Food trends to look out for in 2024
In the food and beverage industry, trends come and go, some lasting several years and others being a quick burst of activity. Often, they will branch off into a progression of the original trend and new developments emerge. Looking back on the predicted trends over the past few years, some came to nothing, whilst others have developed and adapted from year to year, bringing new focuses to the food and drink market. Read on to discover what trends 2024 may reveal.
Food trends in 2024
January brings Veganuary and an influx of meat-free products. Yet whilst the vegan movement has been a key trend in past years, we have seen this progress through to flexitarianism as a more realistic and widespread approach to reducing meat consumption. As The Guardian reports, “UK meat consumption is at the lowest level since records began” in the 1970s, driven by the cost of living and consumer lifestyle changes. However, with our requirement to reach net zero by 2050 and the necessary pressure to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, there is an urgent need to address our meat consumption.
Whilst a vegan diet omits meat and animal products completely, and a flexitarian diet reduces meat consumption in general but not completely, reviewing what type of meat we eat plays a vital part in reducing the carbon impact that animals have on our planet.
Reducing ruminant consumption
Looking ahead to 2024, the meat-free movement will progress to address ruminant meats and how we manage these in terms of meat consumption. Categorised by their unique digestive system, ruminants include cattle, sheep, goats, deer, buffalo, elk, giraffes and camels. With four compartments to their stomachs (we as humans have one), the largest of these compartments (the rumen) stores and ferments food as part of the digestive process. Later regurgitated to finish its digestion, the food and fibres ferment in the rumen of the animal and produce methane and other by-products which is then released into the atmosphere and therefore contributes to our greenhouse gas emissions.
Whilst it’s unlikely we will see giraffes and camels on any menu in the UK, beef and lamb are the main culprits in this. With a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the reduction and even elimination of ruminant meats from our menus and diets is a key focus in addressing this. Unlike a vegan diet, there is no need to remove meat completely, but consumers will be encouraged to follow a trend moving towards non ruminant meats such as chicken, turkey and pork.
As the trend for a reduced or meat-free diet has progressed over the years, so too has the development in plant-based alternatives. The last couple of years have seen trends in meatless-meat products, imitating the taste and texture of meat but as a product made from plants. However, last year we also saw clean labelling as a trend, with a focus on reducing the number of ingredients within products, particularly within the plant-based market. As a progression of this, for 2024 we should expect to see a resurgence of the original meat-free products such as the veggie burger. With a return to beans, wholegrains and pulses, the ingredients list on meat-free alternatives is likely to be reduced by being vegetables rather than “complex meat alternatives.“
Along with clean labelling, consumers continue to focus on mindful eating, caring not just about calorie content but also the nutritional value of their food and drink. As with previous years, there is a focus on functional eating, with consumers looking for products that support gut health, digestion, skin, joints, focus and mental wellbeing. Mushrooms are rumoured to be one of the key ingredients, with the Turkey Tail mushroom – used in Chinese medicine – offering cognitive benefits. We may see these being used in functional products including coffee, energy drinks, soups and smoothies.
Mindful eating doesn’t stop at ingredients with more and more consumers making choices based on how and where foods are grown and produced. There is a growing focus on regenerative farming and food, with a shift from solely reducing the amount of harm we are doing to the environment to taking action to restore the land we are farming and encourage biodiversity. In their 2024 trends report, Whole Foods predicts that we will see buckwheat as an ingredient in products such as crackers and granola. Seen as a “superfood seed” due to its protein content, fibre and naturally gluten free qualities, buckwheat is often grown to help with soil health, meaning as a crop it helps to restore the soil as well as being a nutritious food source.
A big part of understanding how our food is grown and produced is having a traceable and transparent supply chain. This is not a new trend for 2024, but we will see an increased focus on the need for brands to provide full traceability on their products for every stage of the supply chain to prove their sustainability credentials. Unfortunately, the spreading of misinformation on sustainable practises through greenwashing is existent, and it is likely that more measures will be introduced to eliminate this, particularly in the food and drink supply chain. We may also see an increase in hyper- local sourcing, with restaurants growing their own food, therefore having complete traceability of their produce.
Whilst the behavioural trends from 2023 develop into 2024, we will also see some taste trends that will continue to emerge. There is a growing curiosity for international flavours and offering diversity within our food choices, and whilst we have a vast range of cuisines available in the UK, a lot of these are westernised versions of the original cuisine. Mexican and Caribbean dishes are already popular; however, we are likely to see the development of traditional dishes with new flavours in addition to the ones we know. Often seen as street food, new recipes might cover breakfast, snacks, food-to-go and mains, and includes recipes that lend themselves to vegetarian and vegan meat free menus. As part of the authenticity, consumers also want to see traditional cooking styles that bring a true taste of another culture and cuisine.
Despite the increased cost of living, for many eating out is still an important part of their lifestyle, although often seen as a treat. As a result, consumers are looking for dining out to become an experience, to be engaging, and to be focused on quality. Whether that is setting, cooking methods, theatrics or presentation, younger consumers in particular are looking for the novelty, Instagramable moment and for the trends to extend to the whole dining experience as well as the food itself.
With that in mind, the combining of traditional British dishes with other global cuisines is a progressive food trend that balances the exploration of new flavours with British elements that consumers are familiar with and love. Seen as a ‘safe’ way to try something new, British fusion might focus on favourites such as a roast dinner, pie or fish and chips but with a twist. Giving consumers the opportunity to discover something new, it reduces the risk of splurging on the unknown by keeping an element of familiarity.
There is no doubt that 2024 will being a wave of newness to the food and drink industry, whether it be the progression of an existing trend or movement, or a completely new product being launched on the market. It is, however, clear that the trends we have seen from previous years in terms of reducing meat consumption and a focus on reducing food waste are only going to develop and escalate in order to address our carbon emissions and our pledge as a country to become net zero by 2050.