A bold claim—no doubt—but it is backed up by empirical research. At Spoonshot, our AI and machine learning technologies have enabled us to deliver industry specific insights that get better & smarter every year. Our food trend predictions for 2023 are the result of a three-part process which is further verified and validated by food scientists, researchers & culinary experts. How do we do this? We’ve built a rich database of food ingredients and recipes over time by ingesting all content on the internet which has enabled us to create novel and insightful trends & insights which can help you take your product or business to the next level.
Here’s our list of the biggest food & beverage trends to watch out for in 2023 & beyond..
1. Urgen-sea – The need for seafood alternatives has become imperative.
Alternative future for food are as diverse to include high protein insects, plant-based meat substitutes, lab-grown meat and milks made from soya, almond, cashew,etc. The trends show that the sea will also contribute to the global food supply.
262% Growth in interest in alternative foods between Jan 2016 and April 2022
Interest in alternative foods is growing
What was once seen as a fringe offering for a very niche audience is now front-and-center strategy for brands across the industry, even for segments that would normally consider these products to be direct competition.
Interest in alternative foods has grown by over 3.5X between Jan 2016 and April 2022. Spoonshot measures interest as the occurrence of a particular topic over time based on articles and blogs published in the media. Further analysis of the alternatives space shows that the bulk of these alternatives is in the dairy and meat space.
Interest in these two broad categories is driven by perceived health benefits, concerns over animal welfare, and the breakout star driver, sustainability. And alternative fish and seafood is where we expect to see the next big growth spurt in terms of innovation – not because it’s sort of obvious, but more importantly, because there is greater urgency for fish alternatives than meat alternatives.
Consumers are reducing meat, but not fish
Flexitarian diets are gaining more popularity as consumers try to consume less meat and less frequently. Red meat consumption has been linked to various health and climate issues and factory farming has raised concerns about the overuse of antibiotics and the spread of new diseases.
Global fish consumption has doubled since 1998, and it is projected to go up by another 80% by 2050.
Only 2% of conversations on fish and seafood also mentioned vegan.
Fish consumption is growing
Global fish consumption has already doubled since 1998, but new research from Stanford projects this to go up by another 80% by 2050.
Spoonshot data shows that interest in pescetarian diets – not consuming meat, but consuming fish and seafood – is on the rise, more than doubling (117%) since 2016 and growing by 9% in the 12 months to April 2022.
Interest in flexitarian diets grew by 341% since 2016 and by 38% in the last 12 months. Flexitarian diets are gaining more popularity as consumers try to consume less meat and less frequently. Too much red meat consumption has been linked to various health issues and factory farming has raised concerns about the overuse of antibiotics and the spread of new diseases.
Fish is sought after for it health benefits
Consumer health trends are influenced by advancements in science, higher incomes & awareness and aging populations. Unsurprisingly, fish is slowly gaining popularity for its health benefits and taste. Seafood, especially fish, is an excellent source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids while being low on fat.
For complete details on the consumer associations with this topic, download our full report by clicking the image below.
Top nutrients consumers associate with fish and health together
- Protein – 20.7%
- Low-carb – 8.8%
- Low-calorie – 8.6%
- Omega 3 – 4.0%
Also Read: Food and Beverage Industry Analytics
Global fish populations are dwindling
90% of marine fish populations have been fully used, overused, or are under severe threat.
One Third of global freshwater fish populations are in danger of extinction
Main reasons for declining fish and seafood populations:
- Growing global consumption
- Overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices
- Rising ocean temperatures
Fish populations are declining
Unlike livestock, whose populations are projected to double by 2050, freshwater and ocean fish populations are dwindling at alarming rates.
Some estimates say that 90% of marine fish populations have been fully used, overused, or are under severe threat as a result of overfishing. 90% of predatory fish such as cod, sharks, tuna, and swordfish have already disappeared from our oceans. If the world continues at its current rate of fishing, there will be no fish left by 2050.
Freshwater fish are facing similar issues. A study by a group of global conservation organizations assessed that as many as a third of global populations are in danger of extinction.
Populations of migratory freshwater fish have declined by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have very nearly been wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish – those that weight more than 100 kg – is down by 94%. Sixteen freshwater fish species were declared extinct in 2020.
