Unilever Foods Solutions (UFS) has released its annual trend report, Future Menus 2024, which sets out the eight global trends shaping the food service industry.

The key shifts expected in restaurants this year include a rising demand for unexpected flavour combinations, the mainstreaming of plant-based dishes, and a focus on maximising ingredients to reduce food waste in the kitchen. Generation Z, known for their substantial spending on dining out and for regularly making dining choices based on social media content2, are influencing dining experiences around the world.

The report highlights a demand from this generation for 'Flavour Shock', characterized by unexpected flavour combinations and twists on classic dishes such as incorporating Mexican sauces to create modern pastas. To support chefs in creating these surprising flavour combinations, UFS provides its customers with key techniques such as smoking, pickling and fermenting as a way to combine different tastes and textures, as well as products that deliver on flavour while reducing preparation time.

Off the back of this demand for cooking aids, Knorr Professional's bouillons and seasonings grew 15% last year. With 48% of Generation Z considering how environmentally responsible, or sustainable a product or service is as the most important factor when making a purchase decision3, chefs are also seeing an increased demand for 'Low-Waste Menus'.  

In the face of sustainability concerns, 65% of food service operators consider this trend the most relevant and expect this trend to grow. To help chefs deliver on this, UFS provides techniques on how to utilise ingredients fully, including tips on using scraps and trimmings to create secondary dishes.

When it comes to offering plant-based menu items, despite reports that veganism is on the decline, diners continue to seek more variety in their meal choices, with the report highlighting 'Irresistible Vegetables' as a continued trend. Generation Z is the most likely to be interested in vegetarian, vegan, and conscious eating options.

To help chefs deliver plant-based options that don't compromise on taste, UFS has seen an increased demand for Hellmann's Vegan Mayo which has experienced 50% compound annual growth over the last two years. Star Chen, the CEO of Unilever Food Solutions said: "Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) is a business of chefs for chefs.

“The expertise of our global network of in-house chefs informs everything we do, including the development of unmissably superior products from our power brands Knorr Professional and Hellmann's, as well as solutions that help chefs deliver consistently stand-out dishes, in less time. By providing chefs with products that reduce food preparation time, whilst satisfying growing consumer appetite for on-trend dishes, UFS has seen consistent growth, now accounting for 20% of the Unilever Nutrition business."

UFS is helping chefs tap into these menu trends by providing recipe inspiration, culinary training, and professional products to more than 3 million food service operators around the world, contributing to double-digit growth for the UFS business in 2023. The second annual Future Menu Trends Report 2024 features recipes, insights, and practical tips drawn from the expertise of 250 in-house UFS chefs and elaborative feedback of more than 1,600 chef professionals across 21 markets, with the aim to assist foodservice operators worldwide in meeting evolving diner needs.

  1. The Forge Trendsetter Report, July 2023.
  2. GlobalData Economy TrendSights Analysis: Experience Economy, 2023.
  3. GlobalData Global Consumer Survey, Sustainability & Ethics, Q2 2023.
  4. Kantar e-Panel Global Trendsetter Report, August 2023.
  5. Gen Z Is Craving A More Sustainable Food System, McKinsey & Company, 2022.