Look for ube, buckwheat, peach, lots of cheese and tomato cocktails among the top 2024 food trends. Are they a fit for your brand’s content strategy this year?
How I Picked the 2024 Food Trends
I always look forward to food trend predictions because seeing what experts forecast we’ll eat and drink is fun, even when I think they’re off base. Some of the ones I follow most closely:
- af&co./Carbonate’s annual Hospitality Trend Report. af&co. is a public relations and marketing agency specializing in restaurants, bars and hotels. Carbonate is a creative strategy and brand communications agency focusing on food, beverage and food tech.
- Whole Foods’ annual food forecast gets a lot of attention, and for good reason. It’s a solid prediction for what consumers will eat at home.
- I’m also intrigued by what’s happening at the product development level. California-based flavor manufacturer T. Hasegawa USA and global nutrition company ADM keep an eye on what’s big now and emerging flavors. In particular, ADM forecasts trends through the lens of color. Given how critical scroll-stopping visuals are to food, thanks to social media, color is behind at least two significant trends for this year.
- The Specialty Food Association is another organization I watch because they’re on top of what’s on store shelves now and what will be on store shelves a year or two from now.
- The National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” list features what’s on restaurant menus now – and what’s on the horizon.
Of course, I also spend lots of time checking out what’s on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus. What flavors and ingredients are brands incorporating into their private-label lines? What are restaurants highlighting in their dishes? Those are sure signs that an ingredient or flavor is gaining traction.
Here are eight 2024 food trends that caught my eye for the coming year:
Flavor of the Year: Ube
Ube is a purple yam that’s long been used in Filipino cuisine, where its subtly nutty, sweet flavor and moist texture make it a favorite in desserts.
It’s picked up steam in the U.S. for a while now. Trader Joe’s annual springtime limited-edition ube goodies (ice cream, mochi/waffle mix, cookies, etc.) have sold out quickly for the last few years. I expect TJ’s will offer even more ube goodies this year.
It’s easy to see why ube is so popular. Its cheery hue is readymade for social media, so it’s no surprise to see everything from ube-glazed donuts, waffles, cookies, ice cream to chic ube cocktails in TikTok and Instagram feeds.
No wonder T. Hasegawa USA and Monin, makers of gourmet flavorings, named ube the year’s flavor. Monin added ube to its iconic line of gourmet syrups (I’d love to try that in a spin on a French 75). The Specialty Food Association also called ube out as a big food trend for 2024.
Content Strategy Tip
Given how critical scroll-stopping visuals are to food, thanks to social media, color is behind at least two significant trends for this year.
The Pantone Color Institute, which names a color of the year annually, chose Peach Fuzz (aka Pantone 13-1023) as the It hue for 2024.
Millennial Pink 2.0, I thought. Like Millennial Pink, Peach Fuzz is meant to calm, not excite, an antidote to our current crazy, divisive era.
“BandAid color,” someone noted on a friend’s Facebook post. (Much as I adore peach, I can’t unsee this comment.) Others noted peach fits right in with the resurgence of ‘80s decor style. (In fact, while writing this I realized that this past summer I purchased Ruggable’s Iris Apfel Birds of a Feather rug in green and PEACH. I feel like Andrea getting the Cerulean blue lecture from Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.)
It’s also a naturally appetizing color for food and beverages, and the Specialty Food Association forecasts peach as a big flavor for this year. Think orange wine and peach-flavored cocktails, like Venetian bellinis made with prosecco and peach puree. It’s the OG Peach Fuzz sipper. Hmmm, will bellinis usurp bottomless mimosas on brunch menus across the land this year?
Content Strategy Tip
More Cheese, Please!
Will cheese ever not be popular? I don’t think so. But if you’ve ever watched comedian @tanaradoublechocolate’s hilarious TikTok reaction videos, with her “It don’t slide down easy if it ain’t cheesy!” tagline, it’s obvious we can’t get enough of this molten deliciousness.
The National Restaurant Association is seeing menus awash in an ocean of melty cheese – grilled halloumi, raclette, queso fundido and the like. And the folks at Pinterest have tagged “melty mashups” as one of their top 2024 food trends. Pins of cheeseburger tacos are up 255%, and carbonara ramen is up 165%. (Huh, maybe that’s why I couldn’t resist picking up a cheeseburger burrito at Trader Joe’s …)
Yes, Plant-Based Is Still Big
Sales of plant-based meat, like Beyond Beef and Impossible, softened last year, but that’s likely due to inflation rather than waning interest in meatless fare. These mock meats cost almost twice as much per ounce as ground beef.
