Company transparency, healthy aging targeting Gen X and optimizing eating through convenience all should increase in importance among consumers in 2024, according to a report from Mintel on global food and drink trends.

“We developed the 2024 global food and drink trends around an essential value proposition: Food and drink must taste good, be worth the cost and have reduced environmental and/or ethical impact, preferably without a higher price,” said Jenny Zegler, director, Mintel food and drink. “Through the trends, we recommend how food and drink brands can help consumers balance their needs for health and pleasure, prepare themselves for longer, healthier lives and gain new conveniences from technological advances.”

Food and beverage companies, in being transparent, should communicate clearly to help consumers make informed decisions about processed and ultra-processed foods. Mintel calls this trend “trust the process.”

Consumers in 2024 will become aware of different levels of processing through media reports, regulations and voluntary on-pack labels with ratings. They may show interest in minimally processed products that focus on the positive aspects of food-processing techniques such as enhancing nutrition, inhibiting contaminant formation and improving sustainability. Mintel data show 34% of US adults said highly processed is a top concern, aside from price and taste, when purchasing food and drink products.

Frozen produce and fresh baked foods could fit in this trend. Mintel, as an example, gave Matriark Foods pasta sauces made with US-grown upcycled tomatoes and packaged in shelf-stable cartons. Buying a carton of the sauce diverts 0.4 lb of vegetables from landfills, saves 50 gallons of water and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 1 lb, according to Matriark Foods.

In the “age reframed” trend, Gen X consumers are in their 40s and 50s. In targeting these consumers, brands should offer products for issues such as cardiovascular health, brain health and stress, according to Mintel. A plant-based sleep drink from the US beverage brand Elements of Balance contains adaptogens, including passionflower, for sleep. Seventy-eight percent of Gen X US consumers (born between 1965 and 1979) said they struggle with sleep, according to Mintel.

In the “eating: optimized” trend, convenience will emerge as technology streamlines meal planning, shopping and cooking. Brands are helping consumers optimize their time by providing cooking instructions for multiple appliances and product lines designed to cook at the same time and temperature. The Nestle SA DiGiorno brand is testing a vending machine that makes its frozen pizzas hot and ready in 3 minutes.

Technology will turn conveniences like automated shopping lists and meal-planning apps into integral daily tools. Personalized alerts and artificial intelligence (AI) could help consumers find ingredients or products while in store, in transit or shopping online.