Spotlight on the Hottest Food Trends for 2024 November 2023 As 2023 begins to wind down, we are found reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to what is on the horizon in the New Year. It is also that time of year when many food companies and data houses come out with their trend predictions for the upcoming year. We at Lentils.org love deep-diving into the forecasts and expectations of food, operations, and consumers and we are pleased to see so many of the top trends continuing to align with lentils and what they bring to the menu and operations. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) drew on the expertise of more than 1,500 culinary professionals to produce the What’s Hot Culinary Forecast for 2024 including these relevant trends from their Top 10 List: Stuffed vegetables like these Lentil-Stuffed Peppers are a great way to increase consumption of plants in consumer diets.World Stage Soups & Stews – Soups and stews check all of the boxes: often an economical way to diversify the menu, travel well, and track as “healthy”, yet also comforting to consumers. Lentils are most commonly known by consumers as used in soups, stews, and curries and the global lens of this trend is the perfect way to bring consumers along with safe experimentation into new cuisines or to experiment with new flavors. Try a Curried Lentil Soup, African Stew, Chicken Tikka Bunny Chow, Mexican Tortilla Soup, or Tuscan Lentil Stew. International BBQ – BBQ exists but looks very different around the world – from Korean Barbecue to Indian Tandoori, Turkish Kebab to Mexican Barbacoa. Stuffed Vegetables – a great way to increase consumption of plants in consumer diets, while also leveraging safe experimentation into new cuisines. Try Lentil-Stuffed Peppers, Armenian Stuffed Squash, Chile Relleno, or Cabbage Rolls. Other interesting call-outs included root vegetables and birria in the Top Ingredients category, Everything Bagel and Turmeric Ginger within Top Flavors, and Chili Crisp and Tajin within Top Condiments. In Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2024, the state of plant-based foods was a focus with a consumer shift away from complex meat alternatives towards more recognizable whole food plant-based options like lentils and other pulses, mushrooms, walnuts, and tempeh. Sustainability was also showcased through a trend towards water stewardship. Similarly to the NRA’s prediction, complex heat is of interest to consumers, with additions like chili crisp, tajin, and peri peri being popular. Consumers love a condiment with complex heat like Lentil Chili Crisp.Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends for 2024 highlights four main themes for the upcoming year: Trust the Process – which highlights the consumers’ skepticism about processed foods. Similar to Whole Foods, Mintel is seeing consumers open their eyes to whole food plant-based options like lentils as a less processed alternative to plant-based meat analogues when searching for protein options from plants. Age Reframed – this trend showcases Boomers and Gen-X’s focus on healthy aging. These generations represent a large cohort of consumer spending and are looking to age gracefully with focuses on physical health, but also mental health and sleep and can underscore the importance of functional foods, fiber, and more. Climate Changes, Comfort Endures – while climate and sustainability are still important to consumers and how they make decisions around food, that is not without the ongoing need and desire for the feeling of comfort from their food. Eating, Optimized – the need for convenience remains strong for consumers and foodservice operators alike. Foods and ingredients that have short prep times, are easy to prepare, utilize pantry staples, and emphasize cross-utilization are of utmost interest. Dishes like our Curried Mac & Cheese bring the appeal of newstalgia to consumers looking for classics with an updated twist.The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Food Technology Magazine’s Outlook 2024: Flavor Trends highlighted similar trends including a desire for health of the body, mind, spirit, and planet. Here a desire for whole food plant-based and plant-forward options; a focus on protein, fiber and satiety; gut health; mental acuity; and flavorful wellness were noted. The report also highlighted consumers’ perception of healthy is often dictated by flavor – flavors like fruits, ginger, lemongrass, and turmeric can increase the healthful perception of a dish with consumers. Cross-Cultural Communion was another trend highlighted in the report, which represents new takes on international flavors, or the creation of new dishes and flavor combinations inspired by more than one culture. Regional cuisines like Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Mexico City; Caribbean cuisine including Puerto Rico, Curacao, and Trinidad and Tobago; and exotic global cuisines like Ethiopian, Serbian, Moroccan, and Korean are also ones to watch for 2024. Newstalgia Mashups, the idea of taking classic nostalgic dishes or flavors and giving them an updated twist, continues to influence flavor trends and product and recipe development – like this Indian Mac & Cheese, or these African Stew Loaded Fries. Similarly, Nourish Food Marketing’s 2024 Trend Report found many commonalities – within their High and Dry trend they showcase the attention on water scarcity as a natural resource, underscoring the importance of low or no irrigation crops like lentils. Their Putting the “Plant” Back in “Plant-Based” trend highlights the consumer’s desire towards more whole food plant-based offerings, or blending plant and animal protein together as a more universally attractive means to eating more plants, as well as leveraging global cuisine within those dishes to drive interest. Farming Goes Back to the Future also showcases the need to increase biodiversity, pointing to Unilever’s Future 50 Foods list which indicates foods that the world would benefit from growing more and consuming more of, including lentils and other pulse crops like faba beans and other dry edible beans.Finally in Datassential’s 2024 Food Trends report, Trend Comebacks was featured with the same nod to the idea of newstalgia being of interest to consumers. Focusing on the Golden Age through similar ideas around healthful aging was also highlighted. A renewed focus on Europe was also prominent, with Datassential’s European 2.0 trend where French, Greek, Mediterranean, Italian, and Spanish cuisines were highlighted including global mash-ups like English/Indian dishes trending for 2024. In closing, consumers are looking for more from their food – with trends like health, sustainability, and global influence rising to the top for the past several years. It is clear that taste, influenced by global cuisine, will entice consumers to dine at restaurants and experiment with new foods, dishes, and menu items, all while ensuring that ingredients used are doing something positive for both people and the planet. For help or inspiration in translating these trends onto your menu, reach out to our team for a one-on-one innovation session by contacting email@example.com.