When your job involves developing healthy and affordable food and wellness products for Thrive Market Goods and finding the best organic and sustainable brands to add to the Thrive Market catalog, it’s only natural that you would become a wealth of information about the latest food and wellness trends. That’s exactly why, when we wanted to see what healthy trends to look out for in the new year, we tapped our very own product innovators, category managers, and even our Director of Merchandising.
Want to learn which healthy trends are on the rise? From sea-sourced supplements to the new alternative to oat milk, here’s what our team predicts will take over the worlds of food and wellness in 2023.
Why it’s trending: While most people think of vegetables as growing on land, there are many nutritious vegetables growing beneath the sea, offering another avenue for eating your greens. Sea moss is also becoming a popular addition to a supplement or smoothie routine, thanks to being high in iodine, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals.
What’s the deal? No longer limited to just plant-based beef and burgers, 2023 may usher in an increase in plant-based chicken, pork, jerky, and other meat substitutes.
Why it’s trending: As plant-based meats become more sophisticated (and healthier, as many brands are cutting down on the artificial ingredients and filler in favor of real, whole foods), the category is expanding to include other types of meat substitutes. “Retailers are looking for a better-tasting, whole food alternative [to processed plant-based foods],” says Ali Schmid, Product Innovator at Thrive Market. Mushroom jerky from brands like Pan’s and Moku, plant-based chicken from Daring, and plant-based seafood from Good Catch are just a few examples of these new forms of meat-free proteins that look, feel, and taste just like their meaty counterparts.
What’s the deal? This concept refers to eating for the enteric nervous system, the more than 100 million nerve cells within the digestive tract that control digestion, but also communicate with the brain.
Why it’s trending: As more and more people become interested in the connection between gut health and brain function (and, in turn, your moods), the concept of eating to maintain a healthy gut becomes top-of-mind. “There are specific food products now that include nootropics and adaptogens that are meant to help your body respond to stress, anxiety, and fatigue and support overall wellbeing,” says James Ren, Director of Merchandising for Branded Foods at Thrive Market. “Taking care of one’s own health has evolved from just being focused on physical health to now include mental health. This is fueling the rise of these types of products, as consumers are more and more focused on taking care of their holistic health.”
What’s the deal? A swing away from the massive influx of vegan cheese, egg alternatives, and plant-based milks in the past few years (oat, pistachio, and even pea protein are a few of the more memorable), 2023 will likely welcome the return of dairy—high-quality, organic dairy, that is.
Why it’s trending: “Dairy has always been a controversial food item in the wellness space, but we’ve seen beliefs evolve over time,” says Lina Diaz, Site Merchandising Coordinator at Thrive Market. “I’ve seen more and more people who once advocated for a dairy-free diet start to talk more about certain types of dairy.” The “certain types of dairy” that are on the rise in the health food world aren’t your usual skim or 2%; these are varieties like A2 dairy, which is a type of milk from heirloom cows that are bred to not produce the A1 beta-casein protein, a larger protein often thought to be the protein that causes digestion issues. So-called “raw milk” is also on the rise, which is milk that has not been pasteurized (though consuming raw milk is often viewed as risky, as it could contain harmful bacteria). Even if they don’t go so far as raw milk, many people are opting to return to consuming dairy in higher quality, more natural forms. “It comes down to the processing. There are a lot of plant-based products that are overly processed, so people are getting back to the basics, eating more natural items and products to have less processed food in their diets,” says Caleb Hulsey, Senior Category Manager at Thrive Market.
What’s the deal? This alternative flour is made from dried and ground chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans).
Why it’s trending: Chickpea flour is becoming a popular gluten-free alternative to traditional flours. It stands out from alternative flours like almond flour or oat flour thanks to its sweet, creamy texture and high amounts of protein. “It’s gluten-free, it’s nut-free, so it’s the type of flour that could meet a lot of dietary restrictions,” says Schmid. While chickpea pastas have been popular for a few years, 2023 could see a rise in the flour form for things like cookies, crackers, and other baked goods.
