News & Insights

What’s Popping in Food: The Trends Driving Conversations and Engagement

By Atalanta Rafferty

Person at a table outside taking a picture of their food, with reaction emojis like hearts, smiles, and likes coming out of the phone

Hey there, food trendsetters and taste adventurers! RF|Binder has worked with many clients in the Food & Beverage industry for the past 20+ years, so we know a thing or two about food. Platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok have all transformed how people discover, share, and inspire food trends and selection. In an instant, your product can be the most sought after simply because it went viral on social media, take Ocean Spray and Fleetwood Mac from 2020 and more recently the Girl Dinner trend that seems to be promoting a variation of food trends from snacking and food platters … .to napping. Yes, you read that correctly – napping is a ‘Girl Dinner’ trend.

Let’s look more closely at food trends that are driving social conversations and how this is shaping the way we engage with (and eat) food.

Snack-centric. Snacking has emerged as one of the most popular food trends in recent years and thanks to TikTok has exploded with creative ideas and snacking options. From cottage cheese ice cream to lemon popcorn, these food trends “are popping” to capture consumers’ attention and share of wallet.

Busy lifestyles and on-the-go culture have made snacking a convenient solution for those seeking quick and portable food options. Additionally, with the rise of remote work and flexible schedules, people are often looking for snacks that can fuel them throughout the day without the need for a formal meal. Snacks are a staple of the American diet, accounting for nearly a quarter (22%) of total energy intake among adults. Currently, more than 90% of U.S. adults report eating one or more snacks on any given day.

Health-conscious consumers and especially Gen Z consumers are driving the demand for healthier snacking options, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, yogurt, and granola bars. These choices not only satisfy hunger but also provide essential nutrients and energy.

However, the snacking trend is not limited to health-focused options. Indulgent snacks, such as gourmet popcorn, artisan chocolates, and unique flavor combinations, have gained popularity among those looking for a delightful treat to satisfy their cravings.

Snacking has also become an avenue for exploration and adventure in the culinary world. Global flavors, unique textures, and creative combinations are being embraced, making snacking a sensory experience that transcends borders and cultures.

Speaking of flavors, this is a nice segue into our next popular trend.

Flavors. Amidst our ever-changing palate and the insatiable desire to explore new flavors, consumers are increasingly seeking foods that offer a diverse array of taste experiences. From tropical island fusions blending traditional ingredients like pineapple and passionfruit with bold choices such as curry and Caribbean spices, to daring beverage flavors like yuzu, pomegranate and watermelon – the quest for adventurous options continues.

Delving into the finer details, Datassential identifies an exciting lineup of flavors predicted to soar in popularity over the next 12 to 24 months. Prepare to savor the likes of mangonada, yuzu, spicy maple, ube, innovative mushroom creations, birria, salsa macha, soju, London fog, and ranch water. Moreover, keep a close eye on flavor trends like cherry blossom, MSG, verjus, next-level cannabis, white coffee, savory granola, pickled strawberries, sisig, black tahini, and chestnut flour as they shape the future of taste experiences.

Consumers are eager to expand their palates, and food brands want to bring a sense of creativity and entertainment to food. Emerging social media trends like Chaos Cooking also encourage breaking the rules and improvising with food.  Swicy – the combination of sweet and spicy flavors has got its own viral following. The common thread across these dishes is that they make food fun and evoke a sense of play and excitement.

Though brands should feel encouraged to innovate boldly and create entirely new dishes, rooting them in familiarity can drive new flavor trial among consumers.

Sourcing. Whilst not necessarily a new food trend, the popularity of locally sourced products and conscious consumption are two ways that consumers will continue to feel connected to their food. Consumers want to know where their products come from and ensure that it connects them more closely with the values of sustainability, community support, and a deeper connection with the food we consume. Consumers are increasingly drawn to shopping local for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it helps reduce the carbon footprint by minimizing transportation distances and supporting regional agriculture. By choosing local sourced produce, consumers actively contribute to preserving the environment. Secondly, shopping locally fosters a sense of community and social responsibility. Knowing the faces behind the food and supporting local farmers and artisans creates a meaningful bond between consumers and producers. The appeal of locally sourced food lies not only in the quality and freshness it offers but also in the pride of participating in a movement that sustains the planet and builds stronger, interconnected communities.

Even those who are not regularly shopping local are still looking for companies to be transparent around their sourcing. Over 80% of consumers in a recent Mintel study agreed that food retailers should do more to minimize food waste, and 75% respondents agreed that food companies should be more transparent about their farming practices. To appeal to these conscious consumers, a number of products have been launched with sustainability claims including Nabisco Oreo Thins Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with 100% sustainably sourced cocoa and Starbucks Breakfast Blend Ground Coffee committed to 100% ethical coffee sourcing.

Opportunities for Brands

Capitalize on the Snacking Trend: Food companies can develop and market a wide range of snacking options that cater to both health-conscious consumers and those seeking indulgent treats. Embrace creativity and unique flavor combinations to attract consumers looking for innovative and exciting snacking experiences.

Focus on Health and Nutritional Benefits: Brands can invest in research and development to create healthier snacking options that meet the demands of health-conscious consumers. Highlighting the nutritional benefits of products can attract a growing segment of health-conscious shoppers.

Embrace Diverse Flavor Experiences: Brands can explore and introduce a variety of flavors inspired by global cuisines to appeal to adventurous consumers. Developing products featuring popular and emerging flavors can attract a broader audience and keep consumers engaged with new taste experiences.

Promote Local Sourcing and Sustainability: Brands can leverage the growing interest in locally sourced food and sustainable practices. Highlighting partnerships with local farmers and artisans can build trust and connection with consumers who value supporting their community and the environment.

Engage in Sustainability Messaging: Brands can emphasize their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices in their marketing and packaging. Communicating efforts to reduce carbon footprint and promote responsible consumption can resonate with environmentally conscious consumers.

Leverage Social Media for Viral Success: Embrace social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Pinterest to promote products and recipes creatively. Partnering with social media influencers and food bloggers can enhance brand visibility and credibility. Collaborations can introduce products to new audiences and increase engagement.

Overall, the food and beverage industry offers various opportunities for brands to innovate, connect with consumers, and contribute to sustainable and mindful consumption practices. By understanding and adapting to the latest food trends and consumer preferences, brands can position themselves for success in a dynamic and evolving market. And if you need any support or advice on how to take advantage of the opportunities listed, get in touch!

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