The Top 10 food trends for 2024


By Danielle Schalk

Shifts in consumption habits shaped by myriad factors, including shifts in values, demographics and priorities are driving trends for the coming year.

As Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG), notes, with consumers dining out less frequently due to the current economic environment, when they do, they’re looking for operators to deliver on value and experience. “People [also] want to order what they’re familiar with,” he adds. “So, when we are looking at [developing new items], it’s really saying ‘what is approachable to the customers?’ And then not being afraid to try some new things.”

Comfort Foods

Indulgent and familiar favourites continue to reign supreme, driving the continued evolution of foodservice comfort-food offerings.

Vince Sgabellone, director of Client Development and Foodservice Industry analyst for Toronto-based Circana, points to french fries, burgers, breakfast sandwiches, and chicken sandwiches, as the top menu items within this category. “And, while French fries have held absolutely steady, all those others have risen over the last five years in terms of volume and importance [within Canadian foodservice].”
And, as Katie Belflower, associate editor, Technomic, shares, “Some of the fastest-growing dishes over the last year are comfort foods, including indulgent options such as cheese-steak sandwiches (up 117.6 per cent) and doughnut holes (up 105.9 per cent).”

But, when it comes to these offerings, Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG), says the magic is in “taking the familiar and adding something [extra] to it, so it’s familiar, but also a new flavour experience for the customer.”

He also points to more homey comfort-food offerings, such as mac-and-cheese and grilled cheese, becoming popular indulgences and platforms for menu innovation.
JRG has been leveraging this opportunity through some of its virtual-brand offerings under Meal Ticket Brands, including and a grilled-cheese brand offering items such as chicken parmesan grilled cheese and buffalo chicken grilled cheese.

However, these offerings are also making their way into full-service settings. For example, S+L Kitchen and Bar has offered a Lobster & Lobster Mac N Cheese made with cavatappi pasta and panko-parmesan crumble ($34); as well as a Maple Pork Belly Grilled Cheese Sandwich served with arugula, tomato, pickled onions, garlic aioli and ‘truffle tots’ ($24) among its ‘Test Kitchen Features.’

Snack-Sized Eats

With budget and calorie consciousness influencing Canadians’ dining habits, the field is ripe for snack-sized offerings to thrive.

As Nourish Food Marketing’s 2024 Trend Report highlights, year-over-year growth in calories consumed could be coming to an end, pointing to a combination of consumption consciousness, semaglutide (anti-obesity) medications and population decline as contributing factors.

Nourish Food Marketing president and founder, Jo-Ann McArthur, also points the relevance of consumers’ willingness to indulge in moderation, calling out the prevalence of indulging in small luxuries. “The ‘little treat’ culture is already trending on Tik Tok,” she cites, calling out smaller portions — as well as healthier sides — as key ways foodservice operations can adjust menus to meet this demand.
A look at fast-food menu offerings also highlights an existing focus on expanding/enhancing offerings for snacking occasions. For example, McDonald’s Canada introduced a re-freshed McWrap and Chicken Snack Wrap lineup in June and Tim Hortons has also been putting greater emphasis on on-the-go snack offerings.

Spicy Baked Goods

Based on bakery-goods data from Mintel, “Younger generations are more likely to reach beyond the traditional formats and flavours within the dessert industry.” And, this leaves the door open for exciting, trend-driven flavour combinations, including spicy baked goods.

As part of the continued evolution of the spicy flavour trend (including last year’s “swicy” trend), spicy baked goods hit on consumers’ desire for indulgence and new/exciting food experiences.

In fact, Barry Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy highlighted the continued evolution of “sweet & spicy,” as well as “Street Food-Inspired Desserts and Baked Goods’ featuring spice blends such as Tajín Clásico, among the key bakery and pastry trends for 2023.
On the savoury end of the spectrum, you can see this in items such as Tim Hortons’ Jalapeño flavoured Anytime Snacker available nationally — featuring buttery and flaky pastry and a creamy jalapeño filling. Plus, a quick dip into social-media food culture also reveals the relevance of savoury breads and pastries with a spicy kick, such as harissa or nduja, as well as items that walk the line between savoury and sweet, including sweet-and-spicy cornbread.

Pasture-Raised Animal Products

Consumer interest in sustainably and ethically sourced animal products is yet another facet of conscious consumption trends that continues to influence how Canadians spend their money. And, while sustainable and responsible sourcing have taken a back seat to affordability in the short term, there is still opportunity in offering diners menu items they can feel good about. Offerings such as pasture-raised meat and eggs tie into sourcing concerns surrounding sustainable farming practices as well as animal welfare.

Some operators feature pasture-raised offerings as part of concepts designed to highlight the beauty of local ingredients. For example, Toronto’s Contrada, which opened last fall, focuses on a combination of Italian techniques and ingredients and “use of Ontario’s bounty of beautiful local ingredients.” Menu examples include a Pork Chop a la Milanese, which features Ontario pasture-raised pork, capers, lemon and arugula from local vertical farm, Vertico Farms ($32).

“[Consumers] want to know the story behind where they’re where their protein came from,” says Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG), noting these are qualities he looks for when shopping for his own family.

Speciality Salts

Unique, specialty and house-made seasonings, simply put, “provide an elevated experience,” says Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG). “Diners, in general, are more adventurous now and are longing for some new flavours — and salt is such a great enhancer to any dish.”

Specialty salts, such as black, charcoal-infused salts offer visual and textural impact while also delivering a subtle flavour experience. They can also hit on trends such as global cuisine, with options such as red Hawaiian (or alaea) salt — which takes its red colour from iron-oxide rich volcanic clay — bringing an element of traditional Hawaiian seasoning and preserving to the plate.

