With issues like inflation, supply chain disruptions, technological advancements and changing consumer desires, the food and beverage system has experienced a dizzying level of change and unpredictability. However, despite that instability – or because of it – several food trends are emerging for 2023, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Among them are healthful beverages, demands for offerings with probiotics and protein, a focus on food labels and a lens on diversity in food/beverage systems.
Drinking Our Way to Wellness
In 2023, wellness will continue to be top-of-mind for many consumers, but it will increasingly come in liquid form, driven in large part by consumers looking for added benefits like energy, mental health and gut health support.
IFIC’s 2022 Food and Health Survey found that “more energy and less fatigue” were the most sought-after benefit from foods and beverages, with 37 percent of Americans saying so. You can expect to see options that cater to those wishes multiply, such as “alt caffeine” choices to traditional standbys like tea and coffee. Along with yerba mate, keep an eye out for more yaupon tea, a lower-caffeine alternative with a sweet flavor profile, which is derived from a species of holly native to the deep South.
Mocktails and non-alcoholic cocktail options continue to take up more and more real estate on menus and grocery store shelves, and are especially popular among younger consumers. Perhaps a reaction to the early days of the pandemic (where alcoholic sales and consumption spiked), a growing wave of nonalcoholic options will be seeb beyond the Dry January and Sober October months. Of course, tea fits nicely in the mocktail and non-alcoholic space, and more and more beverage businesses are taking notice of this.
While energy was the most sought-after food/beverage benefit for all adult population groups, according to the 2022 Food and Health Survey, “emotional/mental health” was among the top three sought out by Gen Z, with more members of the generation desiring this benefit compared to their older counterparts. Among those who made a change to their nutrition or diet in 2022 to manage or reduce their stress, 33 percent said they consumed foods/beverages that are supposed to reduce stress or the effects of stress, and 24 percent said they drank less alcohol.
Feeling It in the Gut
While many consumers focus on what foods/beverages can do for their minds, others are also interested in what they can do for their guts. Probiotics have been steadily growing in popularity, with digestive/gut health being the third most commonly sought-after benefit among Americans. Don’t expect that interest to wane in the coming year, and expect to see them more and more beyond the yogurt section, as probiotics gut-health remedies are increasingly being added to many non-traditional items – even tea.
Similar to consumers’ pursuit of energy benefits, beverages are also viewed as a delivery system for probiotics and prebiotics. According to IFIC’s 2022 Consumer Insights on Gut Health and Probiotics Survey, of those who try to consume probiotics, 25 percent say they commonly seek them out in wellness drinks. Similarly, among those who try to consume prebiotics, 23 percent seek them out in wellness drinks.
A Focus on Plant-Based
Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of plant-based offerings and alternatives, a trend that should continue in 2023. Of course, true teas are the ultimate in plant-based drinks.
An IFIC survey in December 2021 found that 28 percent of consumers would even be interested in trying sea green-based products (e.g., algae- or kelp-based foods). So, keep an eye out for food/beverage innovations featuring seaweed and similar innovative ingredients, as well as mushrooms and jackfruit.
Clarity and Confusion for Food Packages
Expect to see more jostling in 2023 for the finite space on food labels, according to IFIC. In a similar vein, greater consensus will begin emerging around nomenclature, as well as some of the terms and marketing claims that will be vying for more of the labels’ real estate.
“Natural” and “clean” foods, which consumers associate with healthfulness, will continue to be at the forefront. According to the 2022 Food and Health Survey, more Americans in 2022 vs. 2021 say they regularly buy products labeled as “natural” (39 percent vs. 33 percent in 2021) or “clean ingredients” (27 percent vs. 20 percent in 2021). When asked about which types of diets or eating patterns they’re following, clean eating was the top choice. More respondents said they followed clean eating in 2022 (16 percent) than in 2021 (nine percent).
Recent actions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are bringing Americans closer to an updated definition of “healthy” foods. As far as consumers are concerned, the most common attributes they believe define a healthy food are “fresh” (37 percent), “low in sugar” (32 percent) and “good source of protein” (29 percent), according to the 2022 Food and Health Survey.
Viewing the Food & Beverage System Through a DEI Lens
According to the 2022 Food and Health Survey, 45 percent of U.S. consumers say that fair and equitable treatment of workers in the food/beverage system is important in their purchasing decisions.
The food and beverage industry saw this focus play out at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this past fall, which brought together stakeholders across multiple sectors to address food insecurity and diet-related diseases. The ripples from the conference will be seen into 2023 and beyond.
The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans shined a light on the importance of diversity and cultural traditions in reaching more of the U.S. population. The United Nations agency UNESCO recently added to its list of “intangible cultural heritage,” new entries which are replete with foods and beverages that are steeped in tradition and ritual. At the same time, food companies are also looking to values like diversity, equity and inclusion as ways to attract the best talent and grow thoughtfully.
“Glocalization” refers to the interplay between globalization that also respects and adapts to unique local needs and conditions. Companies that expect to succeed in the global economy will need to pay attention to local forces. Americans have become much more conversant about global supply chains and what happens when they are disrupted by factors like the pandemic and war. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many to reconsider how the products they take for granted every day don’t just appear on the shelves magically.
The cascading effects of world events aren’t limited to supply and demand. They also put upward pressure on prices, squeezing the finances of millions of Americans. For instance, 83 percent of U.S. consumers noticed an increase in the cost of food and beverages in the past year, according to the 2022 Food and Health Survey. Of those who observed an increase, 57 percent reported having to pay more for the same item as a result of increasing prices and 29 percent said they purchased less overall than they would have otherwise.
To learn more about the International Food Information Council, visit FoodInsight.org.
Plan to Attend or Participate in the
World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023
To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend the World Tea Conference + Expo, March 27-29, 2023 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit WorldTeaExpo.com.
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