Agrimonde Foresight. © inra

Agrimonde Foresight Study: how do we feed the world in 2050?

Marché alimentaire à Delhi, Inde. © LE BASTARD Rémi

Agrimonde challenges: changes in food consumption behaviours

Are changes in food consumption behaviour as hypothesized in Agrimonde G1 plausible? Elements of response were presented at the Agrimonde symposium in October 2009

Updated on 04/24/2013
Published on 02/26/2013

In the Agrimonde G1 scenario, apparent food availability is established at 3000 kcal/day/person in all regions of the world, 2500 of which are of plant origin. This figure belies discrepancies between regional trends. In sub-Saharan Africa, economic growth – particularly agricultural output – will be sufficiently strong to raise incomes and lead to increased and diversified food consumption.
By contrast, in industrialised OECD countries, apparent food consumption  and consumption of animal products should decline, despite greater per capita income. Is it reasonable to assume these two situations could come about? The following three points provide some preliminary answers.

• Food consumption shifts happen in three stages as income increases: consumption increases for all types of food, followed by a shift to more animal products, sugars and saturated fats, and finally a third stage where macronutrient consumption levels out. We can safely assume that households in industrialised countries and several emerging markets will nearly all reach the last stage by 2050. The world population will also be ageing, with more than 20% of people over the age of 60 (10% today). Because their caloric requirements will be lower, this phenomenon could also lead to a plausible decrease in average food consumption in wealthy nations.

• Lowering apparent food availability to 3000 kcal/day/person does not necessarily mean that the quantity consumed will decrease if losses and waste are simultaneously reduced. Losses and waste in distribution and final consumption account for nearly 800 kcal/day/person, a problem which is essentially limited to industrialised countries. Only marginal steps have been taken today to reduce such waste through changes in consumption. In the future, strong public policies could aim to raise awareness of the consequences of waste on the environment and public health.

• In keeping with this last point, the AG1 scenario assumes that public policies will have been adopted to combat overnourishment and related diseases. This will be a major challenge. Current measures, which are few and far between and chiefly based on educating and informing consumers, will not be sufficient. They will need to be part of larger, more ambitious public health campaigns and rely on a wide range of tools and detailed understanding of food behaviours and how such behaviours affect health.

View the video (in French) of the round table on world food systems and food consumption behaviour, held at the Agrimonde symposium in October 2009