2023 Fads, Trends & Breakthroughs

Every year, we see a lot of food trend reports that offer insights into how consumers are behaving and tips for what brands should focus on as they plan for the future. While it's necessary to keep an eye on what is driving demand in the market, it’s important to understand when and how to activate these trends.

  • Consumer Insights & Trends
  • Strategy
by Kaela Napier
January 4, 2023

When are consumers displaying a behavior that warrants a full-time listing, an investment in technology, or a seasonal experience? 

When planning your marketing strategy and product innovation, you need to weigh the influence trends will have on your buyers and consumers and what changes will drive sales. Let's start by looking at a new way of categorizing these insights by breaking them down by fadstrends, and breakthroughs. Many can benefit your business, but the key is knowing when to make the right moves.

So, what’s the difference?


fad is essentially a short-term surge in demand and a spike of shared interest. Consumers hear about a new flavor profile or superfood ingredient and are motivated to try it. We see fads grow through word of mouth, social experiments going viral, celebrity endorsements, and POS in stores, etc. Some examples of this are mushroom products, nostalgia snacks, sweet & spicy ("swicy") flavors - even butter boards. Watching people in your neighborhood play Pokémon Go was a great example of a fad. Most fads are short-term, so take advantage of them in communication or campaigns, through a line extension of a flavor, or seasonal programs / sponsorship.

Innovation catalyzed by fads can lead consumers to trial your product, add to their basket size, and/or bring awareness to your brand of a new audience. Use a minimum investment through your marketing budget and not a major capital expense.


trend is indicated by longer-term behavioral and demand changes in the market. Trends typically arise from new research, studies, or revelations that begin to permeate society and shift eating patterns or perceptions. The new attack on refined sugar has come through new studies on fat, obesity and diabetes, and the effects of a high sugar diet. There was a time when smoking was considered "healthy" until research and studies proved otherwise, and the tobacco industry started to fall fast in countries that educated consumers to the fact. 

The understanding of and new insights on the importance of gut-health has led to the rise of fermented products like kombucha, sourdough, and fermented ingredients.  Climate change, environmental sensitivities, and research on the negative effects of heavy animal-based diets has led to the explosion of plant-based foods, vegan, vegetarian diets and "cruelty free" options.

"Cruelty-free" search interest has increased by over 375% during the past 10 years.
[Data via Exploding Topics]

Research on the effects of alcohol (physical, emotional, societal) is leading to the rise of zero-proof drinks and the growth of the non-alcoholic category. Trends have the power to create new segments, support new SKUs, flavors and formats, or even create a need to overhaul the core portfolio.

Trends can provide an effective opportunity for expansion or a risk to be left behind. Often these decisions will require capital expenses in new equipment or manufacturing capabilities, or a perception shift on what your current brand stands for. Leverage your core brand and consider the use of sub-brands to focus on the benefit consumers are seeking and ensure the innovation or trend fits. 


breakthrough is a longer-term consumer shift or change that is created from the discovery or launch of new technology. Breakthroughs can change how consumers shop, consume your product, or how you manufacture it. They require a significant capital investment and organizations with the most vision, foresight and appetite for risk will be the ones to go for it. For example, when Coke moved from glass to plastic bottles - it was a huge investment, but it changed how people transported and consumed soda. Another example is the rise of eCommerce and smart phones. They changed the way consumers shop, are educated about products, and how they communicate with each other and with brands. 

Smaller breakthroughs we see on the horizon include consumable/dissolvable packaging, ghost kitchens for the QSR industry to serve the rise of food delivery apps, and upcycled ingredients (ex., non-dairy milk pulp). Carbon neutrality or net zero (offsetting carbon emissions through the production process) is one trend that will become a breakthrough now that it's being legislated in some regions and more widely understood by consumers.