Reasons for and impact of declining fish resources
Main reasons for declining fish and seafood populations:
- Growing global consumption
- Overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices
- Overheating waters
Given these issues, it is imperative that we focus on alternatives for fish and seafood.
The impact of all of this is being felt right now.
- Fish prices have gone up, as with most other foods, thanks to a combination of supply chain issues and the Russia-Ukraine war. In the UK, a recent report said that the average price of fish and chips has gone up by 21% and over 3,000 fish and chip shops may be forced to shut down as this inexpensive dish starts to go out of reach for many.
- Due to pollution, microplastics and toxins are finding their way into several species of ocean and freshwater fish, which then enter our food chain.
Plant-based seafood is still a very small space
US$14 million – Plant-based seafood sales for 2021
Total US plant-based food sales (US$ million) and growth (%) by category, 2021
Plant based seafood such as carrot-based vegan salmon, pea-based tuna, konjac-based shrimp, palm-based crab capture the flavour and essence of seafood.
- Plant-based milk: 16% of retail milk sales
- Plant-based meat: 2.7% of retail packaged meat sales
- Plant-based seafood: 1% of plant-based meat
- Conventional seafood: 20% of total meat and seafood sales
Sophie’s Kitchen finds growing interest in alt seafood
Health benefits of plant-based, cultivated seafood ranked
Question: “How important would each of the following health factors be in your decision to eat plant-based or cultivated seafood over wild-caught or farm-raised seafood?”
These numbers are those who selected somewhat important or extremely important.
|Health benefit||Plant-based (%)||Cultivated (%)|
|Low risk of foodborne illness||37||42|
|High in protein||36||39|
|Rich in Omega-3s||34||36|
|Contains few and easily recognizable ingredients||33||35|
|Eliminates allergy concerns||28||N/A|
|High in fiber||26||28|
|Low fat content||24||26|
Business interest takes off, while consumer is slower
Consumer and business interest in plant-based fish
- 3745% Increase in Business Interest in Plant Based Fish
- 105% Increase in Business Consumer in Plant Based Fish
The high association that fish has with health in consumers’ minds versus meat has proven to be a major roadblock in the growth of alternatives.
Barriers to the growth of seafood alternatives
Only <0.2% of seafood product launches are plant-based or vegan. Based on product reviews, flavor and texture are the main barriers to the growth of this category.
Consumer associations with vegan seafood
Health concerns and ecological imbalance are the major concerns impacting the shift to plant-based seafood. Of course, the taste and flavour should replicate the actual seafood to help it gain popularity as a food trend.
Most talked about dishes
- Fish and chips 6.7% of conversations
- Sushi – 3.0% of conversations
- Crab cakes – 1.2% of conversations
- Tacos – 1.0% of conversations
Ingredients to consider to improve consumption experience
The graph below captures the top ingredients used to recreate the seafood experience and taste. While the market is still in its infancy, It is a promising trend as the food can provide nutritional benefits to vegans and vegetarians.
Most popular ingredients in alt seafood products:
- Soy beans
- Fava beans
- Haricot beans
- Green lentils
World’s first unbreaded jackfruit fish fillet is launched Jackfruit and seaweed make for a strong plant-based fish
The Cornish Seaweed Company and Jack & Bry, a gourmet plant based meat company that uses jackfruit as its base ingredient, announced the launch of what they’re calling the world’s first unbreaded jackfruit and seaweed fish fillet.
The fish fillet is vegan and made with cooked white flakes of jackfruit, which are marinated in a blend of seaweed to accurately replicate the white, flaky texture of fish and re-create an authentic seafood taste.
Our data had no other products using this combination, but there were home recipes and menu dishes that did. The seaweed and jackfruit combination had very high novelty and a high consumer acceptance score. We also looked at possible concepts based on ingredients consumers spoke about.
- Mushroom + Kelp Seaweed + Cocoa Bean has a high consumer score and flavor score.
- Banana blossom + seaweed is also a potential option, since banana blossom does actually offer the flaky texture of fish.
Algae emerge as viable ingredients for faux fish
The bulk of retail products so far have used legumes and vegetables as the base ingredient to mimic seafood/fish. However, new companies have started to consider more novel ingredients – like algae – that could help get the flavor and nutrition right, while also being more sustainable.
