Sustainable Food Trends for the Year Ahead: A Dietitian’s Predictions

The growing influence of sustainability on food choices and purchases is a trend that is here to stay. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair, affordable, nutrient-dense, safe, and overall healthy (FAO, 2010). Sustainability has become pivotal in reshaping consumer culinary preferences and consumption patterns. As a dietitian and food trends expert, I have witnessed the profound impact of these principles on our culinary landscape.

Woman shopping for bulk food ingredients
Photo by Anna Tarazevich

What Happened in 2023?

Packaging Alternatives: Sustainability-conscious consumers have been increasingly prioritizing eco-friendly and sustainable packaging options. In 2023, this inclination witnessed a substantial upsurge, with 82 percent of consumers expressing their willingness to invest more in sustainable packaging solutions (Alverson, 2023). Among the noteworthy players in the sustainable packaging arena is Xampla. They specialize in plastic-free solutions for films, coatings, and microcapsules made with plant-based materials that biodegrade in less than a month. 

Algae-based products: The worldwide market for algae products expanded from $12.12 billion in 2022 to $13.19 billion in 2023, reflecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.9% (PR Newswire, 2023).  These aquatic organisms are classified as superfoods primarily because they boast a diverse range of vitamins, encompassing provitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, and E, in addition to folic acid, niacin, and pantothenic acid (Wu et al., 2023). Furthermore, algae are rich in fiber, essential fatty acids, and vital minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, all accompanied by potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. What truly distinguishes algae-based products is their remarkable sustainability. Algae require minimal resources to cultivate, thrive in diverse environments, and contribute to carbon capture, aligning perfectly with the growing demand for eco-friendly food choices (Diaz et al., 2023). The most common forms of edible algae include nori, chlorella, spirulina, dulse, sea moss, and kelp. As we look ahead, the trend of algae-based products promises to enhance our nutrition and contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible food industry.

Upcycled Ingredients: Upcycled ingredients have emerged as a flavorful, environmentally responsible, and innovative solution to tackle food waste effectively. These ingredients are now being incorporated into various food products, simultaneously reducing waste and introducing unique flavors and textures. During a recent encounter, I had the pleasure of meeting Adam Kaye, previous chef and culinary director at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and now co-founder of Spare Food with his brother Jeremy, at a product launch event. Spare Food specializes in upcycling “edible surplus,” which they refer to as food and ingredients that remain safe for human consumption but would otherwise go to waste. One of their notable creations is Spare Tonic, a mild and effervescent functional beverage crafted from fermented whey sourced from yogurt manufacturers in the Northeast. This probiotic sparkling beverage boasts a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and has naturally occurring electrolytes, making it an excellent post-workout option. Furthermore, it is an abundant provider of essential nutrients, including Vitamins B6 and B12, along with noteworthy potassium, calcium, and magnesium levels (Spare Food, 2023). In addition to its healthful composition, Spare Tonic maintains simplicity with only two primary ingredients: whey and honey, enhanced by genuine juice flavors like organic passionfruit and yuzu juice. Whether savored in its pure form or as a versatile component in alcoholic and non-alcoholic concoctions, this is one of my favorite probiotic beverages. Spare Food exemplifies the core principles of sustainability and delectable functionality, and it will likely grow in size and popularity for years to come. 

Predicted Trends for 2024

Reducetarian Movement: The reducetarian movement has witnessed a significant surge, signaling a noteworthy societal shift towards mindful and balanced dietary practices. Anchored in the philosophy of moderation, reducetarians adopt an approach aimed at reducing their consumption of meat and animal-based products without eliminating them from their daily meals. This dietary shift promotes personal well-being by encouraging the incorporation of more plant-based foods and carries ecological benefits by reducing the carbon footprint commonly associated with meat production. While this movement may not be groundbreaking, its impact on the food industry is undeniably discernible, albeit accompanied by its unique challenges. The partnership between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Beyond Meat in 2019, which introduced plant-based fried chicken to their menu, exemplifies the industry’s response to this evolving trend. However, it is worth highlighting that this plant-based offering has been removed from the menu as of this year. In their 2023 third-quarter financial report, Beyond Meat reported a decrease in net revenues by 8.7%, falling to $75.3 million compared to $82.5 million in the same period the previous year (Beyond Meat, 2023). This financial adjustment hints at a potential transformation in consumer preferences, indicating a shift away from merely substituting plant-based alternatives for traditional meat. Instead, consumers appear to be gravitating towards a desire for a more substantial integration of vegetables, fruits, and legumes into their daily dietary routines. This change in consumer choices reflects a growing awareness of the importance of whole, unprocessed foods taking a prominent role in our diets.