That doesn’t mean plant-based fare is losing ground overall. Whole Foods highlights an uptick in less-processed veggie options with more straightforward ingredient lists. There’s also Meati’s “steaks” and “chicken” cutlets made with mycelium (the root structure of mushrooms) and a fast-growing selection of plant-based fish alternatives.
On the restaurant side, I’m excited about big-flavor plant-based menus such as Planta Cocina in Los Angeles, with options like ahi watermelon nigiri, maitake mushrooms in ancho barbecue sauce and chimichurri, sweet chili bang bang broccoli, and an addictive creamy-spicy cashew queso fundido.
Tomatoes In Cocktails
af&co./Carbonate and the National Restaurant Association are calling out tomato flavors in beverages for 2024. This fits in with the overall growing interest in savory cocktails.
Naturally, this calls to mind a classic Bloody Mary — always delicious — but tomatoes will appear in more delicate drinks this year like margaritas. In particular, you’ll see caprese-inspired concoctions, such as martinis with heirloom cherry tomatoes, basil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
We Like It Hot (Always!)
Ten years ago, food trade shows were awash in Sriracha. Our collective love of heat has broadened considerably to embrace a world of hot options: chile crisp (Chinese, Ghanaian, and Mexican variations), Italian Calabrian chile, and American hot honey (sweet + spicy = swicy!).
The New Fusion
af&co./Carbonate called out “cross-cultural cooking,” and Food Network highlighted “third culture cuisine. T. Hasegawa USA dubs the marriage of international and local flavors, ingredients and dishes “Glocal.”
This differs from a contrived ‘90s-style fusion food mashup in that it comes from the experience of the people cooking it. An example would be Ann’s Smoky Pimento Kim Cheese from The Global Pantry Cookbook, which melds author Ann Taylor Pittman’s Southern and Korean heritage. Or the food in Flavor + Us by Rahanna Bisseret Martinez, which draws inspiration from her family’s Mexican and Haitian culinary traditions along with the food of her Oakland, Calif., hometown.
The possibilities of this fare are endless – it’s all on the table and genuinely all-American.
“Grain” of the Year: Buckwheat
The National Restaurant Association, Whole Foods, and af&co/Carbonate all tagged buckwheat as a 2024 food trend.
Buckwheat isn’t new – if you’ve ever slurped up soba noodles or eaten blini or kasha, you’ve had it – but a couple of things drive its current popularity. Despite its name, buckwheat is wheat- and gluten-free (a seed that’s a pseudo-grain). That appeals to those who want to keep things gluten-free. It’s also decent on the fiber and protein front. It also cooks up faster than white rice.
From a culinary perspective, buckwheat’s nutty, earthy flavor (and color) makes it an intriguing addition to sweet and savory baked goods.
Look for buckwheat flour turning up in snack foods and baking mixes at the store and on restaurant menus.
I see buckwheat as a more significant trend in restaurant and prepared foods vs. from-scratch home cooking. But I could be wrong! Want to try it for yourself? Use buckwheat groats in a grain bowl. Or substitute 25% buckwheat flour for regular flour in a cookie or brownie recipe.
Cheeky Peach Margarita
Of course, once Pantone’s Color of the Year announcement came out, press releases started rolling in. This margarita from Pantalones Organic Tequila (yes, Matthew McConaughey’s new booze!) nails the trend-in-glass beautifully. I’ll revisit this cocktail when peaches are in season come summer.
Content Strategy Tip
Sugar and salt, as needed
1.5 ounces blanco tequila (such as Pantalones Organic Tequila)
1 ounce lime juice
½ ounce peach puree
½ ounce Cointreau
Peach slices, for garnish
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Place sugar and salt in a saucer. Rim the edge of a glass with a lime wedge and roll it in the sugar-salt mixture. Fill glass with ice.
Combine the tequila, lime juice, peach puree, and Cointreau in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into your prepared glass. Serve garnished with peach slices and mint sprigs.