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Trends that were driving innovation before the COVID-19 pandemic may have stalled for the past couple of years, but many now appear to be making a comeback. In fact, according to Datassential, more than three-quarters (76%) of consumers say they are excited for 2023 food and beverage trends.
“Consumers spent years cooped up at home during the pandemic, limited to what they could produce in their own kitchen or get for delivery, so they are ready for the types of foods and options you can only get from foodservice,” says Mike Kostyo, trendologist and an associate director for Datassential. Several trends rose to the top in conversations with experts.
• Health & Wellness Evolution. The pandemic put health front and center for consumers. The latest spins on health and wellness are highly focused on immunity, as well as “feel good” flavor profiles that speak to health but also taste great. Sweet and sugary profiles are moving toward bitter profiles, according to Dillon Friday, senior director of savory at Symrise. The rise of low- to no-alcohol beverages is one example of a growing flavor-first health trend.
• A Taste of Adventure. “Gen Z has a nearly endless thirst for new and novel foods,” says Kostyo. Gen Z is the only generation to say they would choose both Latin and Asian cuisines over Italian, according to Datassential. More than ever, people are interested in underrepresented cuisines, as well. There’s a story to every dish. We now rely so much on social media’s impact, says Joe Choi, a culinologist with CuliNEX.
• Nostalgia & Sharing. Familiar comfort foods, which peaked with the high stress of the pandemic, are shifting toward nostalgia, says Maeve Webster of Menu Matters. She describes food influenced by nostalgia as more playful than comfort food, and notes that it can skew either authentic to the time/place or incorporate modern sensibilities.
“It is not only about the food, but about who is at the table with you,” says Brandon Collins, corporate executive chef of Unilever Food Solutions. He sees sharing as a central food trend that’s all about bonding—from enjoying each other’s company at a big game with a simple sandwich to sharing a reimagined dish from your youth with others. “We are hungry for a new connection now more than ever, and nothing brings people together more than food,” he says.
• Advances in Sustainability. Foodservice is lagging CPG in sustainability trends, but that’s turning around on a variety of fronts. Partnerships that showcase companies doing more to communicate the benefits of their products or companies, like Burger King’s methane-free burger, are growing, says Chef Allison Rittman of Culinary Culture. Likewise, ingredients can be more than what we’ve traditionally used them for, says Collins, who has called out “low waste” as a top trend at Unilever, both for operators and manufacturers who need to try out—and better market—the concept.
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