Talking Trends with Research Chefs

At the recent Research Chefs Association (RCA) Trends Webinar - Chicago Edition, we were lucky enough to be included on the panel. S/B and two other food-obsessed companies—ofi and Creative Food Solutions—laid out how we think things are going to go in the food production industry in 2024 and why. There were some commonalities in the predictions: the snackification of everything is on the rise, global flavors are still all the rage and everyone acknowledges the role social media is playing in shaping food trends. But we at S/B believe a little stronger than most that it’s not just broadly defined “social media” doing the shaping, but influencers specifically who will be telling consumers what to eat and drink this year.

S/B’s Sarah Curry and Quynh Leahy kicked off the discussion with their presentation: Connecting with Foodies—Five Up and Coming Trends in Food As Told Through Influencers.

RCA Trends Slide4

These are the top five trends we believe will be telling the story of 2024:

#1 Holistic Self Care

Consumers are increasingly looking for food and beverages that help them feel better in the head and the body. So-called functional food and drinks.

#2 Ethical Eating

Rather than making all-or-nothing changes, folks are making practical, small swaps to reduce their environmental impact through their food.

#3 Little Luxuries

Paying a little more for a little more indulgence is becoming more and more common.

#4 Accessible Global Flavors

Influencers are driving new flavors from social feeds to grocery store shelves at warp speed, accelerating traditional R&D exponentially.

#5 High/Low Eating Experiences

From gastronomic adventures to #girldinner, people are playing with their food.

Each trend was followed by a takeaway that attendees could utilize in their product development or marketing strategy. And all of it was bundled into a handy downloadable for reference later (which you can get right here).

Next up was Jill Houk, chef & director of culinary for ofi, a natural ingredient supplier specializing in cocoa, coffee, edible nuts, dairy and spices. She explained the forces behind the “snackification” sensation. It’s not just that smaller portion sizes are cuter. Hybrid work schedules have us running back and forth to the office, kids and errands have us running around town. Many of us just don’t have time to eat a sit-down meal and are grabbing snacks instead. Higher food costs in general are encouraging smaller portions, and even new weight loss drugs are reducing appetites and the desire for full meals.

Aliza Katz brought it all home with her tales of AI triumph and woe. In her duties as vice president of culinary innovation for Creative Food Solutions, she’s been experimenting with the image capabilities of AI and finding it both useful and lacking. The positives are its ability to scale and its cost efficiency; the negatives are the lack of quality, always having to worry if the work is plagiarized, and AI images still missing that “special something” of human photographers and designers.

Then Aliza put the cherry on top when she illustrated just how popular Korean cuisine is becoming thanks to the global fascination with K-pop. Fun Fact: The U.S. is forecasted to become the world’s largest buyer of Korean kimchi in the next few years.

All in all, it was a wonderful discussion on the trends we’re all thinking will influence 2024. How’s your Influencer Program, btw? Drop Sarah (she’s our social media director) or Quynh (our superstar account supervisor) a line if you need us to build an influencer strategy that makes sense for your brand.

See the whole S/B trends deck right here.