CHICAGO — Consumer demand for nostalgic foods will be a significant driver for flavor and product development in 2024, according to the foodservice category market research firm Datassential.

Identified as a key trend in the company’s annual FoodBytes trend report, Datassential expects popular nostalgic applications will include pickle-flavored offerings and re-imaginings of classic 1990s cocktails like espresso martinis, which have become one of the fastest-growing menu items in the last 12 months. The interest in reviving childhood favorites also has led to an uptick in product launches featuring the peanut butter and jelly flavor.

“As Millennials, Gen X and Boomers longingly look back to a rose-colored past amid continued worries, while Gen Z experiences some of these trends for the first time, brands should dive into the archives for ideas,” Datassential said. “If you have a concept that resonates with nostalgic consumers, challenge yourself to find a way to bring it back in 2024.”

Another trend identified in the report sees an increase in desire for innovative European cuisine. While the market for European meals stagnated somewhat amid demand for Mexican and Asian dishes, Datassential predicts consumers will begin to crave fresh twists on the foods they encounter during post-pandemic vacations abroad. Examples include Italian offerings focused on bolder, spicier flavor notes; French cuisine that pairs light and indulgent portions; and pub-inspired fare that combines English and Indian flavors.

As the median age in the United States continues to rise, companies will need to pay increased attention to mature consumers. Datassential’s report finds that unlocking the unique needs of Gen X and baby boomers will be a key to creating growth in 2024.

“Gen X is more likely to seek out premium experiences, travel often and regularly enjoy an alcoholic beverage than any other generation, while Boomers are the least likely to say they are watching their budget,” the company said.

Two of Datassential’s 2024 trends center around technology, focusing particularly on advancements in operators’ back-of-house capabilities and developments in emerging technologies. The latter will focus on exploring the role of artificial intelligence in product development and data analysis, and the former will include investments in robotics that can reduce labor costs and multifunctional equipment that can increase operators’ ability to pivot production. Market researcher Technomic echoed similar findings in its 2024 trends report, centering on improvements to online ordering systems and automated kitchen equipment.

“Freshness, great taste, and cleanliness are table stakes today and back-of-house equipment must support those need states,” Datassential said.

The food delivery segment also will need to adapt in 2024 to overcome consumer pushback in the segment. Datassential reports that 50% of consumers cite delivery as being too expensive, and nearly 40% of shoppers cancel their transactions after viewing the final price. The company noted key areas of improvement will need to include increasing the ease of order customization, revising inaccurate menu descriptions and decreasing the frequency of low-quality or damaged orders.

“Delivery platforms will need to make their value proposition clear, even going above and beyond what's expected in order to surprise and delight customers,” Datassential said.