In 2023, consumers are looking for food to do more than provide them with nutrition. The late 2010s were all about macronutrients: think Keto-tastic high fat and super low sugar. But American buyers – particularly younger Millennials and Gen Z-ers – now want more from their food than “just” fuel. They want mental health, well-being, and planetary goodness. They want natural foods that ‘feed’ their microbiomes. They want herbs to increase alertness at work and weight-lifting at the gym. And finally, they want to do all of this while taking good care of the planet because, as is one hot catchphrase: “There is no planet B.”
It’s not just younger consumers who are going ‘beyond the stomach’ regarding nutrition. Baby boomers want foods that will help them stay sharp and focused in their later years, while Gen X wants products that will help them through menopause and keep them fit in retirement. In short, everyone is looking for meaning in their meals.
With that in mind, below are our top three picks for the hottest food and nutritional trends for 2023. You can find our top 7 diet trends of 2022 here.
1. Eat Plant-Powered Proteins
High protein products will remain trendy in 2023, with Atkins-adjacent Keto still influencing what consumers want from a macro-nutritional standpoint. Still, younger consumers are also “super-worried” about their food’s impact on the planet, the ecosystem, and animals. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet is excellent for the environment because it reduces carbon emissions from cattle and is kind to animals. While soy is still a ‘maybe’ food for many, lots of other plant-based proteins will be red-hot in 2023, including pea protein, pumpkin seed protein, almond protein, algae protein, and hemp protein. Plant-based sweeteners, like allulose, monk fruit, and stevia, will also continue to be a major ingredient trend in the new year. At the same time, CPG packaging will take on sustainable, ultra-recyclable, and ‘no waste’ characteristics.
2. Add Adaptogens to Everything
Consumers want their foods to do more than provide fuel for their bodies – they also wish to fuel their minds with what they eat. As such, many of the hottest diet and nutrition brands are infusing everything from protein bars to coffee drinks with adaptogens. Adaptogens are typically slightly ‘exotic’ foods -- like plants, herbs, roots, and spices -- that scientific studies suggest can help humans with their mental well-being. Adaptogens have been used for centuries in ancient Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine, and now they’re widely available in the trendiest products at Whole Foods and Amazon.
While there are dozens of popular adaptogens, three stand out as the most ‘on trend’ right now: Ashwagandha, several difficult-to-pronounce mushroom varieties, and turmeric.
- Ashwagandha is a sprawling plant in the nightshade family, with green flowers that are small and bell-shaped. It is cultivated primarily in India and has been used widely in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries due to its reputed calming influence. Along with CBD from hemp, ashwagandha is the top pick for anyone who wants to ‘chill out' without resorting to something substantially ‘stronger.’
- Mushrooms––like Lions’ Mane and Reishi––are reputed to promote focus and vitality and are often considered a ‘natural’ alternative to uppers like coffee. As a result, these types of mushrooms are extraordinarily in demand amongst baby boomers looking to ‘stay sharp’ in their twilight years and even fend off the risk of mental deterioration.
- Turmeric is derived from the root of a flowering plant that is part of the ginger family. Not only is it used heavily in Indian cuisine, featured in dishes like curries, but in some ancient traditions, turmeric is prescribed by alternative health practitioners for reducing inflammation and relaxing the adrenal (or stress) response.
3. Stay Away from Processed Foods – Especially Anything with Seed Oils or Gluten
Processed foods are a perennial ‘bad guy’ in the food world, but the focus on which foods to avoid processed foods effectively evolves every few years. For the last couple of years, eating a gluten-free diet has been synonymous with being healthy because there’s so much processed wheat in so many typical processed foods that avoiding gluten is an excellent way to stay away from that whole category. This year, as many convenience foods that are ‘gluten-free’ are now developing in unhealthy, highly-processed categories (like pizza), many nutritional experts advise avoiding both gluten and all seed oils. As a category, seed oils are any oil derived from the non-fruit part of a plant, so this includes most ‘bad’ oils that are routinely in everything, such as corn oil, soybean oil, and canola oil. Not only are these found so extensively in processed foods, but they also have a high amount of polyunsaturated fats (or PUFAs), which dietitians have linked to everything from inflammation to diabetes.
Proponents of a seed oil-free diet promote plant-based oils derived from plant fruit, such as avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and other nut oils (particularly if the fat comes from whole crushed nuts). Other options for those avoiding seed oils include animal fats, like butter, tallow, and ghee.
Nutrition trends in 2023 are revolutionary in a ‘retro’ way. Instead of a focus on the number of grams of macronutrients (like precisely 20 grams of protein or ‘no more than’ 5 grams of sugar), consumers are looking for foods with tangible benefits that extend far beyond the plate and into things like mental health and the health of the planet as a whole. As a healthy snack business, it is important to take notice of what health trends consumers are currently into to create products that fit those needs and requirements. If you are unsure where to start, contact YouBar today and we’ll help you get started.