As we say our farewells to 2023 and welcome 2024, the food industry buzzes with anticipation for the coming year’s trends.
Data analysts and flavor experts on the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Trends Council, New York-based Specialty Food Association (SFA) Trendspotter Panel, and Chicago-based ADM team have shared their lists of top new trends we will be seeing in the new year, plus some trends from 2023 that will be sticking around.
“Our annual food trends predictions list is a way for us to pull back the curtain for customers and share insight into what our buyers and culinary experts are keeping on their radar for the upcoming year,” said Cathy Strange, ambassador of food culture for Whole Foods Market and member of the Trends Council. “From specific product ingredients and flavor trends, to growing movements in the food industry, we can’t wait to see these trends gain momentum in the year ahead.”
1. Spicy is here to stay
The heat was rising throughout 2023, and it is only going to keep going up in 2024. This year is all about complex heat, according to the Whole Foods Market Trends Council.
“Specialty varieties like Scorpion peppers, Guajillo or Hungarian Goathorn peppers are found fresh, whole, ground or pickled, and a new wave of botana sauces and chili oils are popping up in condiment aisles nationwide,” Whole Foods said.
According to Whole Foods, the produce department will see an uptick in pepper-infused cold-pressed juices, and the already popular Tajín will be branching out to flavor prepared sushi and instore bakery items.
The SFA’s Trendspotter Panel identified a specific focus on Calabrian chili peppers for 2024.
“Chiles continue to trend but the market has crested on Sriracha and Gochujang, so marketers are eager for the next thing to capture imaginations and tastebuds,” SFA said.
For prepared foods, Calabrian chili peppers will make an appearance in pasta sauces and condiments like hot sauce, relish and hot honey. SFA said the flavor will also be big for cured meats and meat snacks in deli.
“As most peppers are of Asian or Latin origins, these offer a cultural alternative to what has become commonplace,” said Stan Sagner, an SFA Trendspotter. “Additionally, Calabrian peppers have a bright flavor that is quite appealing and lends itself well to a variety of dishes.”
The Trendspotters also identified peach as a major flavor for 2024 and expects it to see it popping up in new places.
“While increasingly used in traditional categories like jams and teas, peach is also showing up in condiments, sometimes offsetting another growing trend of chili peppers, and in baked goods like the 2023 SFA sofi Awards New Product winner, Peach-Lavender Bundtlet from Lily Maude’s,” SFA said.
2. More to explore around the globe
Just like spicy flavor trends are branching out to peppers from other places, global flavor exploration will continue to increase in 2024, according to SFA. What will make this year different is consumers being open to “richer cultural experiences from food,” not just flavors, SFA said.
“I see a continued increase in what I call heritage tradition foods, more small producers [around the globe] will continue to bring forth family recipes that are rich in flavors and stories that connect them to home and culture,” said V. Sheree Williams, SFA. “As people explore, they are becoming more deeply aware of more obscure regional ingredients and recipes.”
“In all corners of the US, restaurants featuring lesser-known cuisines and specific dishes within those cuisines will prime consumers to realize that it’s actually quite easy and accessible to try new things,” said Melanie Bartelme, SFA.
“People are understanding that cuisines are not monolithic,” Sagner said. “This trend is particularly evident in Asian packaged products (cooking sauces, seasonings, beverages, condiments, packaged noodles, etc.) that are appealing to both second generation and non-Asian customers.”
“Exploring African pantry items will also continue as brands educate the Western palate to African flavors and ingredients,” said Chala June, SFA.
One specific global flavor the Trendspotters expect to be spotlighted in 2024 is tahini.
“It’s been increasingly viewed and applied outside of the Middle Eastern specialty lens, and being married to foods and beverages that are served in a more mainstream or non-adjacent capacity,” said Mikel Cirkus and Hanna Rogers, SFA. “Noted examples are tahini milk shakes and coffees, cookies, and pastries featuring tahini popping up in metropolitan areas like New York, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.”
