The food industry is a dynamic one, always coming up with something new to keep consumers excited and nourished. It is fair to say that the sector has always tried to give consumers what they want, and in 2023, we expect the same trend to repeat itself.  From meeting consumer demand for convenient but flavorful alcoholic beverages to the need for high-quality animal-free dairy and meat products, the food industry is poised for a busy 2023 punctuated with innovations. To keep all food producers in the know, we highlight some of the megatrends that are forecast to shape the food and beverage industry in 2023.

RTD cocktails to flood the market

The hard seltzer frenzy introduced consumers to rich and exciting flavors which were mostly unheard-of in the alcohol industry. Although the hard selzer’s popularity is waning after years of triple-digit growth, consumers demand for more ready-to-drink cocktails isn’t. In 2023, bverage makers are poised to flood the market with more of these trendy products.

In the coming months, Brown-Forman and Coca‑Cola are expected to introduce a ready-to-drink cocktail combining Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and the iconic soda brand. The Atlanta-based soda giant is also gearing up for the debut of Topo Chico Spirited which is produced in partnership with Molson Coors.

Diageo is also partnering with The Vita Coco Company on a line of premium canned cocktails crafted with Captain Morgan rum and Vita Coco coconut water. These drinks are expected out early this year. Truly from Boston Beer, which launched in October, is also expected to gain momentum in 2023 as more drinkers jump onto the cocktail bandwagon.

“I would not be surprised if RTD spirits were the largest single entity in beverage alcohol” a decade from now, said Nathan Greene, an analyst at Beverage Marketing Corporation. The 2022 IWSR RTD Strategic Study supports Grene’s statements.  According to the report, the RTD category volumes across the 10 focus markets (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, UK, and US) will grow by 24% over the next five years.

“Taste is also the leading factor in why consumers are choosing RTDs, with packaging attributes such as portability and single-serve sizing growing compared to previous years,” highlighted the IWSR report.

Precision fermentation becomes mainstream

Not long ago, using fermentation to recreate proteins that are found in animal-derived food almost sounded like a futuristic science project. Today, precision fermentation is becoming more real than fiction and using technology to produce food ingredients on a larger scale.

Animal-free whey protein from Perfect Day, the largest and most developed precision fermentation company,  is today widely by companies such as Mars and Nestlé. Other players such as Oobli and The Every Company are also producing some unique ingredients which are also receiving positive response from the market. 

Oobli, which makes sweet proteins through precision fermentation, launched a chocolate bar containing 70% less sugar than other brands. Precision fermentation egg white protein maker The Every Company, on the other hand, partnered with hard juice maker Pulp Culture to make a protein-boosted alcoholic beverage last fall.

What makes precision fermentation a top trend for 2023 is the major deals that are planned in the sector. CPG giant Unilever has said it is interested in launching ice cream made from animal-free dairy. New Culture, a company that makes cheese using casein made by precision fermentation, plans to launch in pizzerias this year. And companies including Remilk and Onego Bio are positioning themselves to enter the market.

Also, market entry is becoming easy with early adopters such as Perfect day launched nth Bio, an enterprise biology business to help newer companies with tech and scale-up services. Liberation Labs, a new venture dedicated to building scale-up facilities for precision fermentation startups, also recently closed a $20 million funding round to build a 600,000-liter commercial scale launch facility.

Cultivated meat cuts legal red tape

Cultivated meat was designed to overcome the texture, taste, and nutritional issues associated with plant-based meat. Being a novel technology, it has largely remained closeted in Research and Development labs with little happening in the commercial side of the business.

In December 2020, Singapore made history by becoming the first jurisdiction to approve the commercial production of cultivated meat. Although many believes that other jurisdictions would soon follow, no other jurisdiction has approved cultivated meat for commercial use, 2 years after Singapore.

Industry experts are however confident that 2023 is the year that cultivated meat finally transitions from the lab to plants across many more jurisdictions. The US seems to be the front runner with the FDA having issued Upside Foods with “a no questions” letter, essentially confirming that the regulator considers the company’s cell-cultured chicken process to be safe for humans. “I’m going to be ambitious and optimistic and say that we’re gonna see the United States’ first commercially available cultivated poultry products by the end of 2023,” says Wiley Rein who works with companies on FDA and USDA regulatory issues.

Cultivated meat could also be commercially available in Israel this year if the developments in the country are anything to go by. Cultivated meat company Aleph Farms announced in January that Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Yisrael Meir Lau, has ruled its cultivated steak to be kosher. This is pivotal for the company as it means that cultivated meat is permitted for consumption by Jews under religious law.

Once the red tape is removed, commercialization on a larger scale could happen sooner as major food companies already have significant scales in the cultivated meat sector.  JBS, the world’s second largest poultry producer, already owns a cultivated meat company which it acquired in 2021, and Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, is known to be working with Believer Meats, formerly known as Future Meat Technologies, to explore the possibilities of the space.

Editor’s note: This story is the first in a 2-part series on trends impacting the food and beverage industry in 2023.

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