October 24, 2023 – New research shows that, while the effects of high food price inflation and the need to cut back are still affecting consumer markets worldwide, eye-catching or well-loved ingredients, nature-friendly claims, as well as health benefits, will increasingly inspire higher spending into 2024, according to Innova Market Insights.
Lu Ann Williams, Global Insights Director at Innova acknowledges that for many families simply finding the food they need at a price they can afford is the prime challenge. “But our research with consumers and across the products they buy tells us that other considerations are coming into play, and will feature more prominently during 2024,” she says.
Every year, Innova compiles its Top Ten Food & Drink Trends, based partly on direct consumer research to identify shifts in behavior and preference, and partly on which products are being launched and how they and their ingredients are described on-pack.
Topping Innova’s list for 2024 is the way that particular ingredients are ‘Taking the spotlight’. “A third of the consumers we polled said they respond positively to certain key ingredients being flagged up,” Williams explains.
“This may be for reasons of flavor or texture, for example, or other positive associations – not purely because of any better-for-you benefits,” she says. “Those associations might echo other well-loved products, snippets picked up from social media or potentially many years of online information on healthy ingredients from ‘superfruits’ to gut-friendly bacteria.”
In two examples from Innova’s global research, 42% of consumers said that ‘protein’ was the most important ingredient, while main meals featuring mushrooms (or specific mushroom types) as an ingredient grew 12% year-on-year between 2018 and 2023.
Greater awareness of the climate crisis plays out in different ways, and not always through products engaging directly with issues such as carbon footprint. “From regenerative agriculture to farming conditions for livestock, brands which highlight a bond with nature and the environment are achieving cut-through with consumers,” Williams says.
“We identified ‘Nurturing nature’ as our number-two trend, and we feel this type of story can be a tiebreaker between competing products. For example, over the last four years, our analysis found an astonishing 40% annual increase in food and drink products making some sort of water usage claim.”
While the wellbeing of the planet has – only recently – overtaken personal wellbeing as a priority, health concerns are never very far away. “Over a third of consumers tell us they want to be proactive about maintaining good health, with a lot of the messaging around us emphasizing the need to take more personal responsibility here,” Williams reports. “This could be in areas as diverse as bone health and cardiovascular disease – and this is the basis for our third trend: ‘Prioritizing prevention’.”
At least three of the 2024 food and drink trends contain a ‘best of both worlds’ element. So, for instance, Innova is emphasizing a move in plant-based foods towards familiar and convenient recipes and formats. This is the focus for its fourth trend, ‘Plant-based: The rise of applied offerings’.
“Time-saving ready meals are serving up increasing numbers of popular dishes in alternative vegan or vegetarian versions, such as lentil lasagne,” she says. “There is a clear message coming through to brands and retailers that, while some consumers don’t eat meat at all, many more are happy to eat less of it.”
Around the world, Innova’s research measured 8% annual growth in ready meals and sides making ‘plant-based’ or ‘vegan’ claims, between 2020 and 2023.
Another area where food producers can strike an attractive balance is in local sourcing. Clearly-identified ingredients from close to home are being incorporated into recipes from around the world. “The end result can combine the opportunity for local pride with the excitement of international dishes,” Williams explains. “This does not replace the popularity of traditional, local menus, but extends them into new domains.”
This ‘marriage of convenience foods’ accounts for Innova’s fifth-placed trend for 2024, ‘Local goes global’. Recent years have not dented consumer appetites for adventurous eating, it points out, with two-thirds saying they are open to trying new global cuisine.
The final five trends in Innova’s Top Ten for 2024 are:
- Home kitchen heroes
- Indulging in health
- Oceans of possibilities
- H2.O: Quenching the future
- Minimizing the noise
More detail about these – and the first five – trends will be available in a free webinar on Thursday 16 November. Lu Ann Williams will deliver a full presentation of Innova’s Top Ten Trends for 2024, including background, examples, and information on the research. The session will start at 3pm CET (9am ET, 10pm SGT). More information here: Top Ten Trends Webinar Registration