Every industry has its tastemakers and respected prognosticators. The Whole Foods Trends Council holds that position in the food and beverage industry. The council is made up of more than 50 Whole Foods Market partners, such as food buyers, culinary experts, and foragers who make trend predictions based on their years of industry expertise.
Industry watchers pay attention to the Whole Foods Trends Council’s predictions not only because they’re interesting and insightful. The forecast offers insight into where the entire food and beverage industry is headed over the next year. The Trends Council’s 2024 report was released on October 17, 2023, and it’s already shaping hiring trends for food and beverage companies. Here’s a look at the report and what to expect for 2024 hiring in response.
At the top of the list of trends for 2024 is the return of real plans in plant-based food. After a few years of “complex meat alternatives,” as the report puts it, dominating veggie cuisine, there’s a fundamental shift back toward simpler, strictly plant-based food.
At the same time, plant-based milk alternatives and mushrooms are becoming popular. The unifying theme in this trend is natural simplicity, with food labels sometimes down to as little as two ingredients.
The food and beverage industry is already preparing for a rush in 2024 for plant-based products. The vegetarian- and vegan-focused food magazine Veg reported that plant-based food jobs jumped 32 percent in just 90 days.
While some of this uptick can be attributed to a rebound after a slump in the plant-based meat alternatives sector, there seems to be more to it than that. Veg noted a substantial rise in consumer sector jobs. That means plant-based food headed for shelves at places like Whole Foods is in higher demand. Based on the Trend Council’s prediction for strong interest throughout 2024, expect to see strong hiring throughout the year across the entire plant-based foods industry.
Buckwheat has a long history as a cover crop that supports the health of soil used to grow other foods. But now, the Trends Council reports, buckwheat is getting its own moment in the sun as a hot new superfood. It’s rich in protein, fiber, and carbs and is naturally gluten-free.
For years, soba noodles were the most popular application for buckwheat, but dozens of other products based on the superfood are gaining popularity. From buckwheat pancake and waffle mix to vegan cookies made from buckwheat flour, this is another trend emerging at the tail end of 2023 that Whole Foods expects to skyrocket in 2024.
Indeed, the buckwheat market is doing well. An analysis from EIN News shows the market growing with a CAGR of 4.8%. That’s a healthy figure for a product that EIN admits suffers from “a lack of consumer awareness.” However, the analysts did take note of manufacturers launching several new buckwheat products, with several market opportunities ahead.
EIN also noted significant automation in the buckwheat industry. While you can expect to see increased hiring across all things buckwheat-related, pay special attention to the automation part. Food processing automation is becoming a hot sub-market, with LinkedIn and other job sites featuring thousands of available jobs.
Sustainability has been a rising concern in the food and beverage industry for years now. Whole Foods as a brand is often associated with consumers who care deeply about sustainability and environmental causes.
The Trend Council notes that brands aligned with water conservation are receiving large amounts of customer support. This includes certified organic products like basmati rice, olive oil, and several certified organic beans and lentils.
The food and beverage industry as a whole has taken note. Forbes reports that water stewardship is already set to be one of the biggest food trends in 2024. The magazine noted that some water brands currently extract water from the air and fruit by-products.
For example, the Australian company Aqua Botanical is able to extract 600 liters of water from one ton of carrots that would have otherwise been wasted. Expect other food and beverage companies to be hiring for engineers and research scientists who can create more innovative water conservation and stewardship processes like this. Follow MRINetwork for more insights on the present and future of hiring across all industries.