Trendspotter Panel Reveals the Top Food and Beverage Trends for 2024

The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) Trendspotter Panel predicted what will be hot in specialty food and beverages for 2024.

"Maximizing pleasure and minimizing stress, as one ‘trendspotter’ put it, encapsulates the panel's picks for 2024," said Denise Purcell, vice president, resource development, for SFA. “Maximizing pleasure – in the forms of simple ingredients to global flavors to upscaling the everyday – and minimizing stress, whether that means slowing down, seeking convenience or value, helping to address environmental worries, or finding ways to boost health and mood, are all reflected in the emerging and continuing trends we expect to impact store shelves and restaurant menus in the coming year.”

Professionals from diverse segments of the culinary world comprise the SFA's Trendspotter Panel for 2024, including: Patsy Ramirez-Arroyo, food & sustainability consultant; Melanie Bartelme, Mintel; Osei Blackett, chef/owner of Ariapita and Everything Oxtail; Nicole Brisson, executive chef, Brezza and Bar Zazu; Mikel Cirkus, Foresight & Trenz; Jenn de la Vega, Put A Egg On It; Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., CHE, CRC, Drexel University; Thomas Joseph, Martha Stewart and Sur La Table; Chala June, writer; Hannah Rogers, Foresight & Trenz; Stan Sagner, founder, We Work for Food, LLC; Emily Schildt, founder, Pop Up Grocer; Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., CFS, IFT Fellow, Corvus Blue LLC; Kimberly Lord Stewart, food and health content specialist; V. Sheree Williams, The Global Food & Drink Initiative, Cuisine Noir.

Key F&B Trends for 2024

Here are just some of the key F&B trends for 2024, per the SFA Trendspotter Panel – all of which should be of interest to tea businesses:

  • A Bevy of Beverages – Beverages are in the spotlight. Though a smaller segment than food, in many recent years beverage sales have grown at a faster pace, according to SFA's State of the Specialty Food Industry research, fueled by innovation. “The coming year will boom with sophisticated tasting single-serve, non-alcoholic fizzy and non-fizzy drinks; and coffees, teas and broths with functional ingredients for an additional boost of energy, clarity, focus or calming effect," said Trendspotter Kanta Selke. Expect minimal, if any, added sugar, salt or synthetics, as well as tropical flavors and herbs and botanicals from all over the world.
  • Peach – Some tried-and-true flavors never die but cycle back into the spotlight when the timing is right to reinvent or re-evaluate unexplored facets of that particular flavor. In the coming year, peach as a flavor and ingredient will excite consumers with some new variations and re-interpretation, said the panel.
  • Black Sesame, Ube (Purple Yam) and Milk Tea – Three iconic Asian flavors will follow the path of matcha and continue to enter a more familiar sphere among makers and consumers. These flavors are cropping up in new and unexpected formats, such as the milk-tea–filled donut and ube hot chocolate from Bear Donut in the Penn District of N.Y.C. “Ube's fantastic color gives a pop of intrigue for consumers, and its flavor paired with creamier formats makes it irresistible,” said Cirkus and Rogers. The milk tea flavor lends itself well to baked goods but also salty and sweet snacks like Tochi's Black Milk Tea Popcorn, which also contains black sesame. “Black sesame is especially one to watch, as it plays in a space of offering novelty and deliciousness across formats," they added.
  • Value – Consumers are watching their finances and value will be the name of the game. As people may need to make choices about how they spend their money, “Brands that will successfully engage them will show shoppers what their products bring to the table. This may be versatile uses, low-stress flavor building or longer shelf life (yes, longer shelf life!),” said Trendspotter Melanie Bartelme. These attributes can help show consumers that these products are “worth” the cost.

Continuing F&B Trends

According to the SFA Trendspotter Panel, the following trends will continue in 2024:

  • Global Flavor Exploration – Not only is experimentation with flavors from around the world ongoing from a taste perspective, but consumers are open to richer cultural experiences from food, said the Trendspotters. “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 Trendspotter V. Sheree Williams.
  • Elevated Convenience – Consumers will continue to look for ways to make the most of the flavor and quality of their food and drink while becoming more open to using shortcuts that can help them easily achieve this. On-the-go, convenience with food and beverage will also continue to drive innovation with lives back to busy schedules.
  • Environmental Impact – As important as food is its environmental impact will remain top-of-mind among consumers. Sustainability, carbon footprint and food waste concerns remain on the minds of a growing number of consumers. “Regenerative, upcycled and sustainably packaged are not just buzzwords but keywords in consumers' quests to eat well while doing good,” said Deutsch. Expect more focus on regenerative agriculture as those in food industries “focus on solutions to combat climate change," said Williams.
  • Mushrooms Are Mushrooming – Mushrooms for taste, mushrooms for texture, mushrooms for health benefits. “People will discover mushrooms in every food and beverage category and product developers will find ways to weave in ancient wisdom into new craveable food formats," said Shelke. In beverages, in particular, previous priorities have been caffeination, but now it's more [mushrooms to address] relaxation, mood, and brain health. Drinks to wind down when the world is moving too fast," said de la Vega. "Less of a focus on gut flora but more on skincare and the mind.”

The not-for-profit Specialty Food Association is the leading membership trade association and source of information about the $194 billion specialty food industry.

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