Larger breakthroughs in how food is made are taking big strides through vertical farms and cellular agriculture. Imagine when your steak is made in a lab, and it will still be delicious and less expensive. Once a breakthrough occurs, very rarely, does behavior or change ever go back.  

Fads in 2023

#1 - Ingredients

Grocery giant Whole Foods projects that in 2023 more consumers will be looking for products with yaupon (a caffeinated plant), dates, kelp, and avocado oil.

Yaupon is a holly species found in North America. Indigenous people traditionally used it to make a caffeinated infusion.
Search interest is up +34% over the past 5 years. [Data via Exploding Topics]

While the demand for these may see an uptick as a result of social awareness, product innovation, and consumer education, it's unlikely these will become staple ingredients outside of niche products in the long-term. But rise the wave while you can, to gain trial and shelf-space. 

#2 - Flavors

Global flavors, the entrance of new combinations (sweet & spicy), and some of the nostalgic flavors of our childhood. These fads are quick hits that can induce trial but will likely not become a staple for consumers. If you choose to introduce a fad flavor, make sure to gauge your investment with market research and store testing. Start small and see how the market responds before scaling production. It could be more beneficial to offer it as a seasonal or a limited-edition product.​

Trends in 2023

Consumers are smart and educated and increasingly want products that meet their newfound identity and insight. This means, health, function and environmental care is key. Some of the trends that were big in 2022 that will continue to grow in 2023 are:

#1 - Zero-proof alcohol

As more consumers choose sobriety & mindful consumption, this category is skyrocketing. Non-alcoholic beer, spirits & pre-mixed drinks are becoming more commonplace, and as we have seen in the alcohol category, there is a lot of room in the celebration market. 

#2 - No sugar

Sugar is the new enemy and there are a lot of new entrants and large companies that want to take advantage of this trend. We're starting to see less "KETO" and more focus on "no sugar or low sugar" as the key claim.  ​

#3 - Plant-based

As consumers become increasingly health-and-environment conscious, and the needs of our planet continue to grow, more prime shelf real estate is being taken over by plant-based alternatives.​

#4 - Functional foods

Consumers are continuing to ask their food to do more for them. They’re looking for help sleeping, reducing stress, promoting relaxation & bolstering their gut health through deliciously functional foods, like adaptogen sodas.

#5 - Convenience

Convenience will not get old, however, the 'how' of convenience will continue to be challenged. Consumers want food prep to be easier, on-the-go snacks to be more adventurous, and prepared meals to be more complex, fresher tasting, and affordable compared to the alternatives. The format will also be important with a rise in 'compostable' and 'less plastic' claims.

Breakthroughs in 2023

New technology, bold ideas, and taking risks are leading to some of the breakthroughs we are seeing as we move into 2023:

#1 - Consumable & smart packaging

Consumable or dissolvable packaging made from seaweed instead of plastic is making an entry.

Smart packaging technology with the use of QR codes, Near-Field Chip (NFC), and smart labels are offering brands new ways to improve the product experience and engage with consumers. 

#2 - Vertical & regenerative farming

With the conversation on climate change in the forefront of everyone’s minds, regenerative farming is big and it’s changing the way we think about our food, from the ground up.  With the potential of regenerative agriculture (and aquaculture) to naturally combat the climate crisis and food sovereignty – this breakthrough will excite consumers for years to come. 

#3 - Cellular agriculture

The field of growing animal products directly from cell cultures is in its infancy stage, but it's growing. With the price of food increasing, growing legislation to reduce livestock farming, better resource management including water – lower impact and (one day) lower cost meat options will be high in demand. But we'll need to get the taste right, ensure safety, and make it feel more familiar if it's going to truly take root.

Every organization should take advantage of fads, trends, and breakthroughs within their strategy. Conducting regular consumer research to stay up to date and to evaluate these decisions is critical. There will be both short-term and long-term investments, but the key here is to act and not be left behind.

If you need help in seeing what's next and evaluating courses of action, come talk to us. We'd love to help. 

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