Seafood Reboot : This Paris-based startup is said to be working on seafood alternatives that will be vegan, non-GMO, and algae-based.
Revo Foods: This Austrian startup has developed a texturized salmon fillet made from pea protein and algae extracts, and is 3D printed.
Spirulina shows significant potential for fish analogs
Israeli food tech company SimpliiGood has developed the first smoked salmon analog made from a single ingredient – spirulina. This product is expected to hit the market by 2023.
At SimpliiGood’s spirulina farm,
- 98% of water used is recycled
- 50 tons of spirulina is produced/year
- Harvested every 24 hours
0.16% Products containing Spirulina in ‘All’ category
95% pure, fresh spirulina + minimal flavour and oil
What does our data say?
- 13% Nutrition related social media conversations on spirulina linked to protein
- 11% Claims related social media conversations on spirulina linked to protein
Spirulina is a blue-green algae growing in both seawater and freshwater. The ingredient is known to reduce inflammation and aging. It is a great alternative people consuming vegan diets..
Get Spoonshot’s 4 liner take on the trend by downloading the full trends report here.
Also Read: Food and Beverage Industry Analytics
2. A Clean Plate
Calls for clean label claims in plant-based foods are becoming louder and that’s why its on our list of food and beverage industry predictions for 2023 & beyond.
Concerns over ultra processed foods is growing
References to ultra processed foods are low but growing rapidly
Unprocessed foods are close to natural state unlike processed foods that alter the taste of the food to promote sales. Unprocessed foods are free of chemical additives and are rich in nutrients adding to their popularity.
Plant-based food continuing to gain popularity as a future food trend to watch out for.
The plant-based space continues to make its presence felt by expanding into more categories. Alternatives to milk, meat, dairy, eggs, are all seeing significant innovation as companies race to launch products that appeal to consumers and other businesses alike.
The reasons for the expansion of plant-based alternatives to animal products have been well documented: perceived health benefits, concerns over animal welfare, and greater sustainability.
Clean label will be the next area of focus for plant-based food.
Download our full report for the detailed charts of clean label trend compared with plant-based food trend.
Clean label emulsifiers are basically food additives that are derived from plants. These are the primary ingredient of the food, dairy and baking industries. In the graph below you can see the growth of clean label.
Calls to clean up ingredient lists in plant-based will get louder
Ingredients for plant-based liquid egg
Water, Mung Bean, Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed, Canola Oil, Corn Starch, Contains, less than 2% of Baking Powder, (sodium acid pyrophosphate,, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), Dehydrated Garlic, Dehydrated Onion, Carrot Extractives (color), Turmeric Extractives (color), Salt, Transglutaminase.
Ingredients for standard egg
100% liquid egg whites containing eggs
Ingredients of dried whole egg powder
Whole eggs, less than 2% sodium silicoaluminate as an anticaking agent
As the demand for clean label grows, so will the market for clean label additives.
Long lists of ingredients can put off consumers
As the plant-based sector grows, so will the scrutiny towards it, especially in terms of the claims of being healthier and better for the environment.
Products are increasingly being called out for the use of too many highly processed ingredients, including preservatives, stabilizers, and various other additives. Concerns over ultra processed foods are also on the rise.
So much so that newer plant-based launches have started to address this issue and are calling out their clean label credentials.
And this clean label aspect of plant-based food is a feature we expect to see grow significantly over the coming year. In fact, clean label is going to be a major requirement for alternatives as the sector expands. Sales of plant based meat have started to slow down (for a number of reasons) and this may be the key to winning back consumer engagement.
Our analysis of published articles and blogs by industry experts and consumers and influencers showed that over the last year, references to clean label within the meat alternatives space grew at par with references to clean label.
What consumers want from clean label plant-based foods
Here are some of the most talked about features about clean label plant-based foods from consumer conversations:
- Vegan – 48%
- Gluten-free – 32%
- Natural – 25%
- Ingredients – 19%
- Organic – 18%
- Healthy – 17%
- Plant protein – 12%
- Fresh – 10%
- Sustainable – 10%
- Non-GMO – 8%
New plant-based meat launches call out clean label credentials
Plant-based meat brands are starting to highlight minimal ingredients and no nasties in their launches.
