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The food revolution. Trends disrupting the food industry

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Food is no longer a private matter – whole economies and even national security depend on it. The choices we make about how and what to eat are shaping the world’s food system. The influence of technology on the food industry is greater than ever. Sweeping innovations, including trends in vertical farming, aquaculture, biotech, blockchain, and robotics, are transforming the way we produce food and will continue to do so.

What does the future of food look like? What factors will impact food production most? How will supply chains adapt? These are the main themes we explore in this report. We know that the technology needed to revolutionize the food system already exists. The trouble is that it’s being developed in silos with limited integration.

We invite you to explore how the food industry is about to change. Discover the drivers shaping the future of food and upcoming challenges.

Challenges

Population growth

The UN estimates farmers will need to produce at least 50% more food by 2050 because populations are growing and incomes are rising.

Climate change

Changing weather conditions will have a major impact on food production. According to the UN, the most important agricultural regions worldwide may face substantial declines in agricultural output due to climate-related changes (e.g. extreme heat).

Water access

Water use has tripled since the 1950s and demand continues to soar. Under current trends, demand for water will exceed supply by 40 % in 2030.

Food waste

Many companies are plotting new technologies to improve the efficiency of food production, as sustainability becomes a key component of their business strategy. Impact rather than profit will become a core value of food companies.

Drivers of change

Consumer demands

Demographic shifts are disrupting how food will be consumed in the future. Surging middle-class growth and increasing consumer demand for transparency and nutritious alternatives are forcing the food industry to adapt.

According to Deloitte, by 2020 millennials will make up 40% of all consumers. This group are adopting digital solutions that provide instant access to products and services they want without being confined to physically nearby choices. Millennial consumers increasingly show a preference toward “mindful eating” – that is, choosing brands and foods that come from sustainable sources – and a conscious engagement with the food industry, and how food is produced and the way it is consumed.

Digital living

The food and agriculture industry is on the cusp of digital revolution. New technological advances and their proliferation across industries are gradually ushering in a new wave of food-related innovation. Show less

The speed of innovation led the WEF to declare 2016 the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, one based on the concept of merging of physical, digital, and biological technologies – or in food production, “Farming 4.0.”

The adoption of digital technologies (i.e. environment sensors, mobile computing, satellites and imaging, drones and the Internet of Things) in food production is drawing substantial interest from investors who see a clear and pressing need to bring farming into the future. The impact of diffused innovation and the wide application of digital technologies are fundamental and transformational in nature.

Profit with impact

Governments all over the world are increasingly paying more attention to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, policymaker’s decisions will be significantly influenced by climate-related changes, as people pressure city municipalities to clean the air, and food producers to reduce GHG emissions and waste, and rebuild biodiversity.

Moreover, climate-related changes will significantly influence policymakers’ decisions in the coming years, as people pressure city municipalities to clean the air, and food producers to reduce GHG emissions and waste, and rebuild biodiversity.

The UN estimates 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted annually, equating to roughly one-third of global food production. Food is wasted in almost every category: 45% of fruit and vegetables, 30% of cereal products, 35% of fish and seafood, 20% of dairy and 20% of meat.

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