Top 10 sustainable food trends in 2023

Food Digital deep dives into 10 trends in sustainable food production for 2023 including algae, vertical farming, cultivated meat, and edible packaging

Plant-based meats

Produced directly from plants, plant-based meats have been growing in popularity since the rise of vegetarian and vegan diets began in the 1960s. Globally retail sales in plant-based meat are US$6.1bn. Similar to animal-based meats, plant-based meats are composed of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. 

The advancements made in the product's taste have contributed to its growth in the last few years, with companies producing food that is virtually indistinguishable from animal-based meats. 

Key industry players: Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Gardein Protein International, Inc., Quorn Foods, and The Vegetarian Butcher.

Vertical farming

Coined in 1915, vertical farming is growing in its adoption as a suitable solution to combat population growth, climate change, deforestation, and soil degradation. 

Vertical farming is the use of vertical surfaces rather than traditional, horizontal agriculture. By using stacked layers farmers can produce much more food on the same amount of land (or less). The practice uses artificial temperature, light, water, and humidity control to maintain the crops.

Key industry players: AgriCool, Bowery Farming, Freight Farms, AeroFarms, and GP Solutions.

Regenerative agriculture

Simply put, regenerative agriculture is a form of farming where the production of food and fiber improves the environment. Primarily this involves regenerating soil.

The fire core principles of regenerative agriculture include:

  1. Do not disturb the soil
  2. Keep the soil surface covered
  3. Keep living roots in the soil
  4. Grow a diverse range of crops
  5. Bring grazing animals back to the land

Key industry players: PepsiCo, Walmart, Kering, VF Corporation, and General Mills.

Cultivated meat

Entering the market in 2013, the first cultivated meat burger was unveiled by Mark Post live on television. Cultivated meat - or cultured meat - is a genuine meat product (including seafood and organ meats) that is produced by those cultivating animal cells directly.

Made of the same cell types that can be arranged in the same or similar structure as animal tissues, this production method replicates the sensory and nutritional profiles of conventional meat but eliminates the need to raise and farm animals for food. 

Key industry players: UPSIDE Foods, GOOD Meats, Eat Just, Mosa Meat, and Believer Meats.

Alternative grains

As consumer concerns regarding the environmental and nutritional benefits of food, alternative grains are increasing in popularity among consumers due to being a good source of starch, fiber, proteins, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals. This is also coupled with the increased consumption of ancient grains and whole grains due to their association with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Key industry players: PepsiCo, Nestlé, and Quaker.

Algae-based products

In Early 2023, nutritionists named aquatic greens (algae, seaweed, and sea moss) as one of the latest superfoods. Specifically, Algae are aquatic organisms that can be found in bodies of water both fresh and salty. 

According to experts in the field, Algae has the capability to take in sunlight and nutrients from the environment and transform them into nutrients and compounds that the human body can use. Types of edible algae include seaweed, chlorella, spirulina, and sea moss.

Key industry players: Algama Foods, Back of the Yards Algae Sciences (BYAS), and New Wave Foods.

Edible packaging

In an effort to combat plastic waste and develop sustainable alternatives, emerging innovations are seeing companies finding alternative materials to make their packaging. Startup companies are using a variety of materials including seaweed, wheat, and pea protein to produce edible and biodegradable packaging for products. 

Key industry players: Notpla, Evoware, Forest and Whale, and Gousto.

Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture is a concept for farming management based on observing, measuring, and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. Using information technology (IT), a precision agriculture approach ensures that crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health, productivity, profitability, sustainability, and environmental protection. 

Key industry players: Agrosmart, Stenon, Instacrops, Augmenta, Intello Labs, and Plantix.

Upcycled ingredients

Upcycled foods are products made with ingredients that would otherwise be food waste - placed in incinerators, animal feed, landfills, or anaerobic digestors. With 8% of human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from food loss and waste, upcycled ingredients are a sustainable alternative, adding value to developing a resilient food system. 

Key industry players: Caju Love, Naylor Farms, Wholly Veggie, and Upcycled Grain Project.

Fermented foods

Growing in popularity, fermented foods are growing in traction due to their potential health benefits and reduced environmental impact during production. Fermented food and beverages have undergone controlled microbial growth and fermentation where microorganisms break down food components into other products.

Fermented foods include cultured milk and yogurt, wine, beer, cider, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh.

Key industry players: Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, Constellation Brands, Inc., Danone, PepsiCo, AB InBev, Nestlé, and Heineken.


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