Food Trends on Fire 

Agriculture and food industry workers have seen a lot in the last few years. The food chain has demonstrated unexpected resilience in the face of a global pandemic, geopolitical conflicts, and climate-related challenges like drought and wildfires. This resilience is excellent news for the global population that relies on the food supply chain to meet nutrition needs. 

While the last few years have been challenging, everyone along the chain – from farmers to groceries and financiers – have a huge opportunity to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the food chain for the future. Building on the resiliency of today’s food chain, leadership, and innovation in the industry can drive towards an outstanding future. And it’s needed! 

According to Hadar Sutovsky, Vice President of External Innovation at ICL, the global food system needs to reinvent itself in the next 30 years to produce 50% more food, reduce malnutrition for 2.5 billion people, and cut approximately 13 gigatons of carbon emissions. While this task may sound daunting, it’s not impossible. As a global leader in finding solutions for food supply sustainability, ICL aims to share insights on food tech trends in 2023 that could enhance innovative food technology and promote market growth in the near future.

As the global population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, it’s crucial to closely monitor food trends and develop innovative food tech solutions that can efficiently and affordably increase food availability while reducing waste. A practical and sustainable approach will require a fresh perspective on food production, nutrition, and addressing environmental and social concerns. We must explore new and expanded approaches to these issues to meet the growing demand for food in the future.

Trend #1: Sustainable food production

Sustainability in agriculture means turning to production practices that protect public health, the environment, and all participants in agriculture – including livestock. There is much room for innovation in sustainable food production – so much so that it requires discussion in several different areas. From the way food is grown to where it’s grown to how the people growing it are treated, sustainability is a multi-factor topic. Add on top of that the many considerations of environmental sustainability, circularity and regeneration, and social sustainability, it’s no wonder that sustainability is one of a few top food tech trends for 2023. 

Innovative food technology and production practices

Traditionally, we’ve relied on mechanical or genetic means to increase crop yields. However, future food tech innovations will focus on agtech solutions that use digital technology, such as automation and precision farming. These methods will enable us to monitor growth patterns and adjust inputs to match crop needs, reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

New growing techniques can also refer to where plants are grown. We see the industry trending forwards toward localized urban farming, regenerative aquaculture,and hydroponics because they require less water, soil, and space than traditional field farming. One example is the efforts towards environmentally-friendly aquaculture through AI and machine learning. These technologies support sustainable production at scale, all while protecting critical natural resources like the ocean and kelp forests. 

Sustainability in food tech also encompasses the human aspect of the food chain. Consumers are increasingly demanding fair trade practices that pay workers a living wage and prioritize long-term trade relationships to ensure the sustainability of the human component of the food chain.

Circular Economies Sustain the Environment 

A key part of sustainability is protecting the environment to ensure it’s healthy enough to sustain future generations. The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as fulfilling present needs without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. To achieve this, many suggest a circular economy minimizes the accumulation of waste. 

Circular economies are based on the principles of eliminating waste, circulating products and materials, and regenerating natural resources. This represents the ultimate view of sustainability – even pushing towards a society functioning wholly on renewable energy. This is a new, resilient phase of life for businesses, people, and the environment. 

Eliminating waste and pollution will require addressing the more than 11 billion tons of solid waste that are created and collected annually. Waste is a massive source of methane emissions, making the prevention of waste accumulation even more important. In 2022, it’s estimated that 20% of methane emissions worldwide stemmed from waste. 

Circularity and product material regeneration refer to recycling. Any non-reusable biodegradable products can be composted to recirculate into the economy. Recycling can also refer to sharing of resources, such as a community garden in which participants follow sustainability guidelines that ensure productivity that has far-reaching implications. Recycling can be supported by improved designs that make the process easy – such as biodegradable takeaway containers. 

Social Sustainability Supports the Community 

Many consumers today are concerned with the processes and companies that are involved in food production. They’re interested in ensuring food chains are inclusive, workers are treated fairly, and animals receive proper care. Of particular importance is a demonstration of sustainable and conscious resource management to minimize environmental impacts. Developments along the food chain are enabling additional transparency and increased trust between customers and the agri-food industry. 

Trend #2: Plant-Based Protein Development Rises

As far as food tech trends go, plant-based protein is a key development. Addressing the growing global population and reduction in agriculture-ready resources means turning to alternatives that meet customer needs in a cost-effective and sustainable way. These convenient food tech solutions support consumers who are conscious about their choices. 

For consumers that support flexitarian approaches to a resilient food system, plant based protein development allows them to meet sustainable nutrition needs without giving up what they love about meat: quality, mouthfeel, and flavor. Flexitarian diets allow consumers to balance animal-based protein consumption with plant-based proteins that support environmental sustainability. 

As the industry trends towards plant-based protein food tech, consumers can choose between plant-based meats and cultured meats. By 2030, plant-based meat could make up 6% of the worldwide meat industry. 