Why it’s trending: You’ve often heard dates described as “nature’s candy”, but what about nature’s sugar? The chewy fruit is one of the sweetest in the world, so it makes a tasty—and natural—substitute for traditional sugar. Expect to find date sweeteners popping up in various forms in 2023.
What’s the deal? This focus on ethical fishing practices helps to protect fish populations to avoid overfishing and reduces the environmental impact of sourcing seafood.
Why it’s trending: “Sustainable seafood sourcing is healthier for our oceans, from absorbing carbon to creating better environments and ecosystems for sea life,” says Husley. Ren provided a specific example to highlight the need for sustainability in the seafood industry: “The majority of the shrimp we consume is farmed in areas like Southeast Asia or India, and when importing from overseas, there’s a huge carbon footprint on just that transport.” When considering how to solve the issue, he pointed to groups like TransparentSea Farm, who created an indoor shrimp farm outside of Los Angeles to supply local restaurants with shrimp—without the emissions. “How do you continue to feed a growing population the foods they’re used to eating, but in a better, more sustainable, more localized way?” asks Ren. “Transparency is a big thing: can you track down the farm it came from, the fishing vessel it came from? adds Hulsey. “We’re seeing a lot more supply chain and sourcing transparency [in seafood].”
Why it’s trending: “Beverages are exploding,” says Hulsey. “Now there’s even kids’ kombucha.” From prebiotic sodas to collagen-infused teas, non-alcoholic wines and even sparkling mushroom elixirs, the beverage category will likely only get more expansive—and more exciting—in 2023.
What’s the deal? Instead of the outdated, catch-all “global” or “ethnic” food categories of years past, both brands and grocers are beginning to get much more specific when noting the nuance in regional flavors.
Why it’s trending: The grocery industry is more than overdue for an overhaul when it comes to international flavors and ingredients, and consumers are excited to learn more about different cultures’ cuisines (including exactly where they come from). “We’re seeing a lot of brands calling out the specific locality of a certain flavor, not these broad terms of where a global flavor is coming from,” says Husley. “Now, it’s not just Asian, maybe it’s Filipino.” Expect to see products like sauces from the Chettinad region of India, sparkling water flavored with lime from the Philippines, and fonio, an easily digestible grain from Western Africa.
What’s the deal? Sports nutrition products like protein supplements, hydration boosters, and creatine will likely see a popularity boost that corresponds with improved ingredients and quality.
Why it’s trending: While electrolyte beverages and protein powders have been popular for quite a while, this category is due for a modern, health-forward overhaul. “With a widening consumer base, people are learning less is more—fewer ingredients, less sugar, less filler,” says Sara Rodich, Product Innovator for Vitamins and Supplements at Thrive Market. “These products are not just for athletes anymore, and we’re really seeing that reflected with fewer artificial flavors and colors, and the inclusion of well-studied, clinical ingredients.”
Diets like paleo and keto are giving way to more flexible, whole food eating plans. “We’re seeing fewer diet-prescribed items, and more flexible eating habits,” Hulsey explains. “Not necessarily a strict keto diet, but high-fat, high-protein, low-carb, low-sugar—following those trends more than the specific keto terminology, because that can be polarizing. We’re seeing people taking the attributes of a diet like that, but without calling it outright ‘keto’.” “It’s not so scientific, it’s not as clinical anymore,” adds Ren.
As sustainability efforts grow and evolve, consumers are looking for more substantial information about what those terms mean. When it comes to food and wellness products, people are becoming interested in how the product was sourced rather than vague, unsubstantiated terms like “clean”, “natural,” or “ethical”. Brands are also veering away from simply using recycled or recyclable packaging as a way to make a product seem sustainable. “Now it’s more about the sourcing story, and less about the packaging itself,” says Hulsey.
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