Nutrition for Healthspan Initiative

2023 Trends

For centuries nutrition has been recognized as a cornerstone of health. The Nutrition for Healing Initiative takes a sharp look at the latest trends impacting this vital segment of the $4.4 trillion global wellness economy.

TREND 1: Upcycled food

Upcycled food is a solution to the problem of global food waste, which currently stands at over 30% of our food supply. This approach transforms food waste and by-products that would typically be discarded into high-quality, innovative food products. By doing so, manufacturers not only reduce food waste and its environmental impact but also create new sources of nutrients. Upcycled food items can take many forms, such as snacks made from surplus produce, flour produced from spent grain resulting from beer brewing, or condiments created from leftover components. More than 60% of people express interest in buying upcycled food products, with 95% of them aiming to reduce food waste. This trend is gaining popularity and is expected to continue as a sustainable and creative approach to food production.

TREND 2: Mental health and performance boosting food

While there is a concern of mental health issues rising globally, there is clearly growing demand for food enhancing wellbeing. Given that so many people struggle with stress, the interest in functional foods and beverages remains strong. While the emphasis has been on immunity in recent years, now there is more search for feel-good, mood-boosting foods that help fight anxiety, depression or other mental disorders.

The Mintel 2023 Global Food and Drink Trends report confirms that consumers look for ingredients to help them stay sharp to increase mental performance, cognition and focus as well as help them reduce stress and optimize brain function at work, home and social life. We will likely see more brain-boosting benefits of foods and beverages, and natural substances that claim to enhance cognitive functioning, rich in vitamins, fibre, minerals or probiotics. 

TREND 3: More plant-based options and sea plants trending

We continue to observe the growing interest in plant-based products that go beyond meat or seafood alternatives. People search for other creative ways to incorporate fruits, veggies, and legumes into other product categories like pasta for example. The market already offers varieties made from chickpeas, lentils, green bananas or hearts of palm.

Sea plants are trending and algae kelp is hitting this year. It is expected to see more kelp-inspired products on grocery store shelves. Whether it’s kelp chips or kelp noodles, the algae is a nutritious, versatile product that’s also good for the environment. Kelp can help absorb carbon in the atmosphere and doesn’t require fresh water or added nutrients, two major wins in the age of climate consciousness.

The hottest superfoods will be from the sea. Known already in Asian cultures, ocean-based foods and minerals are favorites among Millennials and Gen X., and seaweed snack recipes are popular in search platforms. Furthermore, salt alternatives are in demand, like the Green Salt which is a plant-based salt made by dehydrating Salicornia, a sea plant that grows naturally in salty estuaries and marshes.

TREND 4: Healthy guts microbiome

Expect to see consumers prioritizing personalized gut health options as the drive toward digestive health continues to grow to higher heights and the industry booms in 2023 and beyond. In a 2022 International Food Information Council survey, nearly three-quarters of Americans ranked digestive health high on their list of health priorities, with 24% ranking it their No. 1 priority. As consumers become savvier about the science of the gut microbiome, they will be looking for ingredients that support the growth of beneficial bacteria linked to specific health benefits such as cognition or immunity.

In addition, consumers are increasingly seeking personalized products. Almost four in 10 consumers report being much more likely to prioritize personalized options than they were one year ago, according to a McKinsey & Co. survey. By learning about their gut’s unique microbiome, consumers can make more informed decisions about what digestive health products would be effective for them. Advances in technology are providing consumers with more information on their biology and are generating an increase in at-home testing.

TREND 5: Food insecurity and health disparities

The issue of food insecurity and health disparities is not new. Ongoing global conversation around food insecurity over the years pushed the United Nations in 2015 to develop Sustainable Development Goals, one being to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.”

Trends show that not only were efforts to achieve these goals during Covid stymied, but there has been a worsening of impacts even as countries emerge from the pandemic. In fact, the number of people unable to afford or access healthy food rose in 2021 by 112 million – to almost 3.1 billion. Those living in food-insecure households are more vulnerable to infectious diseases, injury, chronic conditions, poor mental health and face other socio-economic hardships that make wellness and living healthy unattainable. Drivers for the continued rise in numbers are conflicts, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns and downturns – all exacerbated by the underlying causes of poverty and very high and persistent levels of inequality.

Individual and collective work on education, local/regional food system creation and policy efforts toward building healthier, equitable, resilient, and ecologically sustainable food systems is not just a trend but imperative to creating healthy people and communities around the globe.