Popularity of protein, mushrooms accelerating in 2024

Protein and mushroom ingredients will continue to grow increasingly popular in 2024, according to Innova Market Insights. The market researcher’s “ingredients taking the spotlight” trend ranks No.1 for next year, taking over from 2023’s top trend of redefining value.

Innova’s research revealed protein and mushrooms as two of the most up and coming ingredients, with 42% of consumers saying protein is the most important ingredient, and meals featuring mushroom growing 12% year-over-year from 2018 to 2023.

“This may be for reasons of flavor or texture, for example, or other positive associations — not purely because of any better-for-you benefits,” said Lu Ann Williams, global insight director at Innova. “Those associations might echo other well-loved products, snippets picked up from social media or potentially many years of online information on healthy ingredients from ‘superfruits’ to gut-friendly bacteria.”

Sustainability is at the center of Innova’s No.2 trend: nurturing nature. Seventy percent of consumers said sustainability is more important when choosing a product than two years ago, and products that touch on the increased awareness of climate concerns may be able to better differentiate themselves from competitors, Ms. Williams said.

“From regenerative agriculture to farming conditions for livestock, brands that highlight a bond with nature and the environment are achieving cut-through with consumers,” she said. “For example, over the last four years, our analysis found an astonishing 40% annual increase in food and drink products making some sort of water usage claim.”

Interest in water waste has been noted elsewhere, with Whole Foods Market also identifying water conservation as a top trend in 2024.

Personal health benefits also remain an important factor for consumers. Innova’s third trend for 2024, prioritizing prevention, emphasizes products that help shoppers be proactive about maintaining their health and avoiding long-term complications like cardiovascular disease. The trend also underscores an increase in consumers wanting to take personal responsibility for their health.

The No. 4 trend for 2024 blends plant-based formulations and formats with other popular label claims, including familiarity and convenience. For instance, ready meals and sides with plant-based and vegan claims have grown 8% annually since 2020.

“Time-saving ready meals are serving up increasing numbers of popular dishes in alternative vegan or vegetarian versions, such as lentil lasagna,” Ms. Williams said. “There is a clear message coming through to brands and retailers that, while some consumers don’t eat meat at all, many more are happy to eat less of it.”

Rounding out Innova’s top five trends is “local goes global.” Products that merge locally sourced ingredients with global cuisine can capitalize on the 66% of consumers interested in flavors from around the world, though it will be important to strike a balance between the competing elements.

“The end result can combine the opportunity for local pride with the excitement of international dishes,” Ms. Williams said. “This does not replace the popularity of traditional, local menus, but extends them into new domains.”

Source: Innova