WASHINGTON — Functional formulations, plant-based proteins and label transparency will be some of the key trends influencing the food and beverage industry in 2024, according to the annual trends prediction from the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

Consumers have become increasingly conscientious of the impact their dietary habits have on their mental health, with IFIC’s 2023 Food & Health Survey reporting nearly 75% of Americans believe the foods and beverages they choose have a significant or moderate impact on their mental and emotional wellness. As a result, shoppers in 2024 are expected to reach for products that can offer sleep benefits, stress reduction and mood support. IFIC also expects to see an uptick of beverage offerings with botanical ingredients in the market, particularly teas and seltzers, along with prebiotic and probiotic inclusions for gut health.

"The belief that the food we eat directly influences not only our physical but also our emotional and mental well-being continues to gain traction, prompting a paradigm shift in the way we’re eating and what we’re placing in our shopping carts,” said Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, RD, MSN, chief executive officer of IFIC.

Protein-fortified products will make greater use of plant proteins in their formulations this year, including rice, pasta, baking mixes and snack foods. The IFIC forecasts that plant-based seafood innovations will take the spotlight, such as Konscious Foods’ sushi rolls and mushroom onigiri.

“We’ve seen an uptick in interest around protein-rich diets, and consumers are interested in boosting this nutrient any way they can — even the unconventional,” said Alyssa Pike, RD, senior manager of nutrition communications at IFIC.

Fusion cuisines that draw from and blend various American flavors and identities, dubbed “third-culture” cuisines, are also one of this year’s key trends. Dishes featuring monosodium glutamate (MSG) also may be on the rise as chefs and manufacturers are utilizing MSG for its umami flavor profile and sodium reduction benefits.

“MSG has been unfairly demonized for far too long,” said Tony Flood, senior director of food ingredient communications at IFIC. “We’re predicting consumers will continue to reevaluate its place in the kitchen, especially those looking to reduce sodium while maintaining flavor.”

Consumers additionally will be seeking increased label transparency from manufacturers. Data from FMI-The Food Industry Association and NIQ in 2023 found that 76% of grocery shoppers say transparency is important, an increase of 7% since 2018, and labels that communicate healthfulness may resonate especially well with consumers. IFIC notes trending label claims will include “clean,” “cold-pressed” and “fermented.”

“Front-of-package nutrition labeling will be a major focus in 2024 as US food regulators roll out a new labeling proposal to help shoppers make easier, quicker and healthier food decisions,” said Kris Sollid, RD, senior director of nutrition communications at IFIC.