10 Health Food Trends for 2024
What’s hot and what’s not? Industry experts Whole Foods Market predict the emerging flavours, culinary influences and products poised for the spotlight in the coming year
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The health and wellness foods industry has never felt better! But what can we expect in the year ahead? Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council – a collective of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members, including foragers, buyers, and culinary experts – has revealed its top 10 anticipated food trends for 2024.
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, it says. The predictions are based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing and studying consumer preferences, as well as in-depth workshopping with emerging and existing 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 Whole Foods Market and a member of the Trends Council.
“From specific product ingredients and flavour trends, to growing movements in the food industry, we can’t wait to see these trends gain momentum in the year ahead.”
1. Putting the ‘plant’ back in ‘plant-based’
The OGs of plant-based cuisine are making a comeback, putting the ‘veggie’ back in your veggie burger and shrinking labels all over the plant-based category. We’re 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 just two ingredients — perfect for the vegetarian purist.
2. Use the whole cacao
Utilising by-products like cacao* pulp has been practiced in other countries for centuries, and now brands like Blue Stripes are spotlighting the whole cacao with their craveable products for even more consumers. At EARTH University in Costa Rica, where student researchers are tackling some of the biggest systemic environmental issues, 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 sweet, ambrosial flavour.
3. Buckle up for buckwheat
Gaining popularity as a cover crop to support soil health, buckwheat* is a superfood seed containing protein, carbs and fibre. Plus, it’s naturally gluten free. You may have seen it in the form of soba noodles, but with more brands on a mission to improve agriculture for your favourite products, you may see buckwheat in everything from plant-based milk alternatives to crackers and granola.
4. Fancy faux fish
It’s prime time for the fancy fish trend to dip its fins into the vegan pond. Thankfully, some worthy plant-based seafood brands are stepping up and bringing the flavur and texture needed to rival the real thing. 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. Whether you’re fully plant-based or looking to eat less seafood, there’s a faux fish waiting for you.
5. Clean & conserve: 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. Whether the story is on cleaning or conserving, consumers and brands alike are rallying to support water movements.
6. Complex heat
Complex heat continues its evolution with global peppers taking off in every aisle — and the trend is only getting hotter. 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 chilli oils are popping up in condiment aisles everywhere. Pepper-infused drinks are going beyond kombuchas, coldpressed juices and smoothies, with readyto-drink beverages like canned tepache filling up the fridge with a refreshing kick. Even Tajín is expanding from candies and cocktails to spicing up grocery store sushi, desserts and more.
7. Noodle news
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. Even better, brands are creating more gourmet options to rival the classics without certain preservatives and added MSG. As people seek simple and instant meals, noodles are bringing all the ease and comfort of a warm bowl with quality ingredients and tantalising flavours.
TikTok creators have brought “Little Treat Culture” into the zeitgeist, and we’re on board. We know firsthand the power of a treat, like an impulse macaron buy or a fizzy, functional and flavour-forward bev. Brands are getting in on the trend by considering both cost and format — like individual serving packages that add joy without breaking a budget. Whether it’s a daily ritual like having a milk tea on your commute home or a spontaneous reward like a bath bomb in your grocery cart, get ready to make room for those little luxuries.
9. Women’s health: from taboo to top of mind
On social media, we’ve seen hormonal remedy recipes go viral, including raw carrot salad for oestrogen management, seed cycling energy bites for each cycle phase and “sleepy girl mocktails.” We’re 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.
10. A better boost
Whatever your go-to source of caffeine, there are new ways to get the absolute 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, probiotics and more. There’s never been a better time to search the ‘clean caffeine’ space for your next obsession!
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