Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council has unveiled its Top 10 anticipated food trends for 2024 in the retailer’s ninth-annual trends predictions report.
Caffeine with added benefits, going back to basics in the plant-based category, complex heat from global peppers and water conservation and stewardship are all among the food trends expected to rise in popularity across the industry in the next year.
Each year, the Trends Council – a collective of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members, including foragers, buyers and culinary experts – compile trend predictions based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences, as well as in-depth workshopping with brands.
“Our annual food trends predictions list is a way for us to pull back the curtain for customers and share insight into what our buyers and culinary experts are keeping on their radar for the upcoming year,” said Cathy Strange, ambassador of food culture for the Austin, Texas-based company and member of the Trends Council.
“From specific product ingredients and flavor trends, to growing movements in the food industry, we can’t wait to see these trends gain momentum in the year ahead.”
Whole Foods Market’s top 10 food trend predictions for 2024:
- Plant-based – The council is seeing new and emerging protein-forward products with mushrooms, walnuts, tempeh and legumes in place of complex meat alternatives. Even plant-based milk alternatives are participating, with some brands simplifying labels to two ingredients.
- Whole Cacao – Utilizing by-products like cacao pulp has been practiced in other countries for centuries, and brands like Blue Stripes are spotlighting the whole cacao in products for even more consumers. At EARTH University in Costa Rica, the typically discarded cacao pulp is being made into jellies and jams. The emergence of cacao fruit powders in 2023 also presents an opportunity for brands seeking a new sugar alternative without compromising on flavor.
- Buckwheat – Gaining popularity as a cover crop to support soil health, buckwheat is a superfood seed containing protein, carbs and fiber. Customers may have seen it in the form of soba noodles, but with more brands on a mission to improve agriculture, they may see buckwheat in everything from plant-based milk alternatives to crackers and granola.
- Fancy faux fish – Some plant-based seafood brands are bringing the flavor and texture needed to rival the real thing. Customers should watch out for carrots in place of lox, trumpet mushrooms for scallops and the root vegetable konjac getting its moment in sushi rolls and poke bowls.
- Water stewardship – Brands across the aisles are promoting water conservation, and consumers are listening. New water brands use water from fruit by-products, which would otherwise be discarded. With the growing trend of regenerative agriculture, a Regenerative Organic Certification also requires soil health initiatives that ultimately conserve water. Lifestyle brands are also pushing water-conscious products like dry shampoos, shampoo bars and laundry detergent sheets. Even household cleaners — like Whole Foods Market’s ingredient-conscious products – are making an impact.
- Complex heat – Complex heat continues its evolution with global peppers taking off in every aisle. Specialty varieties like Scorpion Peppers, Guajillo or Hungarian Goathorn Peppers are found fresh, whole, ground or pickled, and a new wave of botana sauces and chili oils are popping up in condiment aisles nationwide. Pepper-infused drinks are going beyond kombuchas, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, with ready-to-drink beverages like canned tepache.
- Noodles – Shoppers have been finding ways to dress up their instant ramen at home for years now, but as brands step up their game, noodle lovers can take on less of the workload. Brands are creating more gourmet options without certain preservatives and added MSG.
- Little luxuries – TikTok creators have brought “Little Treat Culture” into the zeitgeist. Brands are getting in on the trend by considering both cost and format, like individual serving packages that provide joy without breaking a budget.
- Women’s health – The Trends Council is seeing more brands making products to support periods, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause and even sleep that address life stages and symptoms previously swept under the rug. Food innovators are introducing specially formulated bars and snacks for cycle health, like menopause energy bars, at industry trade shows and conferences.
- Clean caffeine – Whatever your go-to source of caffeine, there are new ways to get the most out of your morning or afternoon pick-me-up. Combining a boost with benefits has never been easier, thanks to new coffee and energy drinks with added mushrooms and probiotics.