“In our steak restaurant (S+L), we’re currently using a smoked salt as a finishing salt,” Burslem shares. “In our Italian restaurant (The Italian Osteria & Cheesebar), we are using a fennel salt as a finishing salt on our beef carpaccio; and, in our catering division, we’re using a black lava salt for our bread service presentation as well.”

Non-Dairy Indulgence

While Katie Belflower, associate editor, Technomic notes that beverages remain the most prevalent example of plant-based dairy alternatives, additional representation of these offerings has been on the rise. “Plant-based cheese has gone up three per cent on menus in the past year, most often appearing on pizza,” she notes, citing Ignite Menu data.

However, plant-based dairy alternatives are also increasingly represented within finished dishes created as vegan or dairy-free alternatives.

Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG), points to the vegan Lemon Bar ($12.75) on S+L’s menu as one of JRG’s most successful plant-based menu items. The dessert, which features coconut chips, blueberry puree and coconut Chantilly ‘cream’ and utilizes a cashew-based butter for its pastry base.

When it comes to designing dishes with plant-based alternatives, Nourish Food Marketing president and founder, Jo-Ann McArthur notes how they are represented matters. A key point to address is: “can you put the joy of eating into plant-forward foods?” she says. For example, presenting an item with ‘whipped coconut cream’ as opposed to a ‘dairy-free whip’ can shape guest perception of a dish.

Ancient grains and heritage ingredients

As consumers seek out more nutrient-dense foods, ancient grains and heritage crops/ingredients will increasingly find their place on the plate.

“Those really rich nutrient-dense grains will make a comeback in 2024,” predicts Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG). “I’m seeing things like farro and spelt and barley…and we’re playing around with those as we look to our next fall/winter menus.” He notes his team is exploring techniques such as puffed quinoa and popped buckwheat.

And he is certainly not alone in exploring this trend. Dubai-based food-tech company Greeneration featured ancient/heritage grains among the global food trends to watch in its The Future of Culinary Trends: Exploring Predictions for 2024 list. This highlighted grains such as farro, quinoa, millet, spelt, sorghum and barley as ingredients expected to see a resurgence in interest due to “their hardiness, nutritional value and distinct flavours.”

Quinoa is perhaps the most pervasive ancient grain example within foodservice. In fact, Katie Belflower, associate editor, Technomic notes, “7.7 per cent of [the Canadian] operators tracked [by Technomic] menu quinoa, which is most often appearing in veggie bowls and specialty salad

Central & South- American Cuisines
Whether people are exploring flavours through travel or simply allowing their pallet to do the travelling, globalized travel and diversified representation in food media are bringing more Central and South-American dishes to the forefront.

“The cooking techniques and the diversity of the culture [in this region] is something that is unique,” says Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG). “It’s diverse in its bold flavours and spices and [the way it] marries ingredients together.” And, this offers many avenues for chefs and diners to explore — whether it’s an empanada with fillings familiar to Canadian consumers or highlighting a preparation technique such as ceviche.

As Vince Sgabellone, director of Client Development and Foodservice Industry analyst for Toronto-based Circana points out, Mexican cuisine has the largest representation in Canadian foodservice of any global cuisine and its presence continues to grow. According to Circana’s ReCount 2023 commercial restaurant location census, “Mexican restaurants has grown — and continued to grow through the pandemic — so we are seeing investment in this space,” he explains. “And, it’s [only] a matter of time before we start to see [Mexican cuisine] menu items explode as well.”

International Barbecue

Countries throughout the world have their own unique cultures around barbecue, offering a wealth of opportunities to transform familiar proteins and ingredients with global techniques and flavours.

As Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG) notes, “Korean barbecue is probably the first [international barbecue example] that comes to mind.” And, while such specialty restaurants have long had a presence, the flavours of Korean barbecue have become more mainstream. This can be seen in limited-time offerings such as Wendy’s Canada’s Korean BBQ Cheeseburger.

“Another one that will continue to be a trend is Middle Eastern — whether it’s shawarma, kabobs, or other [grilled meats],” Burslem adds. “And, as the trend continues, people are more willing to try new things.” This includes trying Shaokao (Chineses barbecue) street food dishes — often seasoned, skewered meats — or even approaching some less common ingredients, such as offal, done in a more familiar international barbecue style, like Argentinean asado.

Satisfying Salads

For customers seeking carb-light, flavourful and nutrient-dense offerings, entree salads are menu items that can’t be overlooked. “I’ve continued to see the gourmet salad or elevated salads taking the lead,” notes Colin Burslem, culinary director of B.C.-based Joseph Richard Group (JRG).

And, according to Katie Belflower, associate editor, Technomic, the company’s Ignite Menu data supports this observation. “Some of the fastest-growing ingredients in salads year over year include burrata (up 30.4 per cent), anchovy (up 20 per cent), radicchio (up 16 per cent), scallops (up 15.8 per cent) and grana padano (up 14.8 per cent),” she notes. These are more premium ingredients, indicating that salads are seeing an increasing level of premiumization.”

Because diners are seeking value and experience from their purchases, Burslem notes, they will not be satisfied with salad offerings that feel like an afterthought. “When the quality is there with ingredients, people recognize that there is value in that,” he explains. “They’re looking for like a solid that’s gonna fill them up and challenges the palette too.”

As an example, he points to Townhall’s Smokey Southwest Chicken Salad (smokey cajun chicken breast, salad greens, cabbage, corn, black beans, feta, avocado, pico de gallo, pickled onions and cilantro dressing), explaining, “People are willing to pay $25 for that because they see value in it.”

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