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Top 5 European food trends in 2023

As we look ahead to another year, we have combined insights from EIT Food - the world’s largest and most dynamic food innovation community - to collate the top 5 European food trends in 2023.

10 Jan 2023
10 min reading time

The food system saw drastic changes in 2022. Confronted with challenges such as the Russian war against Ukraine impacting food security and the increasing impacts of climate change affecting harvests across the continent, the European agrifood sector was forced to adapt and evolve in 2022. However, the food system also saw great progress, with COP27 hosting the first ever Food Systems Pavilion and landmark initiatives such as the EU’s algae approach paving the way for more sustainable diets. But how will these developments influence European food trends in 2023 and what will be the key barriers to change?

Here are the top 5 European food trends in 2023: 

  1. Pressure will mount for COP28 decision makers to drive a sustainable food system 
  2. Meat alternative food products will become more diverse
  3. Targeted nutrition solutions will become more localised
  4. Technology will improve food system resilience
  5. The value of food waste will be embedded throughout the food system

    1. Pressure will mount for COP28 decision makers to drive a sustainable food system

    2023 will likely see greater pressure on decision makers as momentum builds for the flagship climate conference in the United Arab Emirates.

    After widespread disappointment and lack of dialogue and action at COP26 in Glasgow, 2022 was labelled by many as the year of food systems at COP27. Led by leaders in the food space including the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, from farmers and youth to policymakers and scientists, the launch of the first ever Food Systems Pavilion helped put food at the heart of global climate dialogue and action at COP27.

    However, despite the Food Systems Pavilion driving important dialogue about food, the impacts of climate change on the food system are becoming more evident, with farmers, producers and indigenous peoples all sharing their experiences at COP27 about losing harvests due to extreme weather events and the knock-on effects of rising food insecurity. It is clear COP28 will need greater focus and investment commitments in innovative impact financing options to sustainably slow the rate and impacts of food insecurity across the world. As a result, 2023 will likely see greater pressure on decision makers as momentum builds for the flagship climate conference in the United Arab Emirates.

    Pressure will increase on regulatory frameworks to accelerate and scale sustainable food production methods and novel food solutions that not only have lower environmental impact but can also solve the growing food insecurity and nutrition challenges that the world is facing. Ahead of COP28, this drive will come from businesses and stakeholders within the agrifood sector, but also from consumers, suggests Sam Newman, Senior Enterprise Account Executive at Tastewise. Sam says that “we're starting to see consumers demand a lot more from the term ‘sustainability’” and that there is a growing demand for easy-to-understand language that will empower consumers to make more informed decisions about the food they eat and the choices they make. (1)

    2. Meat alternative food products will become more diverse

    2023 will see the development of more diverse meat alternative food products as well as increased support from investors and policymakers as demand and pressure rises.

    The plant-based food trend has been growing for some time in Europe, with meat alternatives continuing to disrupt markets. The European Economic and Social Committee recently stressed that there is “an urgent need for the EU to carry out a study on the Europe-wide potential and land-share of protein and oil crops that could be grown within the EU,” citing benefits for nutrition, food security and sustainability, among others (2).

    As protein options diversify, there is also an increased demand for products that can truly replicate meat - from texture and appearance to taste and smell - as plant-based protein becomes more attractive to everyone, and less for solely the vegetarian and vegan markets. This is likely to increase further in 2023, with more than 60% of consumers in countries such as France, Spain, Germany and Italy expressing the urgent need to find alternatives to conventional animal agriculture (3).

    As cited in the EIT Food whitepaper on protein diversification, national governments have recognised the opportunity of alternative proteins and have called for a sustainable protein strategy which the European Commission has committed to work on in the near future. The European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy and the Communication on Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan do however recognise the role of a more plant-based diet consisting of less red and processed meat, including more fruits and vegetables in disease prevention and in reducing the environmental impact of the food system (4).

    The war against Ukraine is also predicted to drive a dietary shift due to affordability, with the majority of European consumers saying the conflict has had negative impacts on the price of food, and with the most severe changes seen in animal products (5). Approximately 55% of consumers stated they have seen significant price increases in red meat, 52% in fish, and 51% in dairy (5).

