Dec 1, 2023 - Business

Pickles, halloumi and camel milk: What we’ll be eating in 2024

Illustration of the numbers 2024 formed by a piece of halloumi, a pickle, a pile of buckwheat, and a glass bottle of camel milk.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Get ready to eat more buckwheat, pickles, caramelized bananas, cinnamon sugar, dressed-up ramen, grilled halloumi cheese and Korean cuisine in 2024 — and to wash it down with a tall, cool glass of camel milk.

Why it matters: It's the time of year when everyone in the food business predicts what we'll be seeing on restaurant menus and store shelves — trends that can translate to serious bucks when a particular dish or ingredient catches on.

  • Remember when the viral #fetapasta recipe on TikTok caused global shortages of feta cheese?

Driving the news: Food prognosticators see two parallel tracks for 2024: virtuous and indulgent.

What they're saying: Ultra-processed food — soon to become more widely known by its acronym, UPF — is poised to become the new "junk food," Mintel, the market research firm, says in its 2024 food trends report.

  • "Starting in 2024, more consumers will become aware of different levels of processing from media reports, regulations and voluntary on-pack labels," Mintel predicts.
  • "This will encourage them to consider processing levels when choosing food and drink."

Where it stands: "Newstalgia" is trending, as boomers, Gen Xers and millennials recall food faves of yesteryear, according to the 2024 food trends report from Datassential, a restaurant and menu consultancy.

  • "Pickles are the 'it' ingredient again," the report said. (Evidence includes Claussen's pickle-flavored wine spritzer and Heinz's new pickle ketchup.)
  • Espresso martinis — a '90s throwback — are "one of the fastest-growing menu items in the last 12 months," Datassential says.

Yes, and: "Authenticity" is another theme, with consumers seeking food flavors and colors that hark back to their childhood, culture or heritage, per food giant Archer Daniels Midland's (ADM) 2024 Flavor and Color Trends Report.

  • Plus, "Whole grain is a huge thing right now," ADM's chief global flavorist, Marie Wright, tells Axios. "It's the opposite of, 'I want to indulge.'"
  • At the same time, hedonistic foods are all the rage. "We see cinnamon sugar popping up everywhere," Wright said. "And caramelized anything — bananas, strawberries."

Details: Predictions for "hot" foods and ingredients in 2024 include:

  • Shawarma, shaved ice, mustard seeds and Spam. (Datassential)
  • Birria, Wagyu beef, stuffed vegetables, hot honey breakfast sandwiches and grilled/cooked cheeses (like raclette and halloumi). (National Restaurant Association)
  • Buckwheat (in noodles, granola, pancakes), cacao pulp, plant-based seafood and gourmet ramen. (Whole Foods)

The "it" pasta shape of 2024 will be "creste di gallo," Datassential says — it's extruded with a ruffle resembling a rooster's crest.

  • But as more people go gluten-free, chickpeas, buckwheat and teff (an Ethiopian grain) are gaining prominence, reports Food Business News.

Now trending: Restaurants that serve West African, African and Lebanese food are on the upswing, OpenTable CEO Debby Soo tells Axios.

  • And interest continues to build in cocktails, with and without alcohol. "We actually saw an increase of 48% in reviews of mocktails" in 2023, Soo said.

Zoom out: With Korean culture taking the U.S. by storm, expect to hear more about "K-Food."

  • The popularity of K-pop and K-drama is ratcheting up interest in Korean cuisine (including — still — whipped dalgona coffee, which baristas are making their own).
  • "Bulgogi, bibimbap and the beloved Korean fried chicken are becoming increasingly popular," according to Food By Design, a culinary consultancy. "In the coming years, we expect their popularity to soar, with new Korean classics like tteokbokki (rice cakes) and japchae (sweet potato noodles) becoming more mainstream."
  • Sweetened condensed milk was on several lists of trending ingredients for 2024 — in part because it's used in the sauce for ferociously popular Korean egg drop breakfast sandwiches.

Between the lines: Food fads now erupt faster than ever — and can fade just as quickly — due to TikTok and Instagram.

  • "The line between restaurant menus and home cooking is blurring, thanks to social media like TikTok, where restaurant dishes become viral sensations," according to the National Restaurant Association.
  • It's got everyone from baristas to home coffee drinkers putting wild stuff in their coffee — from bananas to salt and protein ("proffee").
  • "A a huge percentage of Gen Z consumers are learning about coffee topics on TikTok," says Mike Van Houten, Nestlé's VP of consumer & marketplace insights. (His company recently introduced Nespresso x Blue Bottle capsules and Coffee Mate Iced Coffee.)

What's next: Camel milk — which is easier to digest than cow's milk — is predicted to become a household staple.

  • Other foods on the ascent include amba (a sauce made from pickled green mangos), scamorza (a soft Italian cheese), gooseberries and shiso (an Asian aromatic herb).

Flashback: Check out Axios' food trend predictions from last year and the year before.

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