2024 Food & Beverage Trends: Cultural and Behavioral Changes Affecting Innovation
It’s that time of year again—time for the FlavorSum team of flavorists, applications scientists, and market analysts to evaluate food and beverage trends for the upcoming year. With 2024 just around the corner, understanding the shifts in how people interact with food and drinks can ensure your next innovative launch lands with your audience.
Our culture is in a constant state of change. And although some trends may feel surprising or unexpected, their origins are in things we can observe now. Paying attention to how people go to work, care for their loved ones, and spend their free time allows us to make inferences about what’s coming next. Trend-watching is about more than just gaining a competitive edge. It’s about identifying unmet needs and aligning product development with evolving behaviors. With that in mind, let’s explore our predictions for 2024.
Fuel and Fun
Food and drinks fill many different roles in our day-to-day lives: energy to start the day, a midday pick-me-up, an indulgent reward after a stressful day, and everything in between. Now, people are exploring duality in their food and beverage choices. A meal or snack doesn’t just have to be about replenishing energy. It can be fun, too! Watch for brands incorporating more complex textures, tastes, and sensations as they craft innovative solutions that help people treat themselves while also giving them fuel to get through the day.
Stand Out Statistics
- 49% of people snack more than three times a day (Food Business News).
- Although less than 10% of North American new product activity in the last year specifically calls out indulgence or “rich,” 16% more products added the experiential promise in the year ending August 2023 (Mintel GNPD).
- Nearly 80% of Canadian adults believe internationally inspired foods are good ways to experience other cultures (Mintel).
Eating and drinking habits are shifting. People are not only snacking more often, but they are choosing different kinds of foods and beverages depending on the occasion and the time of day. For example, TikTok’s “rat snack” trend celebrates using simple ingredients to create unconventional late-night combinations (like goldfish crackers and salsa). “Joy snacking” is another movement where people stop to appreciate small moments. A joy snack could be a sweet treat to reward yourself after cleaning the house or a healthful snack helping you reach your lifestyle goals. We expect to see more innovative snacks targeted toward specific needs or day parts.
While not a new food and beverage trend, the excitement around complex tastes, textures, and sensations reflects an evolving desire to explore new cuisines and adventurous combinations. Churro is a globally-inspired flavor with fun texture and flavor possibilities. It is also one of the most popular flavors at the 2023 Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago. Incorporating flavors and textures from around the world also appeals to the unique cultural diversity of North America. According to Food Business News, half of the U.S. will be multicultural by 2024. If this multicultural market were a country, it would have the fourth largest economy with a purchasing power to rival Japan’s. Younger generations, especially, are ready to experiment and try novel flavor and texture concepts—51% of Gen Z said they’d try something new just because it’s new.
Modern life is a masterclass of balancing priorities for the best possible outcome. Quality ingredients often come with higher price tags. Convenience doesn’t always equate to sustainable results. Brands who find ways to balance affordability and quality will appeal to people who want to nourish themselves and their families and stay within the monthly budget.
Stand Out Statistics
- From June 2022 to June 2023, food prices increased by 4.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- Inflation is the number one source of stress for 83% of adults, followed by the economy (69%) and money (66%) (American Psychology Association).
- 20% of Americans rank sustainability as a top three criteria when choosing foods and beverage brands, and 70% of Millennials have switched brands over sustainability concerns (PDI).
Quality Is Non-Negotiable
Even though grocery budgets may be tight, shoppers are unwilling to compromise on ingredients that could significantly impact their family’s health. One clear example of the quality trend is the shift away from artificiality and to more natural sweetener sources. Excess sugar has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Sugar substitutes are also under examination. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently cautioned against using non-nutritive sweeteners to control body weight or reduce the risk of disease.
More brands are highlighting simpler ingredients on labels and include more free-from claims, and we anticipate brands will continue honing formulas in 2024. We examined Mintel’s product database to see how brands are responding to the focus on sweeteners and free-from claims in North America.
Ingredients last 52 weeks compared to the previous 52 weeks (Mintel).
- Unrefined natural sugar (+59%)
- Honey (+16%)
- Brown sugar (+10%)
- Cane sugar (+5%)
- White sugar (+3%)
- Stevia extract (-10%)
- Sucralose (-11%)
- Erythritol (-20%)
Free-from claims, last 52 weeks compared to the previous 52 weeks (Mintel).
- Free from artificial additives (+18%)
- Sugar-free (+14%)
- Dairy-free (+13%)
- Free from artificial flavor (+3%)
- Free from artificial color (+3%)
- Hormone-free (+2%)
Saving Time and Money
As we return to more active, post-covid lifestyles, people are looking for solutions that save time. Meal kits, online food delivery, and ecommerce food and beverage brands could be a less expensive solution that also means fewer trips to the grocery store.
According to Statista:
- The meal kit market will exceed more than $10 billion by 2024, compared to just $6.9 billion in 2021.