    Alongside external pressures such as the war, recognition from the European Commission and the amplification of existing solutions, this could see the development of further diverse meat alternative food products as well as increased support from investors and policymakers as demand and pressure rises. Some meat alternative production methods, such as cell cultivation, are not yet authorised to be sold on all global markets. However, recent momentum has seen the approval of cultivated meat in markets such as Singapore and the USA – could Europe be next?

    Increased interest from investors as well as growing awareness of cultivated meat in Europe could be a positive sign for the sector, with 65% of Spanish consumers, for example, expressing they would be willing to purchase it when it becomes available (3). On the 2023 food trends episode of the Food Fight podcast, Ed Bergen, Senior Analyst for Food and Nutrition at FutureBridge, explained that deregulation could also play a huge role in 2023, where policy and regulation are reviewed and potentially reduced in Europe to encourage the acceleration of cultivated meat commercialisation (1).

    Learn more about cultivated meat as a novel food in Europe.

    This food trend is also extending into emerging markets such as alternative seafood products and algae-based foods as the need to reduce the environmental impact of fishing and aquaculture increases. This is reflected by the fact that $175 million was raised globally by alternative seafood companies in 2021 (a 92% increase from 2020) and there are now approximately 120 companies around the world researching and producing alternative seafood (6). Europe is home to the majority of these with the United Kingdom and The Netherlands hosting 15% of the world’s alternative seafood companies (6).

    The number of algae-based food products is also expected to rise with the recent adoption of ‘Towards a Strong and Sustainable EU Algae Sector’, a set of strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture sector. The guidelines, which EIT Food welcomed, stress the need to promote the farming of algae – both macroalgae (seaweed) and microalgae – as a way of contributing to achieving several objectives of the European Green Deal (7). This food trend is supported by the fact that consumers have an appetite to learn more about algae as a food. The EIT Food Citizen Participation Forum study on algae revealed that consumers generally understand algae as an environmentally friendly food with health benefits, but there is scope for more consumer education and awareness about the potential of algae to drive positive changes for health and sustainability (8).

    3. Targeted nutrition solutions will become more localised

    Targeted nutrition is a food trend that is expected to increase and evolve in 2023 with health initiatives and policies being introduced based on local needs and challenges.

    The connections between healthy diets and healthy planet are clear and, in order to create healthier lives through food for all, we must consider the diversity of solutions that are needed for different people in different locations. With that in mind, and with the call to action for greater nutrition security being clear at COP27, there will likely be a greater focus on localised targeted nutrition solutions in 2023.

    As part of a targeted nutrition diet, which must consider factors such as food affordability and accessibility, different lifestyles and cultural traditions, investment in personalisation is likely to continue increasing. With consumers predicted to look for more formulations that will improve both their physical and mental health in 2023 (9), this aims to empower consumers to make more informed decisions about their diets based on tangible insights and data.

    On the Food Fight podcast, Ed suggested that targeted nutrition innovation “is never going to be mainstream enough for the average consumer to be able to access it.” With that being said, Ed echoed the food trend prediction of local targeted nutrition solutions, pointing to stakeholder groups such as supermarkets, schools and governments introducing local health initiatives and policies based on local dietary needs and customs. Ed said this will aim to deliver more food and ingredients targeted to broader groups who share the same needs, thus making personalised nutrition more accessible to all (1).

    The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health also suggests the focus is shifting from a one-size fits all approach for a planetary diet to one which reflects regional diets. In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission published the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and how we can support and speed up food system transformation. The next iteration of the report, due to be published in 2024, builds upon the findings of the first publication and will include a greater focus on diversity and the adaptation of regional and local diets. This recognises that diversity is key when looking at nutrition and that food isn’t just something we eat; it also has deep cultural significance, and targeted nutrition solutions need to take this into account.

    4. Technology will increase food system resilience

    In the aftermath of crises such as the war on Ukraine as well as COVID-19, the need to automate and connect processes in food system to increase resilience has grown.

