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Trending Topics in Human Food

April 8, 2024 Ada-Miette Thomas, MS

As consumer preferences evolve, new product types are hitting the market and many of them are focused on health and well-being. Consumers are becoming increasingly interested in food products that not only deliver good nutritional value but also added health benefits.1 According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC), the 2024 human food industry landscape will see more functional beverages, plant-based innovations, and foods to support well-being than previous years.2

Functional Hydration

Functional beverages are gaining popularity in the market as consumers begin to recognize the correlation between health and diet.3 A functional beverage can be defined as a non-alcoholic beverage that provides health benefits due to the presence of any bioactive component derived from a plant, animal, marine, or microorganism source.4,5 There are many types of functional beverages available on the market such as energy drinks, weight management drinks, performance enhancing drinks, drinks to support digestive health, as well as immunity, cardiovascular, and cognitive health supporting drinks.6 Functional beverages contain active ingredients that provide a variety of bioactive compounds such as dietary fiber, biotics, proteins, phenolic compounds, fatty acids, peptides, vitamins, and/or minerals.7

Plant-Based Innovations

Consumers aiming to embrace healthier, more sustainable lifestyles have begun to adopt plant-based dietary patterns such as flexitarianism (occasional meat consumption), vegetarianism (no meat consumption), and veganism (no animal product consumption).8 Evidently, this has led to a significant increase in the number of plant-based innovations available on the market.9 Consumption of plant-based alternatives may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, enhance cardiovascular health, control glycemic levels, as well as lower blood cholesterol levels, obesity, and blood pressure.10,11

Foods to Support Well-Being

Mental health is a notable concern, with more than one in five adults in the United States living with a mental illness.12Recent studies have shown a strong association between food and mental health.13,14 Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety often coexist with gastrointestinal issues, suggesting a relationship between mental health and gut health.15Supplementation of probiotics and probiotic-containing foods may be an effective dietary strategy in determining a person’s mental health status through modulation of the gut microbiome.16,17 A number of systematic reviews have been done to evaluate the efficacy of ashwagandha in the treatment and enhancement of mental health.18-20 Moreover, IFIC reported that three in four adults say food consumption impacts their mental or emotional well-being.21 Therefore, it is unsurprising that consumers are becoming increasingly interested in foods to support wellbeing.

It is common knowledge that human food trends influence consumers’ purchasing habits when it comes to feeding their pets.22 According to a 2019, survey to identify determinants of pet food purchasing decisions, results showed that pet owners assess the healthfulness, freshness, and ingredients of a pet food when making pet food purchase decisions, similar to the way they make purchasing decisions for themselves.23 For example, more plant-based pet food products are emerging in response to increasing consumer interest in healthful, plant-based diets.24 Therefore, it is likely that both the human and pet food industries will see more products focused on health, well-being, and sustainability, in the near future.


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About the Author: Ada-Miette Thomas received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science with an emphasis on nutrition. She is currently completing her master’s in business administration at Louisiana State University. Ada-Miette conducted research with a focus on human nutrition and studied the effects of carbohydrate sources on markers of Metabolic Syndrome in adults.

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