What are we going to be eating and drinking in the new year? Sustainable trends are heading your way in 2023: from Upside Foods’ recently approved cultivated meat to the Erewhon effect and the best eco booze.
When it comes to sustainability, efforts to move the needle are most evident in our food system. Since the 1960s, there have been significant endeavors to clean up our food system with champions of organic, slow, plant-forward food changing the way we eat for good. We see this everywhere we look, from the supermarket aisles to fast-food drive-thrus.
Still, there’s progress to be had, particularly as demand for emissions-heavy meat, eggs, and dairy continue to dominate the system. But every year, we get a little bit closer to clean, green food system, and 2023 is proving to be no exception.
2023 sustainable food trend predictions
So, what’s coming up?These are the top trends you’ll be seeing across the food and drink categories.
1. The Erewhon effect
Independent natural grocery stores have not had the easiest time in recent years. That’s due mostly to the success of Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts. But as consumers seek out healthier food options all around, competition has also sprouted up at mainstream supermarkets and club chains like Costco. You can grab vegan burgers and organic kale at Target and Walmart, too.
But one independent natural food chain, the Los Angeles-based Erewhon, is paving new trails. It’s often mocked for a lot of reasons, from its high prices, and, let’s just call it the unofficial dress code, to its proportionality high anti-vax customer base (see our own Derek Beres in a Daily Show clip on the issue, some of which is filmed outside the Venice Erewhon location).
Still, the upscale chain is a purveyor of quality food that puts Whole Foods to shame. It picked up the torch on supporting local producers that Whole Foods dropped after it was acquired by Amazon in 2016. And while the LA chain’s single-use plastic packaging for all those gourmet meals is a bit out of hand, the trade-off is customers are getting—and expecting—better, fresher food. Like the runways of Paris Fashion Week dictate trends at retail, Erewhon sets a tone for our food system, and it continues for another year, spotlighting healthy, local food as priority number one, even if it is a bit more expensive.
Fungi are on a roll. We’re seeing them in fashion, in pharmaceuticals, in wellness supplements, and even in tech—but they’re never more popular than they are on our plates and in our coffee mugs these days. This is a good thing, even if you aren’t fully in camp ‘shroom yet.
Chefs, like Tesco’s Derek Sarno, are bringing mushrooms to their fullest, meatiest potential in ready meals now available in the U.S. And companies like Forage Hyperfoods are putting functional mushrooms like chaga into coffee to boost brain function and help reduce caffeine jitters.
Mushrooms are great for our bodies, and possibly even better for the planet. They grow in small spaces pretty quickly and can help to regenerate soil and ecosystems that have been impacted by toxic wastewater or chemicals. Who’s ready for a ‘shroom boom?
3. Fine dining
The fast-food vegan options keep coming, but you could say there’s an even bigger shift happening in the fine-dining world following New York’s Eleven Madison shift to fully plant-based last year. And the trend is showing no signs of slowing down, either.
Copenhagen’s plant-forward Geranium was dubbed the world’s best restaurant earlier this year. Crossroads, the Los Angeles-based fine dining favorite of the Kardashian-Barkers opened two new locations this last year—one in the upscale L.A. neighborhood Calabasas, and another in Las Vegas.
Celebrity vegan chef Matthew Kenney is expanding his empire, too, with new locations across Los Angeles-area malls. And across the country in Pittsburgh, the Polish-themed Apteka was nominated for a James Beard award for its vegan fare.
Ingredients, too, are going more sustainable, from the locally grown (sometimes even on their own rooftops) to subbing out climate and ethics offenders like foie gras with healthful plants. And even the anti-vegan, Gordon Ramsay, has embraced the humble, sustainable vegetable.
4. Climate snackin’
Sustainable food is indeed on trend but there’s a new wave of brands actually calling these efforts out. “Across our aisles, products are taking to their labels to talk about sustainability efforts in a time when consumers expect brands and retailers to do more related to carbon and climate,” Whole Foods Market says. Look for brands like Moonshot Snacks, Patagonia Provisions, Field Roast’s vegan meat, Natreve’s plant-based protein powder, and more touting their climate-forward ethos.
5. Eco spirits
Organic wine is nothing new, but sustainability is coming to the spirits industry in a big way. Kendall Jenner’s 818, Jose Cuervo, and Mezcal Amarás are steadfast in greening up the mezcal and tequila industries, bringing sustainable growing practices to agave, and working to preserve the heritage and culture that’s tied to the industry. The Macallan, long a champion of sustainability in its whisky production, launched its first recyclable boxes, made from cacao fruit pulp and coffee agricultural waste.
And with Moët Hennessy recently launching a €20 million sustainability research center, it would seem we’ll be seeing a whole lot more sustainability in the spirits industry in the year to come.
6. Non-Alcoholic botanicals
Teetotalers fear not! There’s plenty in store for you in 2023 as well. The botanical spirits industry is booming. Here in Los Angeles, there’s a whole shop that only sells non-alcoholic spirits. Some brands are after the taste of spirits like gin or tequila, while others are focused more on the botanical blends’ impacts. Sourcing from sustainably harvested or organic ingredients, many of these products are small-batch made, too. With Bella Hadid recently joining Kin Euphorics, Katy Perry’s De Soi, and Brad Pitt’s Enroot, you can expect to see a whole lot more attention to the category, and that’s going to be a very delicious thing.
7. Vegetables are back
Okay, so they never really left, but the plant-based craze that’s seen a rise in replicating meaty burgers that “bleed”, bacon that sizzles, and cheese that melts, have pushed vegetables in all their naked glory out of the limelight a bit. But vegetables in their natural state are coming back.
You can credit covid a bit for the return, ironically, too. Salads just hit different when they’re eaten in the staleness of being stuck at home for two years, right? Look now for more whole-veg offerings; cauliflower is still king but more crucifers are getting attention, too. The beloved Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and, of course: kale.
The macrobiotic diet has been around for ages. It saw a resurgence in the 1960s and ‘70s as books by George Ohsawa, the father of macrobiotics, gained popularity. Much of the organic and natural food industry was born out of the diet, which centers on whole grains and beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a macrobiotic diet means eating in harmony with the seasons (ie no watermelon in February), and it also means eating foods that are more inherently nourishing and unprocessed. Eating with the seasons means we can eat more local food, which is the most sustainable diet. And filling up our plates with veggies, whole grains, and beans is the healthiest diet for our bodies, too.
9. Cultivated meat
With the breaking news today that Upside Foods’ chicken has become the first cultivated meat approved for sale in the U.S., we can expect to see a lot more where that came from in 2023.
Meat, fish, chicken, and all kinds of exotic game meats grown from a few cells of an animal will likely make their way onto menus this year.
10. Precision fermentation
Another food tech that’s gaining ground is microbial fermentation and is ilk. This tech programs microorganisms to produce dairy proteins that work just like conventional cow milk. This is already in the market, with the company Perfect Day bringing its milk-based products to the dairy aisle and even a test run at Starbucks. In France, companies are producing realistic French cheese with the tech, and a lot more is on the way.