    Automation, connectivity and traceability are expected to see more investment and focus in 2023. Despite coronavirus first disrupting the world back in 2020, the knock-on impacts of the pandemic on industries such as agrifood are still being seen and, as a result, “businesses really owe it to consumers to be much more transparent,” said Sam Newman (1). One of these knock-on impacts is the role of technology and digitalisation to enable greater security and the sector’s ability to quickly act during crises.

    In 2023, the development, roll out and implementation of these solutions is forecasted to continue. This includes increasing our ability to monitor crop conditions on a hyperlocalised scale, suggested Ed on the Food Fight podcast (1), as well as bridging the gap between reality and virtual reality to predict outcomes and manage required changes. Using information from integrated systems which connect and share data such as the Internet of Things (IoT), agrifood businesses like farms, manufacturing facilities and supermarkets will be able to build ‘digital twins’ of different systems. This will enable them to adjust different elements of the supply chain in a virtual scenario to better predict how they will likely influence outcomes further along the supply chain. This will better prepare businesses for crises or supply chain disruptions, equipping them with supply chain knowledge and resiliency plans.

    The IoT food trend, as well as the use of digital systems such as blockchain, can also help to manage other risks and processes such as food safety, supply chain transparency and waste reduction.

    5. The value of food waste will be embedded throughout the food system

    In 2023 we can expect greater investment in solutions that focus on circularity as well as the valorisation of food waste and loss into side streams and new resources.

    Waste is a food trend that is predicted to evolve in 2023. Over the past few years, the dialogue surrounding food waste has transitioned from isolated waste reduction at different levels of the food system to food waste and loss from the food system as a whole. As a result, in 2023 we can expect greater investment in solutions that focus on circularity as well as the valorisation of food waste and loss into side streams and new resources that can be used elsewhere. This includes the likes of agricultural byproducts being used for fertiliser to food waste being upcycled to create new, nutritious food ingredients.

    On the 100th episode of the Food Fight podcast, Thor Sifusson, Founder and Chairman of Iceland Ocean Cluster, said that this needs to extend into all markets within the food system, including fishing and aquaculture. Thor said, “the mindset has to change; we have to inspire the fisheries and aquaculture industry” so that byproducts are seen as valuable, rather than waste. “There should not be any waste from these industries,” (10). For this to happen, Ed Bergen said that “we need more efforts from companies, governments and from people. We really need to change behaviour and sometimes you need a bit of force to do that.” (1) Ed compared this to the plastic bag tax, which resulted in a shift in consumer behaviour across many parts of Europe.

    EIT Food in 2023

    By better understanding food trends and sharing knowledge between stakeholders, we can shape the future of the food system more cohesively and efficiently. EIT Food is committed to building an inclusive agrifood community where all voices are heard and can contribute to a healthier, more transparent, resilient, and fair, net zero food system. Eager to be involved? Find out how you can join the community and keep up to date with our newsletter, The Feed!

    References

    1. EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: What’s on the menu? Food trends for 2023
    2. European Economic and Social Committee: Towards a sustainable protein and plant oil strategy for the EU
    3. Good Food Institute Europe: Most consumers in western Europe want alternatives to meat, surveys shows
    4. EIT Food: Whitepaper on protein diversification
    5. EIT Food: European consumers cut back on food costs to cope with shortages and rising prices
    6. Good Food Institute: Industry update: Alternative seafood
    7. European Commission: Towards a Strong and Sustainable EU Algae Sector
    8. EIT Food: Creating consumer demand for algae-based products
    9. Mintel: 2023 Global Food and Drink Trends
    10. EIT Food: Food Fight podcast: How can we stop wasting fish?
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    Key takeaways

    Pressure will mount for COP28 decision makers to drive a sustainable food system Open Close

    Meat alternative food products will become more diverse Open Close

    Targeted nutrition solutions will become more localised Open Close

    Technology will increase food system resilience Open Close

    The value of food waste will be embedded throughout the food system Open Close

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