The Specialty Food Association (SFA) Trendspotter Panel has predicted what will be hot in specialty food for 2023. The panel was comprised of professionals from diverse segments of the culinary world.
“Specialty food consumers are looking to make their meal prep easy but exciting and that is driving many of this year’s trends regarding convenience, packaging improvements and global flavors,” said Denise Purcell, SFA’s vice president, resource development. “At the same time, they continue to care about how their food is grown and the health benefits it offers, giving rise to evolving sustainability, plant-based and better-for-you trends.”
These trends and more will be on display at the upcoming Winter Fancy Food Show in Las Vegas, taking place Jan. 15-17, 2023.
The nine 2023 trends anticipated by the Trendspotter Panel are:
1. Convenience Is King
“Brands will focus on helping consumers go simple in their preparation and cooking routines, and assure would-be cooks that taking shortcuts is nothing to be ashamed of,” said Mintel’s Melanie Bartelme.
2. Environmentally Friendly Foods
If convenience is top, sustainability and environmental concerns are a close runner-up. “With growing unrest over climate issues and their impact on the future food supply, products that feature some aspect of sustainable ingredients, upcycled ingredients or environment-friendly packaging are leading the way,” said Drexel University’s Jonathan Deutsch. Ingredients like mushrooms, seaweed and jackfruit have been developed into different products, and pasta’s pandemic-fueled comeback made room for more innovation with black rice, pumpkin, red lentils, lupini and purple carrots.
3. Alt Seafood
“The awareness of the meatless category is driving consumers to look for alternatives in seafood, too. Key to acceptance is aligning nutritional values, texture and flavor to those of traditional fish,” said Patsy Ramirez-Arroyo, food and sustainability consultant.
4. Health in Balance
Consumers will seek more balance between their desire for health and sheer indulgence. Functional foods won’t suffer as a result; with interest in immunity, gut health, memory and so many other health components, manufacturers are introducing functional ingredients into products anywhere they can. And “better-for-you snacks like dehydrated vegetables or mushroom chips continue to dominate,” said food stylist Lindsay Leopold.
5. Pantry Without Borders
A fresh crop of globally inspired condiments, sauces, oils and seasonings will champion approachable everyday adventure. Increasingly clean-label and inherently convenient, these versatile meal starters and finishing touches invite consumers to experience regional comfort foods as new kitchen staples. Think Sichuan fried chile crisp, West African shito sauce, Mexican salsa macha, Spanish romesco, Indian achaar, Filipino adobo and more. “From main dishes to condiments, in 2023 we will see a lot more international flavors,” said Picky Eaters Restaurant’s Osei Blackett.
6. Nuanced Heat
For 2023, the desire for boldness and intensity in flavor experiences will increase as people continue to kickstart their lives or pursue new paths. “What began in the hot sauce category is exploding into honey, spreads, confections, beverages and snacks, snagging new markets like younger consumers, especially, and inspiring specialty food companies to introduce heat and spice into existing product lines,” said Firmenich’s Mikel Cirkus.
7. Naturally Occurring Sweeteners
Real food ingredients that fulfill sweet cravings are pushing back against the health halo of natural sugar alternatives that undergo significant processing. Expect more dates in every shape and form, pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, fruit juices and honey.
8. International Fruits
Amid the tightening pressures of a slowing economy, consumers want to elicit feelings of escapism without travel or exorbitant cost. “Enter international fruits—alternative citrus, melons and stone fruits wildly colorful and in extraordinary shapes and flavors—to invoke a sense of faraway destinations, new flavors, textures, colors and possibilities,” said Firmenich’s Cirkus.
9. Packaging for New Forms and Functions
Trendspotters at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June highlighted innovative packaging meant to provide increased portability and decreased mess. Look for that trend to continue with “a heightened emphasis on packaging design to communicate sustainability, introduce creative ways to consume and decant well-established consumer products, and telegraph aspirational consumer values and price point,” said Stan Sagner, founder, We Work for Food, LLC.
In addition, the panel noted the continuing trends of foods from Africa, with ingredients such as fonio, gari, berbere, shito and harissa becoming more accessible to U.S. consumers; cocktail culture, including ready-to-drink beverages like naturally flavored seltzers, and elevated, unique cocktail mixers; and cleaner, broader plant-based options.
For more information, visit specialtyfood.com.