- Online food delivery revenue has a predicted annual growth rate of 15.10% from 2023 to 2027. The grocery delivery segment is expected to have a 29% revenue growth in 2024.
- In the U.S. food and beverage sales will represent over 21% of total eCommerce revenue by 2027.
In 2024, we expect to see more brands offering an online shopping service or personalized, subscription-based options that adapt depending on habits and preferences. Keep in mind that affordability is still a top priority. With a tumultuous election season approaching, rising inflation, and talk of a recession, people may choose ways to save money, even if it means meal prep takes a little extra time.
Finding Solutions to Optimize Daily Living
Hectic lifestyles and increased awareness of how food choices affect health are behind the rising demand for nutrient-rich foods and functional ingredients. Older generations, in particular, are looking for ways to eat healthier and are more likely to avoid ingredients they view as unhealthy like sugar, salt, fat, and carbs. Functional ingredients help people tailor food and drink choices to align with unique needs—needs that could shift day-to-day depending on health, busy schedules, or the next news cycles.
Stand Out Statistics
- The global functional foods market is expected to grow by 8.5% CAGR from 2022 to 2030 (Grand View Research).
- 50% of Americans 55 and up agree that preventing disease/illness motivates them to eat healthier (Mintel).
- 55% of Americans are stressed during the day and 94% of workers report feeling stress at work (The American Institute of Stress).
- Google searches for “adaptogen” went from an average of 36 per week in 2019 to 57 in 2022 (Google Trends).
Awareness of Functional Ingredients
Although interest is growing around functional ingredients, many people are not familiar with specific ingredients or benefits. In 2021, our research with North Americans showed low awareness of ingredients that support brain performance, gut health, and stress reduction. People are using search engines like Google to look up unfamiliar ingredients. In 2019, there were only 16 weekly searches for “ashwagandha.” Average searches per week in 2023 are up to 62. Next year, we expect to see more brands incorporating different ingredients and explaining their origins and associated health benefits.
Not only will more people explore functional ingredients, but they’ll also look for functional foods and beverages to optimize their daily lives and meet the demands of modern lifestyles. Tastewise, a social listening platform, lets us see how often certain ingredients are mentioned on social channels.
- Nootropics to safeguard brain health (+38%)
- Adaptogens to alleviate stress (+20% increase in conversations)
- Probiotics to boost digestive health (+3%)
- Coconut water (-4%) / Watermelon for increased hydration (+8%)
Interest in genuineness is a key food and beverage trend we predict will affect brands in 2024. Buying a product means putting some level of trust in the brand behind it. Food fraud—court cases over misleading food labels or diluting extra virgin olive oil—erodes trust. Mistrust isn’t limited to brands that have ended up in court. Shoppers are looking for signs of genuineness up and down each grocery aisle. Being genuine is about more than transparency or authenticity (although those attributes are important, too!). People want to know how your brand serves others and see tangible examples of how you make lives better.
Stand Out Statistics
- 78% of people say they have no confidence in big brands (GWI).
- Food fraud affects 1% of the global food industry, costing about $10-$15 billion a year. More recent expert estimates put the cost as high as $40 billion a year (FDA).
- In January 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new requirements for foods and beverages labeled “organic.” This is the biggest change to the organic regulations since the USDA’s National Organic Program started 20 years ago (Associated Press).
Going Beyond Label Claims
People are weary of food fraud, false claims, misleading labels, and having to be watchdogs over food and beverage brands. We predict brands will look for intentional ways to (re)build trust with their audiences. Look for fact-based ingredient insights and data-backed initiatives that help people better understand the product and how the brand addresses their concerns.
For example, a clean-label ice cream could include education about guar gum in the nutrition facts panel. Explaining where guar gum is made, where it came from, and why it is used offers reassurance about an otherwise mysterious ingredient.
Refining Brand Promise
Sustainability and environmental concerns are becoming bigger priorities when choosing food and beverage options. More than 40% of people factor in sustainability when shopping and 54% of people think food manufacturers should be responsible for more environmentally friendly food options. Inaction could be a costly choice for your brand and erode audience trust.
We expect food and beverage brands to revisit their sustainability goals and demonstrate how they will reach those goals. Verifiable action and measurable progress will be key since, according to Mintel, 59% of Americans think many companies are just pretending to be sustainable. Two areas of particular concern are food waste and water conservation. Upcycling can be a way to transform food waste into edible products, like flour made from coffee cherries or using leftover grain from the brewing process. Investing in water-conscious programs and innovative practices to conserve resources are also avenues to address growing environmental concerns.
Develop Your Next On-Trend Innovation With FlavorSum!
As you look across food and beverage trends, what’s your next innovation opportunity? Whether you’re looking for marketing insights or help with formulation, FlavorSum is here with the expertise to help you create great-tasting products that align with needs and inspire brand loyalty. Contact us to talk about getting support with your NPD initiatives. And remember to look for part 2 of our trend series where we’ll take a deep dive into flavors that will captivate and connect in 2024.