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5 food and beverage trends to watch for 2023

Five of the top food and beverage trends to watch for 2023 include a beverage category that will continue to gain popularity and the social media platform that experts think will most influence where and what consumers want to eat. 

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Food and beverage trends to watch for 2023

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Consumers’ efforts to balance health and wellness with their desire to seek comfort and enjoyment from foods and beverages will drive many of the trends showing up in restaurants and on grocery shelves in 2023, according to experts’ predictions about the coming year. Here are five of the top food and beverage trends to watch for 2023, including a beverage category that will continue to gain popularity and the social media platform that experts think will most influence where and what consumers want to eat. 

Fermented and pickled foods and drinks

The tangy, funky flavors of fermented and pickled foods and beverages have gained mainstream popularity over the last several years, and several trend forecasts predict they are among the top food and beverage trends to watch for 2023. Searches for pickle-flavored foods on Yelp increased 55% this year, according to the review site’s 2023 trend predictions.

“The difference now is in the flavor base, the ingredients, the approach, and the focus chefs and even bartenders are applying to it. A shared appreciation for the fermentation process is spreading across cultures, cuisines and service categories,” AF&Co and Carbonate write in their 2023 Trend Report. The report, which credits Noma’s new Nordic cuisine – specifically the restaurant’s use of the fermented rice called koji – for spurring the popularity of fermented foods on modern menus, noted the trend at restaurants including Aedean Koji Kitchen in San Francisco and The Charter Oak in St. Helena, Calif., which serves vegetables with a fermented soy dip.

Technomic also included pickled and fermented foods and beverages in its 2023 trend forecast, predicting that menus will start to include names of specific preservation methods, such as lacto-fermentation, now that consumers are becoming more familiar with the processes. “Expect pickling to extend to everything from proteins and french fries to herbs and nuts, while pickled ingredients, themselves, will top unexpected dishes,” the report says. “At the bar, pucker up with sour cocktails containing fermented, gut-healthy ingredients, such as kombucha, miso and sake.” 

Fermented beverages are also on the radar of Total Foodservice, which called out kefir as one of the drinks to watch in the coming years.

Low- and no-alcohol beverages

Kefir and kombucha can be used to create beverages that don’t rely on alcohol to achieve complex flavor profiles, a trend that has been growing for several years and will continue into 2023. Searches for mocktails were up 59% this year, according to Yelp, which also included cream-enriched “dirty sodas” and alcohol-free micheladas called michelaguas in its roundup of food and beverage trends to watch for 2023.

As more people explore their relationship with alcohol and its effects on their physical and mental health, demand for sophisticated zero-proof beverages is growing at retail and across restaurant segments – no liquor license required. “No-alcohol products can be sold anywhere with no restrictions, including online through major retailers like Amazon. By contrast, the sale of traditional-strength spirits remains largely limited in major online retailers,” according to Adam Rogers, research director for North America at beverage alcohol research firm IWSR.

Bars, restaurants and retailers will have even more alcohol-free options to stock in the coming year. “The wide array of products replicating actual spirits gives bartenders something exciting to work with when crafting delicious, non-alcoholic drinks with diverse flavor profiles,” AF&Co and Carbonate wrote in their trend report. 

The growing booze-free movement is also inspiring bartenders to brew up their own branded beverages and ingredients. Karl Franz Williams, owner of 67 Orange Street in New York City, created Uncle Waithley’s Vincy Brew Ginger Beer that he uses as an ingredient in alcohol free cocktails, Delish reported in its 2023 trend forecast.

Throwback favorites

Another trend that is growing in beverages and beyond is the nostalgic appeal of dishes and drinks resurrected from the past. Bacardi included nostalgic and classic cocktails in its 2023 trends report, citing the Bacardi Consumer Survey 2022, which found 58% of bartenders are most interested in classic cocktails with a twist. Cocktails inspired by childhood flavors also have nostalgic appeal, according to AF&Co and Carbonate’s report, which mentions a cocktail from Summer House in Chicago that evokes milk-and-cereal and a spiked root beer float on the menu at Milady’s in New York City.

Drinks won’t be the only category taking inspiration from days gone by. Dessert menus will offer a sweet taste of nostalgia with revamped classics such as moon pies and s’mores, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2023 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. Updated takes on the retro baked Alaska are AF&Co and Carbonate’s pick for the dessert of 2023.

Tastewise also included nostalgic desserts in its 2023 forecast, and the data platform’s report urges culinary professionals to expand their understanding of nostalgia to create mash-ups that appeal to a wider audience. Consumers’ desire to fit favorite foods from the past into their current diets is “creating the ultimate mash-up of throwback indulgences with better ingredients and special diets in mind,” according to Whole Foods Markets’ 2023 Trend Forecast, which mentions macaroni and cheese and pizza bites as some of the throwback favorites that are getting a healthy makeover.

Experiential add-ons

In-person dining made a major comeback this year as consumers returned to restaurants seeking the experiences they missed out on earlier in the pandemic. To compete for diners’ dollars in this crowded market – especially as inflation is prompting many people to be more selective about their spending – eateries will need to offer memorable experiences in addition to delicious food. 

Experiences that showcase local culture and community will be the No. 1 trend of 2023, according to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot report. Diners are searching for unique experiences that “offer views, activities, or entertainment, all while enjoying a meal,” according to Yelp, which saw searches for dinner theaters and underwater restaurants increase 109% and 263%, respectively, this year.

Food halls can cash in on this appetite for experiences by featuring live bands, hosting movie nights or enhancing their retail offerings with specialty vendors such as seafood stalls and bakeries, Baum+Whiteman consultants said in the firm’s 2023 trends report.

TikTok tastemakers

With so many food and beverage options to choose from, consumers are increasingly turning to social media to discover the latest and greatest – and decide which ones are worth their time. TikTok rose to the top of the social media food chain this year, and many experts are predicting the platform will continue to dominate in 2023.

TikTok has more than 65 million monthly active users in the US, and 36% of TikTok users have visited or ordered food from a restaurant after seeing a TikTok video about the restaurant, according to a 2021 survey conducted by marketing agency MGH.

“Across industries and identities, TikTok is expected to expand its influence as yet another essential app for people around the world,” according to Delish, which predicts food TikToks will be one of 2023’s biggest food trends. 

Wine Enthusiast also included TikTok in its 2023 trend predictions. “We’ve…already seen how TikTok is breaking down barriers for wine content producers, and we needn’t tell you more about how the Negroni Sbagliato became TikTok famous,” cocktail consultant Kara Newman writes.

The cocktail is one of many foods and beverages that went viral on TikTok this year. Butter boards, coconut cloud smoothies and green goddess salads also had their moments of social media fame, some of which caused spikes in grocery orders for certain ingredients, according to a report from grocery delivery service Instacart.

In the coming year, the recipes that are most likely to get traction on TikTok are those that keep it simple. “Our survey found that 56% of those who view food and recipe content on social media factor in affordability when considering making a recipe they viewed, and 49% factor in already having most of the ingredients at home,” Instacart’s trends expert Laurentia Romaniuk said.

“Most of the time and especially now in this economy, a recipe is less likely to take off if it has an extensive list of ingredients that can rack up a hefty bill. In 2023, we’ll see new food trends emerge that are conducive to budget meals – many of which will prioritize common pantry and fridge staples.”

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