It's a yearly tradition for grocery store chains and trade associations to make end-of-year predictions on which food trends will rule the aisles in the year ahead.
For 2023, forecasters predicted that foods including dates, plant-based seafood products, and low-caffeine beverages would be top of mind for shoppers. In 2024, expect to find similarly health-focused food trends gracing grocery store shelves, including protein-dense foods and mood-boosting drinks.
To find out which food trends are worth paying attention to, we spoke to experts and read through reports outlining predictions for the coming year. Here are six of the most compelling grocery trends you'll want to try out in 2024.
Mushrooms will be front and center in the new year. Two reports identified fungi as the food to watch, including Fresh Thyme Market and Whole Foods. Part of the mushroom trend stems from consumers seeking out exotic and gourmet mushrooms to cook with, thanks to their nutritional value and suitability in a wide variety of diets.
But shoppers will also see mushrooms pop up in drinks and desserts, like mushroom-infused coffee or chocolate bars. "There's going to be an opportunity to utilize mushrooms as food ingredients in different ways," says Cathy Strange, the new ambassador of food culture at Whole Foods. For example, mushroom powders can be easily added to dishes like soups or broths for an added dose of complexity.
Non-alcoholic drinks were all the buzz in 2023—a trend that is expected to continue—but next year, shoppers will increasingly seek out drinks that have a positive effect on their bodies, like those with mood-boosting properties and nutrient-rich ingredient lists. Functional beverages, also known as adaptogen drinks, boast herbs, roots, fungi, or other plant substances on their ingredient lists, which reportedly help bodies manage stress and restore balance.
And here, two trends converge: mushrooms and drinks. Lion's Mane and Reishi mushrooms are two adaptogens that are popping up in grocery stores in ready-to-drink cans, according to Kristin Kirkpatrick, a registered dietician and Quest Nutrition Partner. "For the first time in years, consumers are relating their food choices to their mood and overall general wellbeing," she says. "Consumers are starting to become really interested in the mood enhancing part, which is why I think adaptogens are just exploding."
Cacao has been around for more than 4,000 years, but in 2024, it will have a major moment in the spotlight. Trend forecasters are eyeing cacao as a must-watch ingredient. While cacao beans have long been processed to make cocoa butter and chocolate, raw cacao pulp will increasingly be used in its entirety to make things like jellies and jams, rather than being discarded.
Already, we've seen cacao fruit powders from brands like Organic Traditions, while Hershey's-backed Blue Stripe upcycles the whole cacao pod to create cacao granola. "There's the opportunity to use cacao fully," says Strange. "I'm excited about that—specifically the use of cacao in water-infused beverages and to create unique flavors."
Consumers are curious about cacao, too. Kirkpatrick noticed clients asking about the plant. "We've seen chocolate variations trending in different years, but cacao itself is going to have a moment," Kirkpatrick says. "It is pure, it is raw, and that's what consumers are looking for." Whole Foods' trend report notes that cacao fruit powders offer a new sugar alternative "without compromising on sweet, ambrosial flavor."
Trend forecasters expect buckwheat to be a breakout star in 2024. You'll likely find buckwheat in pantry items like crackers, granola, soba noodles, and flour. The whole grain is similar to quinoa—it's a naturally gluten-free seed with protein, carbs, and fiber. "I'm seeing it all over," says Strange, noting that buckwheat was on the menu at high-end restaurants in Norway and France, which is typically an indication that an ingredient is on the rise.
And, though it's been around for a while, Strange says buckwheat is an underused grain that welcomes innovation. "When I think about trends, I think, What am I going to use every day?" she says. "Buckwheat presents a lot of different opportunities." It can be as simple as buckwheat pancakes, or using a buckwheat mix to whip up a quick-fry fish batter.
In 2023, cottage cheese got a lot of love on TikTok. The #cottagecheese trend saw content creators making concoctions like cookie doughs, ice creams, and dips with the dairy product. The trend drove product sales up nearly 16%, according to Bloomberg. One reason for all the hype is that cottage cheese is a good source of protein.
Trend forecasters expect shoppers to lean towards new protein-rich options to round out diets in 2024. "Protein is going to lead the story," says Kirkpatrick. In her work as a registered dietitian nutritionist, she says clients are always asking about how to incorporate more protein in their meals. "We know that protein helps in maintenance of muscle mass, so we'll continue to see this trend," she says. The Fresh Thyme report also points to the recent popularity of plant-based protein powders, like pea and beet proteins, to support fitness routines.
Peppers have been steadily climbing in popularity over the past decade, with the obvious uses in hot sauces and chili pastes. But 2024 will usher in more specialty varieties of peppers, like Scorpion Peppers, Guajillo, and Hungarian Goathorn Peppers, according to Whole Foods. Shoppers should expect to see these peppers whole, ground, or pickled, and used in more complex ways. Peppers are also leaving the condiment aisle—pepper-infused drinks, like ready-to-drink canned tepache are rising in popularity.