Year in Review: Looking Back at Green Queen’s 2023 Food Trend Predictions

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Stay tuned for my 2024 food trend predictions, out first thing tomorrow. I’ve been doing these for many years now and I love thinking about how I think the industry will evolve, what is needed and what trends will play a big role. As always, it’s important to take stock – so just how did my 2023 forecasts fare?

Overall observations

2023 was bumpy for food tech folks, there’s no denying it. From a bleak macro-economic environment that meant investors went from guns blazing to gun-shy to ongoing wards and political instability to major wars and supply chain disruptions, not to mention major weather extremes across the globe, conditions were rough out there and food tech took a beating. Valuations nosedived. Too many investors left the building. Alt protein became the persona non-grata of food media. Misinformation was rampant. But mostly, the industry survived and that’s something to celebrate.

Looking back at my January 2023 predictions I am struck by two things: firstly, as I said on a podcast this morning, once it became clear by the end of Q1 that non-foodtech VCs had deserted the category in droves and niche investors were holding on to their dollars, it felt like we were in a wait-and-see mode for most of the year with founders focused on basic survival, securing bridge rounds, hanging on to shelf space and avoiding the wrath of the anti-alt-meat press, which meant there was less product innovation, fewer big debuts and SKU experimentation, 

This explains my second observation, which is that many of the food trends I predicted a year ago are only now appearing in 2024 lists (just call me Cassandra) because 2023 was so quiet, but they are still just as valid and on trend so here’s what you can expect this year: Fungi Forward Fun (mushrooms everywhere), More Culinary Diversity, Please (global flavor profiles with a focus on Asian, African and Latin American foods), Nostalgia Branding Reigns Supreme (your favorite childhood foods reborn), and Healthy Plus Formulations (foods with function).

What I Got Right

Canteen Impact: Operators like Compass and Sodexo continued to deliver on decarbonizing menus throughout 2023. I was (and continue to be) bullish on the impact potential of foodservice and while this trend does not attract the big headlines, it’s where you can really move the needle in terms of lowering the footprint of meals served to tens of thousands of people across school/hospital/corporate cafeterias. 

Affordable Flexitarianism: I wrote that big and small brands alike would focus on delivering ready-to-heat meals and easy-to-assemble meal kits as busy families and younger professionals looked for convenience on top of health and sustainability. From Gardein and Daring Foods’ bowls to Beyond Meat UK’s ready meals to VFC’s latest Chicken Fried Rice in a bag, this trend is going nowhere. 

Alt Protein Pet Food FTW: I predicted an explosion in protein diversification for your furry babies and this came through, with a bucket full of plant-based and cultivated protein launches and a boom in the sector as sustainably-minded younger generations across the globe look for healthier and lower carbon options for their pet babies.

The Quiet Quitting of PB Founders: I wrote that I thought many founders would quietly leave the vegan meat space and that’s very much been the case. Because it’s a quiet trend, there aren’t many headlines to share but the year has been brutal for plant protein startups including Nowadays, Hooray Foods, Unreal Foods and a good handful more, who all said goodbye for good.

The Politicization of Alt Protein: I wrote that the sector was going to be attacked on all fronts by Big Meat and Big Dairy lobbies looking to protect their turf and this has been relentless, from a controversial Aubrey-Plaza-backed wood milk campaign to the return of Got Milk ads to meat misinformation around unnatural foods, it’s tough running comms for plant-based foods these days. 

Cultivated Meat Regulatory Approval Continues – US: I predicted at least one US-cultivated meat company would get approval and bet on Upside, and this was on the money. I also suggested there’d be a least one other though my pick was Wildtype or BlueNalu and in the end GOOD Meat made history. 

Cultivated Meat Regulatory Approval Continues – Global Outlook: While I was rightly sceptical there would be any approvals from Israel, the UK, the EU and China, I thought we’d get at least one other approval from Singapore’s FSA but that did not happen. 

What I Got Wrong

I did get a couple more wrong: I thought we’d see more Big Dairy x Animal-Free Dairy Go Steady collabs but that did not happen- in fact, the precision fermentation dairy space had a mostly uneventful year save for one or two major headlines – and I thought we’d see some more activity in the Blended Products: Cultivated Fat, Meet Plant-Based Meat context – big big news on the hybrid front (cultivated + plant-based) but instead, we saw a reboot of the blended meat (conventional meat + plant-based ingredients) category – so much so we did an entire content series on the topic

Overall, I’m still batting above average but no doubt when I sat down to write my 2023 list, I did not foresee how the year would turn out. Here’s hoping 2024 brings some better tidings, and don’t miss next year’s predictions, out tomorrow!


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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