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By Emily SmithFeb 29
Published July 12th 2023
The last few years have had a big impact on consumers' eating habits and grocery shopping. Consumers experimented in the kitchen during the pandemic, and food delivery became popular.
What trends are staying, and what new trends are emerging in food and drink?
We analyzed more than 165 million global online conversations to explore current culinary trends, consumer eating and drinking habits, restaurant experiences, and food delivery insights.
Let's dive into some of the biggest food and beverage trends.
Instagram and sophisticated smartphone cameras have revolutionized amateur photography, and food is one of the most popular objects. More than 505 million Instagram posts mentioned the hashtag #food, with people showing off their breakfast, how they cook, or what they eat at their favorite restaurant.
So it's no surprise that aesthetics play a big role in what drives food trends. Bowls, for example, have been popular for years and show no signs of slowing down. Our analysis of different food trends shows that bowls are still by far the most popular food trend.
Bowls are all about food presentation, arranging all kinds of food and meals in a bowl. It can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They can be sweet or savory. There are smoothie bowls, oatmeal bowls, poke bowls, burrito bowls, and Buddha bowls. The possibilities are endless, which may be why bowls are a food trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
The second most talked about food trend is appetizers. Here, one appetizer in particular seems to have the rest beaten: Charcuterie boards.
Charcuterie boards are usually an arrangement of different meats, pates, cheeses, and crackers on a wooden or stone board. But there are also butter boards, fruit boards, and dessert boards. People get creative and like with bowls, it's all about presenting food in an aesthetically pleasing way. The most popular choices, according to online conversations, are cheese, vegetables, meats, fruits, and desserts.
Mentions of butter boards have increased by over 180%, and dessert boards have increased by 136% in the last twelve months. The r/Charcuterieboard subreddit, for example, has over 38k members sharing and discussing charcuterie board ideas.
The vegan and plant-based food industry has seen significant growth over the last few years. It’s expected that the value of the plant-based food market worldwide will be worth over $55 billion this year, compared to over $44 billion last year, and in 2030 it could increase to almost $162 billion.
Online conversations about plant-based foods from June 1 2022 to May 31 2023 are down 7% compared to the previous 12 months. This doesn't mean that consumers have lost interest in plant-based products.
In fact, as more products flood the market, it's become the norm to see plant-based products in grocery stores. With major food brands adding plant-based alternatives to their products and grocery stores adding more vegan products, it seems that the plant-based market is becoming mainstream.
While the general conversation about plant-based foods decreased, mentions of vegan chocolate increased. Online conversations here are up 64%. Consumers are interested in vegan chocolate bars or mention eating vegan chocolate as part of their healthy lifestyle.
Each generation has different consumption habits compared to other generations. Millennials are famously obsessed with avocado on toast and brunch while Gen Z consumers seem to love bubble tea. Gen Z also has different habits when it comes to caffeine consumption.
According to a YouGov survey, 46% of UK Gen Z consumers say they never drink coffee at home or at work, compared to 31% of Gen X and 24% of baby boomers. Our analysis of online conversations that mention coffee shows that Gen Z talks about coffee far less than baby boomers. In coffee conversations, Gen Z is talking about iced coffee and going to coffee shops instead of drinking at home.
Gen Z likes to change things up and is looking for alternatives to coffee. One trend that is seeing an increase in mentions is mushroom coffee. The number of consumers talking about mushroom coffee has increased by 35% in the last year, and at the time of writing Google search interest is at a 5-year high. In online conversations, they say they want to try something new or drink it for health reasons.
Another source of energy that Gen Z prefers is energy drinks. They have been around for a while but have gained popularity over the last few years. In the past year, the number of people talking about energy drinks has increased by 18% compared to the previous 12 months. Broken down by generation, Gen Z is more likely to talk about energy drinks than other generations. 43% of all generation-categorized mentions of energy drinks come from Gen Z.
Beverage brands should consider offering more energy-boosting beverages, ideally with healthy ingredients, to attract Gen Z consumers.
Fermentation experienced a renaissance during the pandemic as consumers turned to the kitchen to try something new. With more time on their hands during the lockdown, consumers opted for food preparation that required some time and patience, such as pickling vegetables or making their own sourdough starter.
It's a trend that survived and is still big post-pandemic, with people continuing to experiment. Last year, for example, pickled garlic took off, with #pickledgarlic TikTok videos getting over 309 million views.
This year, it's all about gochujang, a spicy Korean chili paste made from fermented soybeans. The popularity of K-pop and Korean movies and TV shows has also fueled the popularity of Korean cuisine, and gochujang, like kimchi, is an essential ingredient in many Korean dishes.
Whether it's traditional dishes like bibimbap (mixed rice with vegetables) or tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) or incorporating the sticky paste into their own cuisine to spice up noodle dishes or BBQ sauces, foodies are obsessed. Google search interest in gochujang is at a 5-year high, US sales of rice cakes increased 450% last year, and a gochujang caramel cookie recipe went viral.
Consumers love to experiment in the kitchen, and gochujang allows them to add a kick and depth of flavor to their dishes. We're likely to see more experimentation like this in the future.
Eating out alone, whether for business or pleasure, is something that consumers are becoming more comfortable with.
As we saw with Korean food, this trend is also influenced by Korean culture. In recent years, Korean cosmetics, movies, and TV shows, as well as K-pop bands such as BTS, have become increasingly popular in Western countries. So it's not surprising that certain lifestyle trends are also becoming more popular.
More and more people in Korea are living alone and embracing the single life. The trend is called honjok, which involves doing activities that are usually done with others alone, such as going out to restaurants.
Solo dining is on the rise.
The number of people talking online about solo dining and eating alone in restaurants has increased by 7% in the last year compared to the previous twelve months.
Eating alone in restaurants has its advantages. Consumers in positive online mentions point out that they like the freedom to choose the location, go when they want, and not have to socialize when they don't feel like it.
But there is room for improvement. Consumers complain that restaurants are often unprepared to serve a single customer, which makes consumers feel uncomfortable, especially when there is no bar area.
Negative mentions of solo dining have increased by 24% in the past year, indicating that the experience of dining alone doesn't meet expectations.
Restaurant brands can enhance the experience by offering single-person seating. With consumers increasingly concerned about their finances when dining out, the experience should be excellent.
Like the love of fermentation and fermented foods, grocery delivery is another trend heavily influenced by the pandemic years. With the lockdown and avoidance of crowds, consumers discovered the benefits of having groceries delivered to their doorsteps.
Since then, physical stores have reopened, and the shopping experience has returned to normal, but not all consumers are giving up the convenience of having their groceries delivered.
According to Kantar, 12.6% of UK grocery sales were made online in March 2022, 4.6% more than in 2019. Consumers over the age of 65, in particular, continue to shop online more often than they did before the pandemic. Online conversations about grocery delivery have decreased slightly by 4% over the past year but are still at a higher level than before the pandemic.
Convenience and time savings are two big reasons why consumers choose to order groceries online. Late delivery is a pain point for customers. If the service is generally poor, or if people have trouble getting help from customer service, they will go online and talk about their bad experiences.
Delivery companies need to make sure they provide an excellent customer experience to keep their customers in a tough economic time.
Consumer habits are constantly changing, and brands need to stay on top of the latest consumer trends to win their loyalty.
Read our latest report on food and beverage trends and gain even more insights into: