The end of the year for many people marks a time to think about resolutions or changes they hope to make in the new year. Yet for me, it kicks off the season of food trend predictions.
There’s never a shortage of trend prognosticators, and I can’t get enough. Some people base their predictions on chef interviews and what’s trending on restaurant menus. Others use grocery retail sales, consumer surveys, online searches, social media mentions and even artificial intelligence to forecast what we’ll be eating and drinking in 2023.
I’ve tried to digest many of the published trend reports to give you a look into what I think will be big in the year ahead.
What Drives Food Trends?
Before diving in, it’s important to look at the big picture , or what’s behind the predicted food trends for 2023. The single biggest driver of trends identified by The Food People, global food and beverage trend analysts, is “under pressure.” Because of global instability, this U.K.-based firm believes the struggle to maintain control of our health and finances will be a dominant factor influencing our food choices in the year ahead
People will be seeking foods to protect their health and the planet, as well as embracing simpler, more humble choices to help save money and time, according to Charles Banks, co-founder and director of The Food People. We’ll also be looking for distractions to displace us into another world of sensory enjoyment – from bold and global flavors to comforting nostalgic foods and immersive, experiential dining experiences.
Here’s a look at the major cultural forces and food trends to expect in 2023.
Evolution of Plant-Based Foods
After years of explosive growth, plant-based meat alternatives have stalled due to complaints about hyper-processing, taste and texture. Many critics are questioning if the alternatives are even healthier or more sustainable than real meat. Increasingly, consumers are interested in eating plants in a way that doesn’t attempt to mimic meat. The winners are expected to be legumes, seaweed and mushrooms – especially maitake mushrooms, which were declared the dish of the year by AF&Co. and Carbonate, restaurant and hotel consultants in San Francisco.
Extreme weather events have been devastating for farmers . Because of this, farmers are rediscovering ancient crops and developing new hybrids that are better equipped to withstand climate change. Look for more products made with ancient whole grains and indigenous crops like einkorn, tarro, amaranth and fonio.
Expect to see more bread, cereal and pasta made with kernza, a robust perennial grain developed by The Land Institute in Kansas. You’ll also be seeing “regenerative” labels on food packages in the coming year, which designates farming practices that improve soil health and the biodiversity of crops.
Drinks for a “Damp” Lifestyle
Yelp’s 2023 Food Trend Forecast featured non-alcoholic beverages, which were up 59% in online searches. Two big breakouts include the colorful, Instagram-worthy Michelagua, an alcohol-free alternative to the popular Micheleda Mexican drink, and Hojicha, a lightly roasted Japanese green tea.
Thrift and Frugality
With record food prices squeezing family budgets, Innova Market Insights identified “redefining value” as its top food and beverage trend for 2023. Shoppers will be increasingly exploring money-saving strategies, such as buying in bulk, choosing cheaper private label brands, cooking from scratch and reducing food waste.
The National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2023 Culinary Forecast identified less-expensive meat cuts, such as chicken thighs, beef chuck and pork shoulder, as a big trend in the coming year. Yelp predicts the affordable oxtail will be even more popular, going beyond its appearances at festivals and food trucks.
Real and Recognizable
Consumers will be more aware of highly processed foods and will prefer “real” over artificial, especially when it comes to low- and no-calorie sweeteners.
Whole Foods predicts dates will win the race as a favorite natural sweetener in 2023. Whether date syrup, date paste or dehydrated dates, the fruit will be increasingly used to sweeten beverages, energy bars, breakfast cereals, ketchup, salad dressings and more.
Instead of low-calorie spreads, real butter will continue its momentum, especially premium grass-fed butters.
No need to pack your bags to get a taste of faraway places. Unique global fare will be even bigger in 2023 as Americans seek to expand their palates with new foods and flavors from around the world.
The 2023 Hospitality Trend Report from AF&Co. and Carbonate predicts Filipino will be the cuisine of the year, and the bright purple Filipino sweet potato ube will become ubiquitous. Globally inspired sandwiches – Chinese rou jia mo or jiabing and Argentine choripan – will be trending, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Culinary Forecast.
Baum + Whiteman predicts we’ll be seeing more plov, an Eastern European rice dish; pinsa, a Roman-style hand-pressed flatbread; and peposa, a Tuscan beef stew.
Joy and Distractions
Even though health will be a priority in 2023 – especially gut health and mental well-being – the Food People in the U.K. says “joy in food” will be a major cuisine driver. We’ll be seeking comforting, unpretentious food, including modern interpretations of childhood favorites – from mac & cheese to PB & J.
All things retro will be a major restaurant trend, including old-school cocktails and desserts like baked Alaska. Look for bold mash-ups, especially twists on Korean and Japanese food. Sushi pizza, cheeseburger spring rolls or spicy Korean chicken burritos, anyone?
To distract us from daily pressures we’ll be turning to experimental dining, according to Yelp, which reported a 263% increase in searches for underwater restaurants and 109% increase in dinner theater searches.