Robots, refillable packaging, blonde chocolate, katsu curry in sweet applications and pressed flowers for wedding cakes: A look at some of 2024’s top trends

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The focus on health, sustainability, the cost-of-living crisis and bold flavors will flow over from 2023 into the new year. Pic: GettyImages/bin kontan
The focus on health, sustainability, the cost-of-living crisis and bold flavors will flow over from 2023 into the new year. Pic: GettyImages/bin kontan

Related tags Trends

The new year brings new consumers attitudes and behaviours, however, Bakery&Snacks learned that some of the biggest trends to impact 2023 are expected to continue shaping the bakery and snacks sectors in 2024.

What’s in and what’s out

Dare to eat chilli Getty
Pic: GettyImages

By reviewing purchasing habits over the last year, US food delivery company Gopuff was able to predict the biggest Instant Commerce trends that will play out this year.

In:

Flamin’ hot pairings: According to Gopuff, one in 10 of its customers added Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries to their bag in 2023, but blanced it out with Slim Jim Meat Sticks, Sour Patch Kid Candies, Twix Caramel Bars and Sprite. In 2024, customers will continue snacking on spicy favorites making unexpected flavor duos.

Loud budgeting: The past year saw tighter budgets driving consumers to shop online, where they could more easily compare prices and search for deals. Last year, ‘sale’ was a top search term on Gopuff indicating the focus on finding the best deals. Value remains a key factor in 2024 and these cost-conscious spending habits are expected to increase.

Ice cream cravings: ‘Ice cream’ matched ‘sale’ in the number of consumer searches on Gopff last year. And when it comes to the most popular flavors, customers are sticking to go-to favorites like cookie dough and strawberry cheesecake.

Out:

Bland bites: In the chip flavor face-off, customers want bold options​. Sweet chili, hot fries and chili limon lead, but are closely followed by savory flavors like salsa, BBQ, sour cream & onion.

What’s next in flavor?

Katsu curry Getty worakit_
Pic: GettyImages/worakit_

Flavour house ITS has launched its annual look at the flavors that will be trending and the market influences that are driving them.

Bringing together research from Mintel, Innova and Tastewise along with social media observations and ITS’ own experiences with customer NPD briefs, the Journey into the Future of Flavor report gives some ‘blue-sky’ thinking on what it calls ‘braver flavor’ choices – such as katsu curry in sweet applications and tiger’s blood for ice cream and cocktails.

“We are presently dealing with current global conflicts, inflation and climate change along with the rise in AI,” said ITS founder Mike Bagshaw.

“The growth in digital culture means today’s consumers have access to news and views 24/7 too resulting in demand for instant gratification. At that same time, there’s growing political division and the rise of ‘woke’ culture, particularly among the influential Gen Zers. All this will have an impact on the kind of food and drink that is being developed by food manufacturers.

Newfound nostalgia

In times of uncertainty, consumer seek comfort in the familiar. Nostalgia continues to be big news both in flavors and format – think traditional cakes and desserts or the emergence of products from childhood, where consumers can take a trip down memory will see the use of favourite flavours such as marzipan, custard, sherbet, gingerbread and even candy floss but criss-crossed across different food and beverage categories.

Creative caramel

Salted caramel, blonde chocolate​ and dulce de leche will take the humble caramel on to the next level in 2024. Caramelised biscuit had over 52% growth in the UK product launches 2018-2022 and has no signs of slowing down. The popularity of caramel is also linked to the desire for nostalgic flavours but with a new twist and influences from other food cultures.

Forever floral

While floral and botanicals have been around for a while and mainly in premium sectors, we will see these flavors move into the mainstream as manufacturers include notes like elderflower, orange blossom or hibiscus for their perceived health connotations.

Keep it real

Consumer desire for natural flavor profiles means there’s a big drive for authentic fruit flavors. According to Innova, 56% of consumers say they would pay more for something they perceive to be more authentic. Real fruit purees like pineapple, blueberry, passionfruit raspberry and apricot will be ontrend.