Culinary Upcycling: Culinary upcycling, though not entirely new, has made a strong comeback, making its way into restaurant kitchens and grocery store offerings. This trend represents a shift in dealing with less-than-perfect or excess fruits and vegetables, giving these ingredients a new lease on life through innovative and eco-friendly culinary creations. Restaurants, in particular, have embraced upcycling, turning often overlooked ingredients into standout dishes and drinks that reduce waste and please their customers’ palates. Three key themes have emerged within culinary upcycling: Root-to-Stem Cooking: Chefs are now skilled at using the entire vegetable, from root to stem. This means creating dishes like broccoli stem slaw or using beet greens in flavorful pestos, showcasing a more sustainable approach to cooking. Beverage Alchemy: Mixologists are reimagining ingredients that might have been discarded, transforming them into intriguing drinks. Citrus peels become zesty syrups, herb stems infuse unique flavors into beverages, and overripe fruits find new life as revitalizing purees, ushering in a wave of sustainable mixology. Repurposing Bread: Stale bread and pastries, once destined for the trash, are now getting a second chance. They are turned into delectable bread puddings, savory croutons, and hearty bread-based soups, highlighting the art of culinary reinvention. Culinary upcycling reduces food waste and taps into the growing demand for sustainable, eco-friendly food options. It is a win-win for both your bottom line and the planet.

Transparent and Clean Labels: The shift towards clean labels is not solely a matter of ethics but a pathway to profitability. Consumers are becoming increasingly discerning, carefully dissecting ingredient lists in search of products with straightforward, comprehensible components and minimal additives. Look at the success stories of industry giants like McDonald’s, Panera Bread, and Patagonia. They have harnessed the power of transparency in their marketing efforts, and the results speak for themselves (Alida, 2016). When consumers see a clean label and transparent marketing, they see a brand that’s not hiding anything but values their well-being. In a world of choices, trust is the currency that can set one company apart as this movement gains momentum.

In the ever-evolving world of food, one thing is abundantly clear: consumers seek more than just delightful flavors; they crave sustainability. The trends that have shaped the culinary landscape in 2023 are not mere passing fads but guiding lights leading us toward a future where responsible and sustainable food choices are the norm. As we enter 2024, food companies and consumers must embrace sustainability wholeheartedly. These trends empower consumers to make informed, conscious choices about what they eat, how it is sourced, and how it affects our world. So, let us raise our forks to 2024 and beyond, where every bite can be a step towards a better future for our health and the environment.

Jasmin Ilkay is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She helps healthy and sustainable food and beverage businesses connect with their consumers. 

Works Cited

Alida, (2016). 5 Brands That Used Transparency In Marketing and Won. Retrieved January 2023 from

Alverson, Chloe. (2023). The Best Beverage Packages of 2023. Retrieved January 2023 from

AYTM. (2024). Food for thought: Insights on Sustainability. Retrieved January 2023 from:

Beyond Meat. (2023). Beyond Meat Reports Third Quarter 2023 Financial Results. Retrieved January 2023 from,in%20volume%20of%20products%20sold.

Diaz, Crisanda, et al. Developing Algae as a Sustainable Food Source. Retrieved January 2023 from 

Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO]. (2010). Sustainable diets and biodiversity. [PDF]. Retrieved January 2023 from

La Forge, Tiffany. The Top 25 Food Trends For 2024. Retrieved January 2024 from

PR Newswire. (2023). Algae Products Global Market Report 2023. Retrieved January 2023 from

Spare Food. (2023, January 11). Spare Tonic Passion Fruit and Yuzu. Retrieved January from

Wu, J. Y., Tso, R., Teo, H. S., & Haldar, S. (2023). The utility of algae as sources of high-value nutritional ingredients, particularly for alternative/complementary proteins to improve human health. Frontiers in nutrition, 10, 1277343.

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