Fable Food Co highlights its clean label credentials with products that are made with only recognizable ingredients and are said to be free from preservatives, artificial ingredients, and GMOs.
Main ingredient: Shiitake
Plantcraft positions itself as the world’s first clean-label, plant-based deli meat company. It is said to be free from all top 8 allergens and artificial ingredients.
Main ingredients: Green banana, pea protein, golden linseed, sunflower seed, grapeseed oil, nutritional yeast, herbs & spices
New plant-based meat alternatives with clean label claims
Australia-based Fable Food Co makes a range of meat alternative products and ready meals that feature shiitake mushroom as the main ingredient used in place of meat. The range is intended for consumers who don’t eat meat or want to cut down on their meat consumption for a variety of reasons.
The range also tries to recreate the experience of slow-cooked meat.
Fable highlights its clean label credentials with products that are made with only recognizable ingredients and are free from preservatives, artificial ingredients, and GMOs.
Why this company uses shiitake mushrooms for a number of reasons:
- They have natural umami flavors
- They are a slow-growing mushroom so they naturally have the fleshy fibers that give the meaty bite typically associated with animal proteins
- They have the right chemical composition that when cooked imparts flavors that are found in animal products
- They are nutritious, high in fiber and antioxidants as well as an animal-free source of Vitamin B12
Plantcraft is a Hungarian-US startup that positions itself as the world’s first clean-label, plant-based deli meat company. Its products include pâtés and pepperoni, made with green banana, pea protein, golden linseed, sunflower seed, grapeseed oil, nutritional yeast, and herbs and spices. These plant-based alternatives are clean-label and free from all top 8 allergens and artificial ingredients. They also contain 8g of protein and 5g of fiber per serving.
The leading primary ingredients within vegan deli meats is wheat or soy, and Plantcraft’s departure from them is very telling of how plant-based meats may evolve in the coming years.
Ancillaries also increase their focus on clean ingredients
While some companies focus on using a combination of whole foods to achieve the desired results for their plant-based foods, others will need additives. With clean label versions of these building blocks of plant-based alternatives, companies can achieve the coveted “clean” label.
The need for such ingredients is only going to grow in the coming year and it is an area ripe for innovation. As such, this need will also see ancillary companies – those that make the building blocks – gain more importance.
Mimicking the cooking experience with plant-based colors
Achieving the color shift from the ‘bloody’ raw state to the desired cooked appearance can be done by blending a selection of different fruits and vegetables in different ratios.
GNT Group’s color shift solution uses a flowable red powder of encapsulated carrot concentrate, which melts as the temperature increases during cooking and releases the carrot concentrate, facilitating a change in color similar to red meat.
Clean label stabilizers for plant-based milks
IFF has launched a nutrient-dense hydrocolloid sourced from non-GMO red seaweed.
Called SEAFLOUR, this ingredient contains protein, fiber, and minerals, and offers stability, high-suspension ability, and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel.
- Suitable for: Plant-based milks
- Results: Shortens ingredient list; allows for clean label messaging
Scope to replace methylcellulose with natural ingredients
- Is capable of gelling at higher temperatures which helps texture of plant-based burgers to match that of animal protein
- Responsible for creating a good “bite”
- Allows for adhesion and binding of the uncooked ingredients
- Citrus fiber – a byproduct of making juice from citrus fruits – is a natural ingredient that can be used as a binder in plant-based meats
- Makes for a good replacement for methylcellulose in combination with other natural ingredients like agar, psyllium, and native starch
3. Earthy endeavour: A growing food trend for 2023 & beyond
Soil degradation has become a pressing global concern
Soil erosion is a natural phenomenon that happens under all climatic conditions and all around the world. However, increased unsustainable human activity has accelerated erosion and degradation, which in turn can negatively impact agricultural productivity.
50% of the world’s most fertile topsoil has been lost in the past 150 years. This is 10X faster than it’s being replenished. – World Wide Fund for Nature
33% of the world’s soils are already degraded and 90% could become degraded by 2050 at the rate. – United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization
Soil health is being depleted
We often hear older people complain that food just doesn’t taste the same as when they were younger. Many of us may roll our eyes at this, but it may actually be true. Farming and production has changed drastically over the last century to feed our exploding population and this has had its impact on the taste and the nutritional profile of the food we eat – and the soil we grow it on.