Barbie world

At the other end of the scale, the Barbie and Wonka films will continue to be big flavor influences – think smoky caramel and ice cream flavours such as Neapolitan or cinema- inspired toasted popcorn.

Braver flavors

From customer briefs, ITS has identified out-there flavors like katsu curry for savory snacks, readymeals and even sweet applications. Mangosteen – with its perceived health benefits – tiger’s blood (a combination of watermelon, strawberry and coconut) will prove to be popular for ice creams and cocktails, while smoky strawberry will settle in for desserts.

Freezing the trend

Freeze dried fruit krblokhin
Pic: GettyImages/krblokhin

Chaucer Foods weighs in with its own views on the consumer demands and formulation challenges expected in the upcoming year.

Highlighting the ‘plant’ in plant-based

While the interest in plant-based offerings has taken off, health-conscious consumers in 2024 will be shifting their focus to plant-based products that are made with simple ingredients.

As such, Chaucer recommends formulators to focus on using whole, natural ingredients to create the flavor and appearance that consumers are looking for. Freeze-dried ingredients can help brands accomplish this as they are healthy, natural, flavorful and most importantly, recognizable.

Value-driven purchasing

Consumers are keeping a close eye on their budgets and are reevaluating the value of each purchase in an effort to cut down on costs.

By infusing a product with a multitude of benefits – like functionality, taste, convenience and price – brands can position their products as a higher value-add product than competitors. This can be accomplished by using ingredients, like freeze-dried fruits and veggies that pack in the benefits and value that consumers are craving.

Love and marriage

pressed flower wedding cake

Two Magpies Bakery Group’s pastry chef Lydia Chipperfieldon takes a look at the wedding cake trends for 2024.

“I’m actually getting married in May 2024 so wedding cake ‘inspo’ and trends have definitely been something at the front of my mind,” she told this site.

“I think the pressed dried flower trend is here to stay. Many summer weddings are still opting for the delicate pressed flower designs that give the wow factor in a very simple way. We have even started pressing flowers inhouse, so we can color match the flowers to the bride’s bouquet.

“The piped buttercream flowers remain a firm favorite and we expect this to carry on into 2024. What is lovely about a design like this is that the piped flowers can reflect the season and its colors, along with the flowers decorating the wedding. Whether you’re having a summer or autumn wedding, floral designs can be tailored to the colors of the season to suit the vibe of the wedding.

“Another trend that has been filling my Instagram page is the Lambeth style cakes. These look beautiful as a one-tier cake if you're having a small and intimate wedding, or a showstopper 3- or 4-tier wedding cake to feed many.

“The Lambeth cake is traditionally decorated in royal icing, which is a bit outdated for 2024, so it’s now being executed in either buttercream or Italian meringue buttercream to give a silky-smooth finish. A simple, but elegant cake.”

Blonde chocolate will be big

Like many others, UK cake manufacturer Finsbury expects big things with blonde chocolate​ this year.

“For cakes, flavor trends are always evolving and we expect 2024 to be another year of high competition as producers strive to stand out on busy supermarket shelves,” Daryl Newlands, head of Brands & Marketing for Finsbury, told Bakery&Snacks.

Alongside blonde chocolate, he sees bakers innovating with brownie and blondie-based celebration cakes and traybakes. Saying this, he believes the health trend is here to stay, especially with HFSS regulations coming into force​ and impacting how bakeries manufacture and advertise their products.

“On the other hand, we’ve also seen resilience for more indulgent treats and affordable everyday pleasures will continue to diversify, with innovative flavors and packaging to differentiate from the competition. 

“Finsbury’s strategy for 2024 will be to continue our investment in the licensing brand market and to develop our products in line with consumer preferences and trends. With this, we will continue to work closely with our existing partners, as well as establishing new partnerships as we continue to innovate and diversify our portfolio.”

