The Real Trendsetter of 2023: The Consumer

Posted November 7, 2022 by Alyssa Stahr

Food and beverage R&D departments work tirelessly to unveil the next big thing in their chosen category. Predictions abound: What do consumers expect in the future? What hot, new ingredient trend will go viral (hello, Mike’s Hot Honey)? What product will stand out on shelves above all others?

After hitting several trade show floors this year, I felt as if I were walking through a metaphor similar to the world’s fashion week runways. What is showcased to the Kardashians of the world may not necessarily be what translates to the average consumer. I can say the same for the onslaught of new food and beverage products vying for distribution in 2023. Trend reports are already hitting my inbox, and I have a few predictions as to what consumers will actually skew toward in the New Year. 

  1. Individuality. Note that my headline referred to The Consumer. Not consumers. Yes, our industry tends to market and gather data generationally, but each and every person is unique in wishes for food and beverages in 2023. Everyone’s new normal is different post-pandemic, especially reflected in The NPD Group’s Eating Patterns in America report. New realities were summarized into six consumption behaviors: economic transition, inflation, income bifurcations, sticky behaviors, total wellness and the return to convenience. The challenge for manufacturers and foodservice operators? Adjusting to the one constant above all: change.
  2. Beverage Functionality. Consumers want more out of what they’re drinking in than ever before. Food as medicine is one of the biggest takeaways from 2022, and in 2023 there will be a continuation of food and drinks that fit into a box of energy, mood, stress relief and more. The National Coffee Association reported a two-decade high since January 2021, and Beverage Daily predicts that comforting hot drinks, herbal infusions, nootropics and L-Tryptophan will reign supreme in the calm category. Immunity-boosting marketing will take a dip from the 2021-2022 surge, however, making way for cognitive function and anti-aging ingredients.
  3. The Plant-Based Remix. Innova Market Insights’ 2023 predictor echoes what many have been saying toward the end of 2022: Plant-based has hit some snags. Consumers will look for better taste and higher quality, and flexitarians will look toward global influence in traditional plant-based cuisine. Underused ingredients have the potential to boom in 2023: with dates, yaupon (a caffeinated holly bush plant) and repurposed pulp making Whole Foods’ 2023 Trend List. Expect upcycled byproducts of soy, oat and almond pulp, along with plant-based pastas, avocado oils and climate-friendly products to shine in 2023. 
  4. Sugar Reduction. No added sugar was a major theme in 2022. Consumers want to reduce the “bad” sugars and replace them with the “good,” but without compromising taste. ADM’s “Achieving sweet success in sugar reduction” report reflected this fact, with 82% of consumers saying the same thing: they want less sugar, but they want the same great taste. ADM’s report says: “Taste has always reigned supreme when choosing food and beverages. But shoppers must consider many, and sometimes competing, priorities when evaluating new options. They’ve even been conditioned to look for signs that taste may be compromised.” I expect to see this Pavlovian response to shift back to a bit of a “wow” factor when taste testing new products. The two can both be true, and it’s up to product developers to answer the call. 

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