The depletion of soil health is becoming a source of concern. 95% of our food comes from the soil and soil degradation affects agricultural productivity and could lead to a significant loss in crop yields.
In fact, in just the last 150 years, half of the world’s most fertile topsoil has been lost. This is 10 times faster than it’s being replenished, according to the WWF.
For context, it takes 1,000 years to produce just 2-3 cm of topsoil, which itself is only about 2-8 cm in depth, but contains most of the ground’s nutrients and fertility.
A major contributor to soil degradation is soil erosion, which occurs naturally everywhere around the globe as a result of the elements – rain, snow, wind, plants, and animals. But its rate is significantly accelerated by unsustainable human activities, which include things like intensive agriculture and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, deforestation, overgrazing, and improper land use.
The FAO estimates that a third of the world’s soil is already degraded and if we don’t address this issue, by 2050, this will reach 90%.
Interest in soil health is on the rise in business media
The growing interest in soil health is linked to growing interest in how food is produced and its impact on the planet.
0.55 Relation score between soil health and sustainable agriculture
Healthy soil produces good quality vegetables, so the interest in soil health has been increasing rapidly among consumers and businesses. Check out the graph below to see how far the interest in soil health has improved.
Interest in soil health is on the rise in the media
This depletion and its impact on food production why interest in soil health has been seeing some growth in media channels, even if it’s just in fits and starts.
Our data indicates that over the next 12 months, we will be hearing more on this space. Business interest in topics related to soil health, for example, is projected to grow by over 17% during the next 12 months. Consumer interest is a bit more muted, but that too is expected to see a 4% growth in this period.
Increasing concerns over soil health can be linked to growing interest in sustainable food production.
We specifically looked at quantifying the association between soil health and sustainable agriculture within the F&B space using Pointwise Mutual Information.
The higher the PMI score, the higher the probability of the two topics occurring together when compared with chance. A score over 0.4 is considered as a high association.
Sustainability as a whole is gaining ground with consumers, though sustainable farming is still a relatively new topic for them.
Only a fraction of sustainability-related consumer conversations talked about sustainable farming.
We further analysed conversations where consumers talked about sustainable farming and soil health together.
Here, it became clear that this is not just a more aware audience, but their main topics of discussion revolved around farming techniques widely associated with improving soil fertility.
Interestingly, some brands have started to call out some of these production methods on pack to highlight their commitment to sustainability and soil conservation. In time, this is likely to expand awareness among consumers as well.
Consumers associate soil health with production methods
Sustainable farming is still a relatively new topic within sustainability conversations, and soil health even more so. However, top-of-mind issues for this cohort are production methods that improve soil health.
- 6% Of conversations on sustainability mention sustainable farming
- 2.5% Of conversations on sustainable farming mention soil health
Brands are seeing opportunities to promote ag production
Currently, the most popular call-out we’re seeing on pack is food grown using regenerative agriculture, which includes farming and grazing practices that help rebuild organic soil matter to improve soil biodiversity and fertility. This in turn improves the nutritional value of food.
The regen ag model incorporates a number of other techniques such as no-to-low tilling, crop rotation, cover crops, using perennial crops, planned grazing, and so on.
Regen ag also has the potential to improve carbon capture thereby lowering emissions. This is why many large food and drink manufacturers are starting to invest in regenerative agriculture in their supply chains.
For most companies, the bulk of their emissions comes from how and where they source their raw materials.
- In 2019, General Mills said it would convert 1 million acres of land to regen ag practices by 2030. As of May 2021, 115,000 acres of US farm land had been enrolled into the program.
- In 2021, Nestlé said that it was investing over €1 billion over the next five years to advance regen ag across its network of farmers and suppliers.
Brands have started to invest in regenerative farming
The bulk of carbon emissions for F&B manufacturers is from raw materials. So, some have started to invest in regenerative farming to address various issues across the supply chain, including the decline in soil health and land management. Recent studies have even shown that regen ag not just improves soil fertility but also crop nutrition and human health.