Focus on health and nutrition

healthy kieferpix
Pic: GettyImages/kieferpix

New Zealand nutrition brand Nutani believes inflationary pressures will continue to shape consumer behaviors in the health and wellbeing space in 2024. Last year, the company surveyed 2,500 consumers across five markets (US, UK, China, Japan and South Korea) and believes many of the attitudes will hold true this year, too.

Consumers seek value amid inflation

With price being the top product attribute driving purchasing decisions (41% of survey respondents indicated their food choices have been impacted by inflation), consumers are expected to remain highly cost-conscious. Given the need to reassess spending choices, 51% stated a preference for products that offer multiple health benefits. One in four said that they will purchase fewer but higher-quality products, signaling greater discernment for quality.

Trends 1
Credit: Nutiani

Scientific credibility drives trust

Six in 10 consumers say they are influenced by scientifically proven ingredients and evidence of efficacy. Over half also trust in certifications by reputable sources, institutions or healthcare professionals.

Spotlight on mental wellbeing

Feeling mentally well is the most popular definition of being healthy. Sleep quality – which  contributes to overall mental wellbeing – also ranks as a top health concern.

“Inflationary pressures have had a clear impact on the cost of living for consumers around the world. Despite this, we continue to see a strong focus on health and wellbeing, as many global consumers remain determined on improving these factors through diet,” said Rebecca Cuthbertson, head of Marketing, Advanced Nutrition.

“The increasing popularity of dairy protein and probiotics, which was another key trend observed, demonstrates how consumers are making changes on the back of growing awareness of how certain ingredients can aid in managing diverse health concerns.”

From robots to refillable packaging

White Robot photo by Alex Knight (002)
Pic: Alex Knight

Trendincite has released its Top 5 2024 Trends & Beyond predictions.

Hold this

Between Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) chicken sandwich wars and the influence of global street foods, handheld foods are on the rise. National Restaurant Association’s 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast identified ‘unique handhelds’ as one of the top three breakfast trends and ‘new sandwich carriers’ were on the Ones to Watch top 10 list. The demand for convenient, portable food options is driving handheld innovations in format and flavor. Marco’s Pizza, for example, offers a Pizzoli, which is a rolled handheld pizza, while Grana PDX serves Portafoglio, a wallet-style folded pizza. Expect new handheld formats and unconventional flavor combinations.

Kids will be kids

Parents want what’s best for their children and, according to Future Market Insights, the global kid’s F&B market is projected to reach $253.3bn by 2033. As parents focus on health and wellness in their own life, this behavior is echoed in what they choose for their children. Convenience is the main driver followed by portable products with plant-based formulas, naturals and better-for-you ingredients.

We all scream for ice cream

This will never go out of style, and the sector is projected to grow by $26.3bn between 20222 and 2027, according to Technavio. Plant-based ice cream is fast evolving, pulling in $410m for 52 weeks ending June 18, 2023, according to SPINS. From savory ice cream and unexpected collaborations to freeze-dried and DIY mixes, ice cream is a popular vehicle to experiment. Expect creativity and ice cream innovation in new flavor combinations, new interpretations and new applications.

Robots lend a helping hand

More than 24,500 Hospitality robots were sold in 2022, a 125% increase from the year prior, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). QSR operators are turning to robots to speed up operations and customer wait times, maximize efficiency, address staffing challenges and cut labor costs.

Refillable and reusable revolution

Consumers continue to expect brands and companies to create a better-for-the-environment.​ Refillable packaging is evolving with reduced material use and lower carbon emissions to meet the demand. City To Sea’s research revealed 53% of respondents said they were more likely to buy from a brand that offered products in prefilled returnable packaging (with sales forecast to tip $53.4bn by 2027, according to Smithers). Watch as brands launch innovative, better-for-the-planet solutions with refillable packaging.

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