Believe it or not, we’ve once again arrived at that time of year when everyone starts offering up their outlooks for the coming New Year. That includes Amazon-owned specialty grocer Whole Foods, which just released its ninth annual trends predictions for 2024. The company calls the annual list 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.” Interestingly, the forecasted trends include more vegetables in plant-based products and increasing use of often-overlooked “buckwheat.” Whole Foods’ Trends Council, which is made up of more than 50 Whole Foods team members including buyers and culinary experts, is responsible for compiling trend predictions. The group of experts look to consumer preferences and meet with emerging and existing brands to draw their conclusions, according to the announcement. Below is Whole Foods Market’s top 10 food trend predictions for 2024:
Put the “Plant” Back in “Plant-Based”: Whole Foods says they are 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.
Cutting Cacao Waste: Utilizing 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 snack products, according to Whole Foods. The report highlights “EARTH University” in Costa Rica, where student researchers are turning the typically discarded cacao pulp into jellies and jams. The emergence of cacao fruit powders in 2023 also presents an opportunity for brands seeking a new sugar alternative.
Buckwheat: While the grain has been gaining popularity as a cover crop, it’s also considered a “superfood” seed containing protein, carbs, and fiber. Plus, it’s naturally gluten free. Whole Foods says consumers can expect to see buckwheat showing up in everything from plant-based milk alternatives to crackers and granola.
Faux Fish: Whole Foods thinks plant-based fake fish will take off this year as brands improve their flavors and textures. The grocer says to “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 from various angles. Some new water brands, for instance, are using 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, laundry detergent sheets, and household cleaners.
Complex Heat: Complex heat continues its evolution, with chiles from around the world taking off in every aisle — from chile-spiced snacks to spicy drinks and international condiments. Specialty varieties like Scorpion Peppers, Guajillo or Hungarian Goathorns are found fresh, whole, ground or pickled, and a new wave of botana sauces and chili oils are popping up in condiment aisles nationwide.
New Instant Noodle Options: Shoppers have been finding ways to dress up their instant ramen at home for years. Brands have finally caught on and are stepping up their game with more gourmet options. As people seek simple and instant meals, noodles are bringing all the ease and comfort of a warm bowl with quality ingredients and more exciting flavors.
Little Luxuries: TikTok has brought what’s known as “Little Treat Culture” into the mainstream. Brands are getting in on the trend by considering both cost and format — like individual serving packages that add joy without breaking a budget. Think petite desserts like macaroons and one-bite cheesecakes to gourmet brown butter lattes and elegant tinned seafood.
Promoting Women’s Health: Whole Foods says more brands are making products to support women’s health 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, seed cycling energy bites for each cycle phase, and “sleepy girl mocktails” at industry trade shows and conferences.
A Better Caffeine Boost: Whatever your go-to source of caffeine, there are new ways to get added benefits from the morning or afternoon pick-me-up. Thanks to new coffee and energy drinks with added mushrooms, adaptogens, probiotics and more, the “clean caffeine” trend keeps growing, offering products that can avert a caffeine crash and promote focus and calm.