10 big trends in food, nutrition and health for 2024

What are the nutritional trends that shape how we shop and what we eat?

By monitoring sales information, watching the buying habits of global consumers, and being up to date with nutrition innovation and science, New Nutrition Business (NNB) has identified 10 key trends for 2024:

1. Digestive wellness diversifies

For over 30 years, people have been shopping for ‘gut healthy’ foods that support their digestive wellness. Around one in three of us are experiencing a digestive disorder at any one time, according to the World Health Organisation – from everyday bloating through to irritable bowel syndrome.

“Digestion has always been a driver of consumer choices, and demand is likely to keep growing because of the aging population,” says Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business. As you age, intestinal function deteriorates so people’s need for solutions grows as well."

In addition to the still-growing probiotic and fibre trends, the popularity of lactose-free dairy is on the rise, and it is set to soon reach ‘big niche’ status. Lactose-free dairy means people who have avoided dairy because of lactose concerns can go back to enjoying all the natural goodness of milk.

2. Carbs – better and fewer

Consumers are aiming to be more selective about their carbohydrate consumption – they are trying to cut back on back on sugar, soft drinks, bread and pasta, according to NNB surveys. Instead, some people are looking for lower-carb, low-added-sugar options that fit into a healthy lifestyle. Others are choosing higher quality carbohydrates, such as whole grain breads or pasta made with vegetables.

3.  Plants made convenient

Easy-to-eat formats and innovative products are helping people to eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s easier than ever to eat naturally functional foods on the go, which has not only driven the sales of on-the-go fruits and veggies, but also herbs, spices and botanicals.

4.  Animal protein powers on

With the rising cost of living, we’re looking for foods that deliver value for money: delicious, versatile, and nutritious. Animal proteins tick these all boxes, particularly as science keeps revealing more health benefits associated with consuming meat and dairy.

Dairy protein has a natural advantage over plant proteins, due to its superior amino acid profile. Its reputation has been boosted by recent social media attention, for example an Instagram post by global football superstar Erling Haaland, featuring a photograph of him holding two glass bottles of milk, titled “me and my magic potion”. The post was liked more than 4.2 million times! 

Grass fed is a growing sub-category of the animal protein trend, becoming a popular ‘health halo’ claim that has now reached ‘big niche’ status.

“Animal protein has lots of competitive advantages: good taste, versatility, nutrient density, the quantity and quality of protein,” says Mellentin. “The industry is also doing a better job on sustainability, which gives consumers permission to enjoy products like dairy.”

5. Plant protein

Plant proteins are set for years of steady growth, says the NNB report. Nuts are leading the way as a delicious, easy-to-eat and naturally functional plant protein. 

On the flipside, sales of dairy substitutes – plant-based cheeses and yoghurts – have underperformed compared to expectations. These products are no longer a growth opportunity for producers and are destined to remain firmly niche, and even plant-based beverages are struggling. For example, the plant-based beverages market has now plateaued in the US. It fell by volume in 2023.

6. Emergent blood sugar friendly

For many years, managing blood glucose has been an important dietary concern for people dealing with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Now it’s capturing wider interest, as social media drives a fresh awareness of how foods impact our blood sugar and metabolism. 

A growing body of scientific research has linked blood sugar to a broad range of benefits, including weight wellness, better mood, better sleep, hormone health and steady energy levels. Dairy, having a low glycaemic index, is often singled out as a food that produces a healthy blood glucose response, especially whole milk or higher-fat dairy products. 

“When it comes to blood glucose response, dairy has an inbuilt competitive advantage over plant-based beverages,” says Mellentin. “Plus, it’s a high-quality protein, and protein has a near-zero blood glucose response.”

People are now more oriented towards foods that are natural. There is a growing desire for simple, less processed foods that taste fantastic.

Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business

7. Rethinking fat 

In the past, fat was demonised as something to avoid. Now consumers are seeking out healthy fats, encouraged by the new science that has demonstrated its benefits.

“Young consumers are losing their fear of fat,” says Mellentin. “Emerging science is showing that having more quality fats in your diet, from natural sources, seems to be linked to better mental health, it’s linked to better blood sugar and to better hormone health.”

People can now enjoy the taste of full-fat products without feeling guilty, which can be seen in the rising sales of whole milk. In Australia, for example, whole milk made up 71% of dairy milk sales in 2022, up from 60% in 2006/7, and Mellentin believes this is a long-term change. 

8. Mood and mind

In 2024, people are choosing foods that can support a healthy mind as well as a healthy body.

“Anxiety, stress, and sleeplessness have always been part of our lives,” Mellentin says. “The pandemic has only made these worse, particularly for younger consumers. People are looking to food to help them improve their mood and mental wellbeing.” 

Dairy foods are among the top 10 foods people reach for to help them boost their mood and mental wellbeing, according to NNB consumer surveys. Sales of probiotic yogurts, for example, continue to gain momentum – expect to see more probiotic strains arriving on supermarket shelves. 

9. Emergent hormone health

As discussions about hormonal health enter the mainstream, more products are helping consumers reduce hormone-related symptoms such as bloating. Consumers are looking for natural ways to navigate the challenges of menopause or menstrual mood swings, for instance. That means seeking out foods with health benefits they can really feel. 

10. Real food and the UPF challenge

People are moving toward consuming more ‘real’ foods and away from ‘ultra-processed foods’ (or UPFs), which have had a considerable amount of bad press over the past few years.

While definitions vary, under Sao Paolo University’s NOVA classification, pasteurised milk is considered an ‘unprocessed or minimally processed’ food, whereas plant-based beverages are considered ‘ultra-processed’. Cheese, too, outperforms plant-based substitutes on this measure. 

“Plant-based cheese alternatives are an ultra-processed food and the nutritional profile is very poor,” Mellentin adds. “Dairy cheese has a much shorter ingredient list and delivers real nutrition.”

Overall, he says, people are looking for foods they trust, with ingredients they recognise and reliably delicious flavour: “People are now more oriented towards foods that are natural. There is a growing desire for simple, less processed foods that taste fantastic.” 

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