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Food – Options and Possibilities

There are three main certainties about the next decade which can be seen as demographic, environmental and technological.

Demographically, as the overall global population increases we know, for instance, that by 2020 China and India will have over 33% of the total and the US will, for example, become more ethnically diverse. We know that the food market is very fragmented and there is no ‘one size fits all’ and as the health challenges of obesity and malnutrition continue. We know that more healthy, nutritious food is a ‘must have’. We also know that the right amount of food will not be in the right places to feed the world affordably.

Environmentally, as oil‐based energy resources diminish and water for agricultural use becomes more limited, we know that commodities, and especially meat and dairy proteins, will become more expensive. As the world becomes more connected, there will be more global crises related to biological and chemical factors such as SARS, Avian Flu, H1N1 etc. These crises will have socio‐economic effects that cause industry shifts in demand and supply as imports / exports are restricted and all of certain livestock (i.e. the chickens in a region) are killed – remember Hong Kong in 1997 and 2008?

Technologically, over the next decade, there will be significant advances in areas such as bioengineering, genetics and nutrition. Advances in information technologies will improve the production and distribution of food. However more paradoxes will continue to exist: obesity vs. malnutrition; traditional authentic vs. bioactive delivery; sustainability vs. convenience; and the anti GMO consumer attitude vs. the need for GMO to feed the world. What we are less sure about are the unpredictability in consumer attitudes and the technical potential of ‘pharma foods’.

Consumer perceptions around the necessary trade‐offs between food science vs. food simplicity will be a challenge to manage and may impact the ability of the food industry to implement the needed solutions: Will consumers, for instance, accept the need for genetically modified or artificial foods in order to feed the masses and provide health benefits at lower cost or will they want more natural foods? Equally changing consumer preferences are uncertain: Will demand for expensive individual customization continue to increase while consumers also want less expensive products? Will traditional branded products remain relevant and valued as retailers build their own‐brand products? Will customers want convenient single-serve portions while also wanting to be more sustainable?

Pharma‐foods, the intersection between food and pharmaceuticals, is an area of growing opportunity for many in the food sector. As consumers demand more technologically sophisticated foods with unique, complex health benefits, food companies will need to respond. We now understand more about individual’s disease propensities from the human genome. Therefore nutrigenomic determination of diet becomes technically possible. Technology is advancing and as natural bioactive components are better understood, the line between pharma and food will blur: The challenge will be how to continue to find new ways to continue to provide natural, food‐delivered preventative health benefits and begin to provide natural, food‐delivered disease state improvement benefits without food becoming a drug.

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5 Responses to “Food – Options and Possibilities”
  1. Workshop Feedback says:

    I agree that the future will be about a struggle for food supply, but see that there will be increasing demand for simplicity and naturalness.

  2. Workshop Feedback says:

    If many companies focus on the 20% of heavy consumers of food, as they are the most profitable and can be persuaded to buy more, then going forward how will they better engage the other 80%? Will this be just as much about building trust and credibility as in delivering the produce?

  3. Workshop Feedback says:

    The trade-off between science and simplicity is, I think, not as much of a challenge as made out in the initial point of view. In many ways the two go together – take for example pro-biotic yoghurts etc where natural and added goodness are the key elements of the product. There is certainly more opportunity for the two to be mixed appropriate in the future – this is already happening in areas such as anti-oxidants.

  4. Workshop Feedback says:

    There are really two levels of discussion: How to feed the world and how to market food to the consumer. I see that, although over fishing is a problem in many areas, this could be part of the solution to the increasing protein demand for the Asian diet. The challenge is how to develop and sustain an efficient, nutritious fish based supply chain.

  5. Workshop Feedback says:

    I agree that in the next decade more tensions will exist between science and simplicity. However this provides multiple opportunities for innovation – we can improve food distribution so that fresh food can efficiently be delivered into urban environments. In addition we can also encourage more micro processing of foods in the rural areas. Maybe we can even encourage more aquaculture and enable consumers to grow their own fish as well as their own vegetables?

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