Another global ingredient that was already picking up speed in 2023 and will continue to grow is ube.
“Ube’s fantastic color gives a pop of intrigue for consumers, and its flavor paired with creamier formats makes it irresistible,” Cirkus and Rogers said.
They said the use of black sesame, paired with ube and used on its own, will increase as well.
“Black sesame is especially one to watch, as it plays in a space of offering novelty and deliciousness across formats,” Cirkus and Rogers said.
At the International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA) Global & Produce Floral Show in October, Fairfield, N.J.-based Crispy Green featured its newest dried fruit product line — Piña Picante.
“Piña Picante starts with premium pineapple from Costa Rica and infused with unique blends of spices before drying,” Crispy Green said. “Our first flavor, Chili Lime, is infused with the perfect combination of cayenne peppers and zesty lime with a hint of sea salt.”
The product was developed by Angela Liu, Crispy Green founder and CEO, in her own kitchen.
“Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits,” Liu said. “Growing up in southern China, I was taught to dip pineapple in salt water before eating it, which would help to reduce the stinging sensation it has on the tongue, also makes the pineapple feel sweeter. The sweet and sour taste of pineapple blends very well with savory flavors.”
While the Ginger Lime flavor does not have any chili peppers, the Chili Lime flavor fits in well with the spicy flavor trends as well.
“The first flavor, Chili Lime, carries quite a bit of heat,” Crispy Green said. “If you like spicy, you will love it! [In] our internal testing, Chili Lime was a slam-dunk in terms of overall taste. We also surveyed a random group of college students (Gen Z), [and] the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.”
3. Blending luxury, convenience & value
Consumers want to treat themselves in 2024, but they are making strategic choices to keep fit luxury items into their budgets, SFA said.
“Consumers are watching their finances and value will be the name of the game.”
“Brands that will successfully engage them will show shoppers what their products bring to the table,” Bartelme said. “This may be versatile uses, low-stress flavor building or longer shelf life. These attributes can help show consumers that these products are ‘worth’ the cost.”
According to Whole Foods’ Trends Council, one way for consumers to enjoy luxury on a budget is smaller portions.
“TikTok creators have brought ‘Little Treat Culture’ into the zeitgeist, and we’re on board,” the Trends Council said. “We know firsthand the power of a treat, like an impulse macaron buy or a fizzy, functional and flavor-forward bev. Brands are getting in on the trend by considering both cost and format — like individual serving packages that add joy without breaking a budget, and outlets like The Kitchn regularly dish out lists of ‘Little Luxuries’ found for $10 or less.”
The SFA Trendspotters said consumers will also be looking for ways to “upscale the everyday.”
“While inflationary pressures may have taken a bite out of restaurant dining, they continue to make the everyday at home a bit more special,” said Jonathan Deutsch, SFA. “Ingredients like high-end truffle salts, finishing oils, spice blends, and cultured butters elevate simple dinners at home to restaurant-style flavorful indulgences.”
“One example is charcuterie boards, said Patsy Ramirez-Arroyo, SFA. “They are everywhere, and their popularity is expected to endure in 2024, owing to their captivating visual appeal, cost-effectiveness, wide array of shareable spreads that foster communal dining, adaptability to diverse dietary preferences and ingredients, and alignment with the increasing demand for elevated, artisanal food displays at gatherings, whether casual or upscale.”
SFA also said consumers are seeking elevated convenience and will continue to be more comfortable with and open about using shortcuts.
“There will be a newfound appreciation for, and celebration of, mixes, sauces, starters and more that consumers once chose to hide from their family and friends,” Bartelme said.
“Convenience extends beyond at-home meal prep,” Williams said. “On-the-go, convenience will also continue to drive innovation with lives back to busy schedules. This holds for food and drinks.”
This article is an excerpt from the December 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire 2024 Trends feature and more in the digital edition here.