Plant-based meats 

The thriving meat alternative market can turn towards plant-based protein developments to encourage consumers to turn away from traditional meats. This innovative food technology is expected to deliver comparable or additional protein as compared to animal-based meat. These plant-based meats can be altered by yeast, fungi, and bacteria to keep them vegan-friendly. Nuts, peas, jackfruit, and other high-protein crops can meet nutritional needs without requiring animal implications. 

Given the consumer and environmental demand, companies continue to invest in plant-based protein development. There’s no sign of slowing down. In fact, this food tech trend is fueling the global health and wellness food market. 

Cultured and printed meats 

If jackfruit doesn’t sound appetizing, perhaps petri dish-grown, genetically identical cultured meat is the answer. Innovative food technology is still new to the market, but in 2022, the US FDA approved cultured meat for sale. 

Beyond the petri dish, there’s also the opportunity for meat to be 3D-printed. Barcelona-based startup NovaMeat created the world’s first 3D-printed meat that feels like fibrous animal-based protein. That was the start of something new – and now, many companies are onto the plant-based meat market. 

Trend #3: Focus on Health 

Speaking of plant-based protein – another key food tech trend points to why consumers are so interested in alternative meats. More than ever, consumers are concerned with being healthy in a holistic way. 

Emotional, mental, and physical well-being are on the minds of many – and they’re interconnected. This interest shows in the market. The worldwide health and wellness food market is anticipated to reach nearly 1.4 billion by 2030, driven by the increasing adoption of healthy eating habits. This means considering alternatives to meat, milk, and sugar and examining the nutrient value of the foods consumed. 

Milk alternatives have become of particular interest for reducing saturated fats and cholesterol. From vegetable-based milks to fermented plant-based yogurts, dairy product alternatives are of interest just like meat alternatives are. 

Sugar alternatives have been around for some time, though finding options that meet both taste and function requirements can be a challenge. The unpalatable aftertaste and unexpected texture, color, and mouthfeel can all be unintended side effects of swapping out sugar. Incredo Sugar, an Israeli-based company, might have cracked the code. This cane-sugar-based product provides the taste and function consumers expect with half the sugar. 

Trend #3: Accountability and Trust 

In today’s society, consumers are no longer satisfied with sustainable practices alone; they also demand accountability from companies involved in food production. They desire fair compensation for farmers, inclusive supply chains, and better animal care. Most importantly, they demand conscientious resource management to minimize negative environmental impacts.

Nowadays, it is crucial for almost everyone in the food chain to provide this information to satisfy existing customers, attract new ones, and gain their trust. Therefore, it is necessary to find effective ways to inform customers about the origins of their food, how it is produced, and who is involved.

To keep consumers content and establish brand loyalty, transparency, trust, and traceability have become indispensable. Furthermore, companies must explain how their food products can contribute to achieving customers’ goals for physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

Trend #4: Affordability 

Food affordability continues to be a determining factor in dietary choices around the world. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 3.1 billion people do not currently have access to a healthy diet and 45 million children are suffering from the deadliest form of malnutrition. The impact of affordability on consumption decisions isn’t expected to be reduced over time. 

Rather, in recent years, we’ve seen on COVID’s impacts on the supply chains have increased food costs and decreased food availability. Geopolitical conflicts are driving a similar effect on the food chain. 

Predicting climate variability, conflicts, and pandemics is nearly impossible. Therefore, the most sensible approach is to ensure the safety of the food supply chain by controlling what we can, such as making careful food choices, implementing sustainable food production processes, and managing waste effectively. When needed, technology can assist us in achieving these goals.

ICL and Innovative Food Technology 

While there are five distinct food tech trends expected in 2023, the underlying emphasis remains on sustainability. Producing what’s needed today without undermining the needs of the future continues to be critical and will require technical innovations to increase production, safety, and affordability. 

ICL knows that sustainability is the key to a successful tomorrow. To preserve the well-being of our plant and the health of all those who inhabit it, ICL is driving towards a carbon-neutral 2050, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2040, and increasing water savings impact through recycling an additional 3% of stream waste annually. Increasing circular economy and driving renewable energy to 50% of total energy consumption by 2040 will be key goals, as well. 

Hadar Sutovsky, Vice President of External Innovation at ICL says “In order to make it possible to push agrifood systems towards sustainability and resilience, innovative solutions and investments to the sector’s challenges should be directed to all across the agrifood value chain. 

Recent conflicts have shown that excessive dependence on essential food items from a few countries poses a serious threat to global food security. This presents opportunities for more disruptive solutions that could interlink through flows of goods and services and generate long-term resilience.”

This resilience depends on innovative food technology to meet customer needs and the demands of a changing world. Sustainability, feeding the world, and managing the food chain continue to be challenges for the food industry. These trends will help meet the needs of today and tomorrow.