Innova’s Top Ten Food & Drink Trends 2024

Innova Market Insights has revealed its Top Ten Food & Drink Trends for 2024, with “Taking the spotlight” coming out on top. Certain ingredients are expected to rise to prominence next year as sentimental factors, social media and health claims drive purchasing decisions. 

“Nurturing nature” is identified as the number two trend, followed by “Prioritising prevention,” “Plant-based: The rise of applied offerings” and “Local goes global.”

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.

Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights.

“There is always an overlap across trends and regional or local differences and differences between genders and even income groups. But trends help to see where things are moving in broader terms and uncover opportunities with your consumer,” says Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights.

“Taking the spotlight”

For many families, simply finding the food they need at a price they can afford is the prime challenge. However, Innova Market Insights’ research with consumers and across the products they buy indicates that other considerations are coming into play. For instance, a third of the consumers polled said they respond positively to certain key ingredients being flagged up.

“This demand may be for flavour or texture, for example, or other positive associations as much as for any better-for-you benefits. 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,” explains Williams.

In two examples from Innova Market Insights’ 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.

“For 15 years, we have been talking about ‘clean label’ and focusing on ingredients to exclude from food. This movement created an ‘avoid’ list and made consumers think a lot about ingredients. But before this, starting in the early 1990s, functional foods and the addition of health-boosting positive ingredients was a huge trend,” Williams notes.

“We’ve come full circle, and today, in an environment where simple messages spread quickly across social media, ingredients are being talked about non-stop — for food but also personal care products.”

“There is also an overlap between food and personal care, so these hero ingredients are amplified even more. Vitamins A, C and E are good examples — 30 years ago, there were quite a few ACE beverages, and now we see these vitamins being highlighted for immunity but also skin health.”

“Nurturing nature”

Greater awareness of the climate crisis plays out differently, 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,” says Williams.

“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.”

“Prioritizing prevention”

While the well-being of the planet has — only recently — overtaken personal well-being 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 emphasising the need to take more personal responsibility here,” continues Williams.

“This accountability could be in areas as diverse as bone health and cardiovascular disease — and this is the basis for our third trend: ‘Prioritizing prevention.’”

“Plant-based: The rise of applied offerings”

At least three 2024 food and drink trends contain a “best of both worlds” element. For instance, Innova Market Insights emphasizes a move in plant-based foods toward familiar and convenient recipes and formats. This move 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,” says Williams. “There is a clear message 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, the company’s research measured 8% annual growth in ready meals and sides making “plant-based” or “vegan” claims between 2020 and 2023.

According to Williams, the discussion around alternative protein can seem like a zero-sum game, but it’s not. The world needs all the protein that can be produced from all sources, she asserts.

“Of course, there are input resources that will constrain what can be produced where and how quickly. We are still at the beginning of the beginning for plant protein. Too many news headlines are focused on the struggles that plant-based burgers are having in the US — I don’t think that’s the right thing to focus on,” says Williams.

“One of the easiest foods to buy in the US is a hamburger. It doesn’t surprise me that so many consumers are rejecting a more expensive hamburger that doesn’t meet all the taste, texture — and I’d like to add, smell — expectations.

“But plant-based proteins used in spaghetti or some other very sauced and savoury application will have a better chance of hitting those taste and texture expectations — we think that’s where the market is going next.”

“Local goes global”

Another area where food producers can strike an attractive balance is 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 Market Insights’ fifth-placed trend for 2024: “Local goes global.”

Recent years have not dented consumer appetites for adventurous eating, it points out, with two-thirds of consumers saying they are open to trying new global cuisine.Most consumers are keen to balance local traditional meals with new cuisines from around the world.

Developing trends

Meanwhile, Williams points out that this year’s top trends will continue to evolve and influence the industry into 2024. “This year’s leading trend of ‘Redefining value’ is still very much in play today with consumers,” she says, emphasizing the instability and cost-of-living crisis which, in many economies, overflowed into 2023.

Every year, Innova Market Insights compiles its Top Ten Food & Drink Trends, based partly on direct consumer research to identify shifts in behaviour and preference and partly on which products are being launched and how they and their ingredients are described on-pack.

“We invite all those who would like a background, examples and information on our research to join me for a free webinar on Thursday, November 16,” says Williams.