9.2% Of consumer conversations on sustainable farming also talk about regenerative farming
- General Mills : Converting 1 million acres of land to regen ag practices by 2030
- Nestle : Investing over €1 billion over the next five years to advance regen ag across its network
Companies start to highlight crop rotation
While the regenerative agriculture model has captured the attention of many larger companies, some smaller companies are promoting more specific methods, like crop rotation.
Rotating crops helps return nutrients to the soil essentially by increasing biomass from different crops’ root structures without over-dependence on synthetic fertilisers. This not only increases farm biodiversity but also works to interrupt pest and disease cycles.
One brand that is highlighting this is the soon-to-be launched Varietal Crop Crackers, developed by Alpha Food Labs. These crackers are made from a number of different wheats, legumes, and seeds planted within a crop rotation.
The pack highlights the rotation cycle and the crops harvested in that cycle. This not just supports soil and water health, but also is used to incentivize farmers to take up crop rotation.
Also Read: Lab Grown Food Guide – Is This The Future?
Crop rotation comes to the front of the pack
Varietal Crop Crackers are made from a diverse assortment of wheats, legumes, and seeds planted within a crop rotation.
1.5% Of conversations on sustainable farming and soil health talk about crop rotation
Focus on nitrogen emerges
Another emerging topic from consumer conversations was on nitrogen fixation. Granted it is very small, at just 0.2% of conversations on soil health and sustainable farming together, it is an important aspect for farmers and food producers.
Nitrogen is an important element linked to soil health and a key part of fertilisers. Synthetic nitrogen is estimated to have doubled food production since its introduction about a century ago, and farmers rely heavily on it.
But the synthetic stuff is very harmful to soil, crops, and consumer health in the long run. It’s also pretty inefficient and expensive for farmers, since about half of applied synthetic nitrogen never reaches the crop it was intended to fertilize.
It even contributes to 5% of greenhouse gas emissions and adversely impacts water quality.
Pivot Bio launches microbial nitrogen
To tackle these issues, Pivot Bio has created the first microbial nitrogen to replace the traditional synthetic nitrogen based fertilizers.
Pivot Bio maps trillions of interactions between living organisms in the soil to identify rare microbes with the right internal DNA to produce nitrogen. It then reverse engineers the way that nitrogen is created and reprograms the genetic code of other microbes to improve their nitrogen production capabilities.
The reprogrammed microbes are able to produce the right level of nitrogen based on the needs of the crop. Because of the customisable nature of this technology, it can be used across different soil types, farming practices, weather conditions, thus reducing the dependence on the synthetic stuff and improving soil health.
Creating synthetic nitrogen is also quite energy intensive, but Pivot Bio uses precision fermentation to get the right concentration of microbes for the job. And this, it says, reduces potential greenhouse gas emissions by up to 98%, which can help improve air quality.
To showcase the utility of this product, Pivot Bio has launched a snack brand called Connect that uses crops grown using this microbial nitrogen. Connect Snacks’ first product is a gourmet butterfly yellow popcorn grown in Nebraska, with the on-pack claim.
This innovation may pave the way for cleaner fertilisers and could even redefine the way we think about organic food and make it less expensive in the long run.
Microbial nitrogen could improve air, water, soil health
Snack brand Connect uses a first-of-its-kind microbial nitrogen instead of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers as part of a move towards cleaner air and water.
Pivot Bio’s microbial nitrogen is generated by microbes using fermentation. This can remove various harmful impacts of using synthetic nitrogen as a fertiliser.
- No harm to the soil
- No nitrous oxide emissions
- No nitrates into waterways
17% consumer conversations on sustainable farming also associate it with organic food
Vertical farming lowers pressure on soil, promotes at-home age
Canadian-based startup Just Vertical is encouraging home gardeners to join the indoor growing movement. Its products are marketed as elegant pieces of furniture that can grow 8-10 pounds of food a month using hydroponic technology.
Hungry for some more food trends for 2023?. We’ve got you covered with three more predictions. Go download the full report here.
Ranjana works as the Lead Research Analyst for Spoonshot. Her past experience includes working with a major global market research company, specializing in food and drink trends. She has also worked with major publications as a writer and editor.