Analysis: Food 2040 – the trends you need to know

Last month, the National Farmers Union published a report in which it made a series of predictions for what the food and farming industry will look like in 2040. Here are Footprint’s seven key takeaways.

Diets will change…. but not as dramatically as many predict. Although consumers will continue to seek out new and novel taste experiences, ingrained social and cultural influences mean that significant change in eating habits is likely to be slow. Nevertheless, a long-term shift towards dish-based meals (such as stir fries and pasta) and away from meals with a primary protein as a focal point (meat and two veg) will continue as will the popularity of flexitarian diets.

Personalisation will grow…..as the dramatic drop in the cost of genome sequencing opens up a wealth of possibilities for food innovation linked to personal health needs or food intolerances. Emerging technology around the 3D printing of food will also be used to improve the convenience and nutritional value of meals.

Convenience is king…..for now at least. But in the future we could see a renaissance in cooking from scratch which could slow the convenience trend. Moves towards fresh and natural food driven by the health agenda are already starting to emerge, while developments in domestic appliances that allow home cooks to produce close-to-restaurant-quality dishes could also fuel this trend, as evidenced by the recent rise in the use of sous-vide cooking techniques.

A new market for antibiotic-free meat……will emerge as the use of antibiotics in livestock production becomes an increasingly emotive, and mainstream, subject. Efforts to reduce antibiotics will continue to accelerate using a combination of changes in husbandry: the use of smart technologies to help predict, and mitigate against, health challenges and disease; genetic innovations and breeding solutions; greater use of vaccines; and better nutrition.

Waste will be reduced…..in all areas of the food supply chain. This will be achieved through a range of developments both at the primary production end through, for instance, improved scheduling of crops, and at the manufacturing and retail end through more integrated and accurate ordering systems and better use of the whole primary product. Smart packaging will be commonplace, as will smart appliances such as fridges which will help reduce waste in the home.

Vertical farming……will become a mainstream method of food production. Advances in hydroponics, aquaponics and other controlled environment systems will continue to expand the range and volume of crops it is possible to grow in this way. Leafy salads, some vegetables and fruit will be widely grown in vertical systems, however current high levels of energy consumption mean certain crops will remain difficult to grow.

British farming will target ‘net zero’……contribution to climate change through improving productive efficiency; targeted measures to increase and manage carbon storage on UK farms; and boosting production of land-based renewable energy. The UK should not, however, achieve a net zero aim by exporting food production, and the associated impacts, overseas.

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