosmetics. The 2024 forecast estimating revenues of about $20 billion in the US and roughly $500 million in Canada puts CBD on par or besting leading categories. For example, energy drinks in the US brought in $23 billion in 2023, breakfast cereals generated $22 billion, and cookies added $10 billion.

A recent survey shows that 60% of Americans have tried at least one CBD product and agree they received some health benefits like anxiety reduction or pain relief from the experience. Top formats include gummies, other edibles, capsules, and oils or tinctures.

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

PRIORITIZING TASTE

The grassy, often earthy aftertaste of cannabinoids in CBD-enhanced foods or drinks leads formulators to use flavors to enhance the consumption experience. Gummies often incorporate a range of fruit-forward profiles ranging from the familiar taste of blueberry to more novel combinations like raspberry-lime or mango-grapefruit. Indulgence has a role in other edibles like cookies or bars, with flavors including favorites like chocolate chip or more novel tastes like dark chocolate cappuccino and orange pistachio.

Little Treats Wellness Trend

Small, bite-sized bakery and confectionary treats to illustrate the trend of 'little treats'
Little Treat Culture,” popularized on TikTok, offers people, especially younger generations, ideas for finding gratification in small indulgences, often for $10 or less. Little treats also help people realize their life quality goal: “get healthy, spend less.”  Some food and beverage brands are responding with more innovation in small pack sizes. Mintel reports more “little treat” innovation in seasonal chocolates, shelf-stable desserts, and vegetable-based snacks.

Whole Foods 2024 trends report shows the retailer is on board with items such as:

  • Petit Pot Crème Brûlée and Strawberry Cheesecake
  • Mayawell Prebiotic Pineapple Turmeric Sparkling Beverage
  • Whole Foods Market Brown Butter Latte

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

SMALL PACKS, BIG TASTE

Meeting value expectations of little treat innovations puts flavor in the driver’s seat. Consider transforming global inspirations like tiramisu or apple tarte tatin into bite-sized versions. Poppable frozen novelties in a strawberry cheesecake or peanut butter chocolate flavor deliver just the right amount of permissible indulgence. And shifting a Frappuccino, citrus juice drink, or RTD cocktail to a mini package hits a desirable price point with a taste experience that doesn’t disappoint.

To Fast, or Not to Fast

Only 10% of Americans acknowledge using intermittent fasting, where eating occurs within a specific time window. But the topic is trending, with more than 50 posts every hour on Instagram. Fasting aligns with a need for easy-to-follow eating guidelines, and recent research shows the approach can help manage Type 2 diabetes, a condition affecting about 11% of North Americans. Cautions about intermittent fasting are numerous though, ranging from headaches and lethargy to mineral imbalances with severe consequences for people with underlying health issues.

Although fasting is more about when eating occurs than the foods consumed, tea is emerging as a solution to support intermittent fasting. Varietals like black or green tea are popular since caffeinated teas are a ‘go-to’ for those who want to avoid an energy slowdown. Rooibos and hibiscus teas offer a tasty, non-caffeinated alternative.

FLAVORS SPOTLIGHT:

FASTING TEAS

Teas sweetened with sugar or non-nutritive sweeteners are off limits for intermittent fasting, but flavors like lemon, ginger, and peppermint can enhance the experience of hot or cold formats. Your flavor supplier can determine how trending flavors like orange, peach, or passionfruit will pair with your tea varietal.

Find Flavors that Fit with Your Brand Goals

If you plan to ride the wave of wellness trends in 2024 and need help finding flavor solutions for your food or beverage brand, reach out to FlavorSum. Our team of flavorists and applications experts understand your challenges and are ready to help you successfully meet your goals.