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What Are the Top Specialty Food Trends for 2023?

SFA's Trendspotter Panel makes its predictions
Emily Crowe, Progressive Grocer
Environmentally friendly foods and international fruits are expected to make waves in 2023.

The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) Trendspotter Panel has been busy making its food trend predictions for the coming year. The nine trends identified range from a desire for convenience and environmentally friendly food to balanced health and nuanced heat, and those still en vogue for 2023 include foods from Africa, cocktail culture and cleaner, broader plant-based products.

When it comes to convenience, home cooks with an eye toward restaurant-quality meals are looking for easy solutions without a high price tag. “The coming year will pave the way for curated meal kits with specialty foods that one can make and serve at home without sacrificing authenticity, convenience, and taste,” said Trendspotter Panel member and Institute of Food Technologists fellow Kantha Shelke.

[Read more: "Younger, Mindful Consumers Driving Specialty Food Interest"]

Environmentally friendly foods, including alternative seafood, will help sustainability-minded consumers keep an eye toward the environment when making specialty product choices. Ingredients like mushrooms, seaweed and jackfruit are being made into different products, and pasta has also seen innovation with black rice, pumpkin, red lentils, lupini and purple carrots. Companies will increasingly focus on regenerative agriculture, more localized and biodynamic food systems, carbon farming, and indigenous farming practices.

A balance between health and indulgence will be on the menu in 2023, and “better-for-you snacks like dehydrated vegetables or mushroom chips [will] continue to dominate,” said panel member Lindsay Leopold. Global inspiration is also expected to hit the pantry next year, with globally inspired condiments, sauces, oils and seasonings with West African shito sauce, Mexican salsa macha, Spanish romesco, Indian achaar and more flavoring them.

Nuanced heat is of particular interest for today’s consumers, according to the panel. “What began in the hot sauce category is exploding into honey, spreads, confections, beverages, and snacks, snagging new markets like younger consumers, especially, and inspiring specialty food companies to introduce heat and spice into existing product lines,” said panel member Mikel Cirkus.

Natural, alternative sweeteners are poised to make strides in 2023, including pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, fruit juices and honey. International fruits and innovative new packaging are also expected to be top of mind for manufacturers and consumers.

“Specialty food consumers are looking to make their meal prep easy but exciting and that is driving many of this year’s trends regarding convenience, packaging improvements, and global flavors,” said Denise Purcell, VP of resource development at New York-based SFA. “At the same time, they continue to care about how their food is grown and the health benefits it offers, giving rise to evolving sustainability, plant-based, and better-for-you trends.”

The leading trade association and source of information about the $175 billion specialty food industry for 70 years, the SFA represents manufacturers, importers, retailers, distributors, brokers, and others in the trade.

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