Editor’s Pick: 12 food and drink trends you need to know this summer

15 May 2024, 07:00 AM
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Editor’s Pick: 12 food and drink trends you need to know this summer

At Speciality Food we’re constantly taking the pulse of the industry, speaking with insiders, experts and forecasters, to ensure we deliver the very latest insight, enabling you to make effective buying decisions.

Through networking, and collaborating with wholesalers, brands and the UK’s leading speciality food and drink events, we’re always there for the ‘inside scoop’. So, without further ado, here’s some personal insight into what’s currently trending on the scene, based on show visits, conversations with analysts, and interviews with specialists.

1. Gut-friendly food

We are obsessed with the gut revolution in the UK. I’ve never heard so many people talking about their fibre intake, internal flora, and good and bad bacteria. What was a small category, led largely by single shot yoghurt-type drinks, has become completely saturated in the wake of research into the impact of our food and drink choices on our gut health. From live cultured drinks, to added-fibre chocolate and cereal bars, snacks and pastas. This trend is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere soon.

2. Truckle cheeses

British shoppers love a truckle. And there has been some exciting NPD in the category from both new and established brands. The appeal of these cheeses, I think, is in their ‘grab and go’ nature, shelf life, and the broad range of flavours available. Sampling, too, (which is part of the truckle cheese culture) really helps retailers to grab the attention of shoppers. Bestsellers include mature Cheddar, smoked cheese and those infused with truffle.

3. Hot sauce

The British palate is getting braver. Hot sauces were, 10 years ago, usually reserved for ‘chilli heads’ - folk who get their kicks from journeying up the Scoville Scale. Today, though, they’ve burst into the mainstream, and the key to quality is flavour, not mouth-burning, furious heat. Consumers want to experience an authentic taste of the hot sauce traditions of the Caribbean particularly, and to be able to pick out the fruitiness of the chilli varieties used. I’m a big fan of anything from Condimaniac and the South Devon Chilli Farm.

4. Hot honey

A huge favourite in our house, particularly the Wilderbee brand, hot honey has probably soared in popularity because if its use across a mixture of cuisines, from Asian hot wings and K-dogs, to American chicken tenders, ribs and barbecues. It’s a very versatile ingredient, working as a marinade, in dressings, as a table sauce, and dashed into stews, casseroles, soups and stir fries. 

5. Ready meals

Ready meals have certainly had a ‘glow up’, particularly since the pandemic, when more and more of us relied on them. A whole new generation of makers has blossomed in this category, using traditional cooking methods, wholesome, real ingredients to make dishes that taste just like homemade. Farm shops I’ve spoken to report they’ve had to increase freezer space due to the popularity of these options. Bestsellers include lasagne and curries. Having sampled several, my favourites include Lodge Farm Kitchen, ByRuby, Supper Club, Fieldgoods and Farmyard Frozen. The meal solutions from Fieldfare are fantastic too, especially their savoury puddings and pies.

6. New wave sodas and mocktails

Sodas are everywhere at the moment. But they’re not the sugar-laden kind we grew up on. Spawned from the need to innovate following the introduction of HFSS regulations, these drinks are lower in sugar, and often free from sweeteners. Gut-friendly varieties are worth a look, as are the larger format bottles of low sugar, alcohol-free mocktails – ideal for the growing number of people eschewing alcohol and looking for alternatives. Tropical and citrus flavours seem most popular, alongside booze-free takes on classic cocktail combinations. I think the sharing bottles from Belvoir Farm are excellent, particularly their rhubarb and ginger mocktail, which is incredibly refreshing.

7. Plant and pulse-based snacks

These were everywhere at the recent IFE in London. Again, innovation here has been driven by HFSS regulations, as well as a general consumer desire to be more mindful and healthful when they reach for a snack. We’ve tried cauliflower crisps, roasted, beef brisket-flavoured broad beans, and wholegrain mini rice crackers warmed up with Asian spices. Whole foods and processing matter to the modern consumer, so nut, grain and pulse-based snacks that are as close as possible to their natural state, will appeal. I think Nudie Snacks is one to watch in this category.

8. Kombucha

What was, perhaps, one bottle propped up next to lemonade and coke on the soft drink aisle, has become big business in the UK, and there are new kombucha brands being launched left, right and centre. Not all kombucha is the good stuff, so don’t be taken in by branding and gimmicks. The acidity of this drink can put some people off. It is essential to taste, taste, taste and choose your stock for flavour first, above any health claims. Start your customers off with a milder variety to get their palates used to it, before venturing into the funkier kinds. Gentle types I think work for kombucha ‘newbies’ include Citrus Hops from LA Brewery, and the Verbena Lemonade kombucha collab between River Cottage and Equinox.

9. Botanical rum

This is a fairly new way of branding rum that’s catching on. Inspired by the successful marketing of gin in the last decade or so, makers are appealing to a more diverse range of drinkers by being a bit more ‘blousy’ with their label design, and highlighting the botanicals that bring a touch of nuance to their products. Interestingly, it’s British makers that are driving this trend forward, including Penryn Spirits, Dunnet Bay Distillers, and Bone Idyll.

10. Mood-enhancing food

From menopause-friendly teas, to CBD drinks for anxiety, and mushroom powders crafted to lift the spirits. The value to consumers of mood-boosting foods cannot be underestimated. 

11. Decaf hot drinks

More and more tea and coffee blenders are improving and increasing their decaf ranges as consumers show a desire to slow their caffeine intake – particularly in the afternoon or evening. There are some very good coffee alternatives coming to market, including some made with chicory, and real attention is being paid to ensuring flavour profiles of decaf products match that of their caffeine-loaded counterparts. When sourcing decaf coffee look for types made using natural decaffeination methods, such as Swiss Water. As a decaf drinker, the best coffee I’ve had is the chocolatey and nutty variety from Crude. Noffee, a new chicory based coffee alternative is worth trying too.

12. RTD cocktails

Shake (or not) pour, garnish. It’s never been easier to recreate that bar cocktail experience in a home setting. Whole sections of the multiples are now dedicated to RTD cocktails, with consumers able to buy both low ABV and bar strength varieties. Eye-catching packaging is a buying factor (cans that will impress guests), as is the use of premium spirits, and recipes that replicate classic cocktails perfectly. At the moment big sellers include the Old Fashioned, Pina Colada, Negroni, and Paloma. The best I’ve tried recently are Angel’s Dare’s Cheeky Wee Kiss, and Spicy Melons from Mixtons.

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