The Next Big Thing in Food: Health, Sustainability, and Human-Centric Innovations at the Food Innovate Summit 2024

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Senior Director of Research

Visionaries from across the globe recently converged in Atlanta to shape the future of food. From tantalizing taste experiences to groundbreaking sustainability initiatives, the summit unveiled a tapestry of trends that promise to redefine how we nourish ourselves in the years ahead.

In this blog post, we’re dishing out the juiciest highlights from the event, sprinkled with ethnographic insights to help us gauge how these trends align with consumers’ beliefs and cultural expectations to ensure that we have a truly human-centric understanding of the future of food.

Unveiling health and wellness

One theme resonated louder than the rest: Health and wellness. It wasn’t just about calorie counts or fad diets; food innovators are focused on a holistic exploration of how food impacts our bodies, minds, and spirits. Discussions delved into enhancing the allure of “better for you” options, harnessing the power of functional ingredients, and reimagining aging powerfully through personalized nutrition.

In the quest for health, consumers are no longer content with one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, they seek personalized paths to well-being that align with their unique lifestyles and dietary needs. This anthropological insight unveils a shift toward a more nuanced understanding of nutrition, where individual journeys take precedence over generic trends. And food innovators are paying attention. For example, PepsiCo’s Advanced Personalization Ideation Center is at the forefront of this trend with a commitment to supporting consumers’ health and wellness journey with new personalized products. This approach is in line with consumers’ quest for individualized wellness through food.

Consumers are also increasingly focused on the mental and emotional benefits of healthy eating, not just the physical ones, indicating a deeper, more holistic understanding of well-being. They believe that when they eat better, they see physical benefits and feel mentally clearer and more balanced. They view this interconnected approach to nourishment as a form of self-care that helps them feel good inside and out. 

These consumers are looking for effective functional ingredients to help with mood management, whether it be for relaxation or improved cognition and mental clarity. Kin Euphorics is responding to consumer demand with a line of functional beverages designed to help consumers elevate their mood and have more energy as well as  to offer an alternative to alcohol. They are even featured in Target’s nonalcoholic drinks section. But the challenge for brands like Kin is maintaining a sense of authenticity as the trend continues moving into the mainstream. Not surprisingly, consumers also seek beverages with authentic and diverse flavors and prefer natural ingredients without compromising on taste when it comes to functional food and beverages. 

Achieving sustainable futures: From farm to table

Sustainability emerged as a guiding principle weaving through the fabric of food innovation. From small startups to corporate giants, the industry is rallying behind regenerative practices that nourish both people and the planet.  

Yet, the path to sustainability is fraught with challenges, as we navigate the delicate balance between progress and preservation. Anthropology offers a lens through which we can decipher consumers’ deep-seated connection to farming and the environment. For consumers, sustainable agriculture isn’t just about food — it’s also a testament to our stewardship of the earth and a commitment to future generations. Consumers view methods like regenerative, vertical, and organic farming as revolutionary paradigms that could shape the future of food provision within a construct of ethical and ecological consciousness. 

Amid the sea of innovation, one challenge looms like a proverbial iceberg: bridging the gap between consumers and sustainable initiatives. Pioneering regenerative agriculture programs hold immense promise and are appealing to consumers, yet their impact hinges on effective communication. By weaving narratives that spotlight real farmers and the transformative power of sustainable practices, companies can forge deeper connections with consumers.

Into the future

As we navigate the evolving landscape of food trends, one thing remains clear: The journey to a healthier, more sustainable future is a collective endeavor. By embracing cultural insights and human-centric approaches, we can unlock the full potential of food innovation and nourish both body and soul.

Hungry for more? Check out these Lux resources:

For more insight on how consumers are approaching mental health and food, click here. To learn more about consumers’ expectations for “better for you” baked goods, click here.

For the Lux Take on functional ingredients, click here, and for the Lux Take on general wellness management, click here.

For more information on consumers’ expectations for packaging waste reduction, click here, and find out what consumers expect from sustainable convenience foods here. For the Lux Take on plastic waste recycling, click here, and for more on the technological readiness to scale regenerative agriculture, click here.

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