Food Freedom: Five Trends Shaping What’s on Consumers’ Plates

min read
October 31, 2023

By Stephanie Wagner, senior brand strategist

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Every time we scan a menu, or a supermarket shelf, we’re making deeply personal choices on what we put in our bodies – and the feelings of joy, or shame, that go down with every bite.

Food choices carry deep meaning, associations, and traditions. Recently, we're seeing more people break long-standing conventions and choose food freedom based on influences that start far from their plates.  

They will no longer be ashamed, placed in a box, or restricted by outside forces. In PETERMAYER’s upcoming webinar, “Embracing Food Freedom,” we dive into five food trends that signal consumers’ desire for liberation and to revel in what they crave without shame.  

1. The End of Veganism  

The food space is rife with labels (keto, paleo, vegan, and more). Traditionally, people were expected to wear their food identity loud and proud, and if you thought about changing it, you faced the backlash of “coming out.” However, we are now seeing a new wave of people quietly dropping the vegan label to embrace mindful or intuitive eating. Others are opting for middle ground that isn’t easily labeled – eating mostly vegetarian, but consuming meat during certain social gatherings. They are evolving their diet to eat what is best for their personal health – choosing to no longer restrict food because of labels or potential outside judgements.  

2. Homesteading and Ancestral Eating

More people are opting to eat organic, local, or home-grown foods and are adopting various practices to do so. In the years leading up to the pandemic, waves of millennials started exiting urban cities. That movement was dramatically accelerated by the pandemic, with more people seeking lower costs of living, slower lifestyles and more self-sufficiency. This led some to move out to large plots of land to start homesteading – a return to the land way of living that involves raising livestock, preserving food, gardening, composting, producing textiles, and utilizing renewable energy sources.  

For those who cannot access homesteading, another option is adjusting their diet to ancestral eating – eating raw dairy and meat from a local herdshare and consuming organ meats. Those engaging in this way of eating are finding liberation by connecting to the earth and natural food sources.  

3. Pro-metabolic Eating  

This new way of approaching food is gaining momentum, particularly among women who want to restore hormonal and metabolic health. It is a solution for many struggling with dysregulated hormones, fertility, and mental health issues that traditional medicine has not been able to solve. The intent is to eat clean, unprocessed foods to intake nutrients instead of popping pills. Think dietary swaps like eating liver instead of taking vitamin A pills or drinking your coffee in the morning sunlight instead of taking vitamin D. The people following pro-metabolic eating are choosing an integrated healing journey that doesn’t abide to widespread allopathic approaches.  

4. Fun, Feminine Foods  

Femininity reigned supreme this summer as Barbie, Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, Beyonce’s Renaissance tour, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup captured our collective attention. The economic demand for women-centered content is permeating across culture. In the food space, it is inspiring a sense of play and raising nostalgia for childlike wonder and magic. Glittery, pink, girlhood-esque food and drink – dream cocktails and mocktails, Taylor Swift Era’s cakes, custom pink drinks at Starbucks, All That Glitters Is Pink ice cream from Cold Stone, and Candy Salad – are trending. While these choices clash with traditional views of adulthood, women today are ditching shame to embrace their inner child through delights and cravings.  

5. Social Media’s Food Stars  

A whopping 83% of Americans view food and recipe content on social media platforms. FoodTok, one of the most popular genres of TikTok, has launched some of the biggest food trends over the last few years. Earlier this summer, Girl Dinner exploded from a quiet tradition that many women practiced in secret into a global food phenomenon. Social platforms are also reviving unglamorous product categories like beans, which are gaining interest thanks to their versatility and health benefits. Brands have responded to the demand with innovations like new packaging, including refrigerated bags and pre-seasoned, shelf-stable jars.  

And we can’t ignore the influence of creators, who are experimenting with pairings that aim to surprise and delight their audiences – mixing cottage cheese with mustard, creating Hidden Valley Ranch ice cream, baking mini croissants to eat as cereal, or pairing an espresso martini with parmesan cheese. These bold combinations have amassed hundreds of millions of views on TikTok, encouraging people to try new flavors and dishes.  

In each of these trends, we see people discovering the joy of liberation as they step away from conventional beliefs, practices, and expectations. And when they do so, they are not alone. There are enormous communities developing around each of these movements to offer support and guidance along the way. For brands, there are opportunities to facilitate moments of joy that help consumers navigate their liberation journey.

Join us on November 15 for PETERMAYER’s webinar “Embracing Food Freedom” where we will explore the ways consumer food preferences are evolving and how brands can respond. Register here.

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