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The Future of the Food Industry, Agriculture, Food Demand, Supermarkets and Online Food Retailing, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Several clear trends have developed for the future of the food and agriculture industries.  These trends will be driven by growing global middle class populations and their needs, technologies and supply chain developments.  Equally important will be rapidly evolving consumer perceptions of what constitutes foods that are both safe and healthy to eat.  Meanwhile, evolving consumer demographics will also play a major role, as Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials all may want to simplify the tasks involved in planning menus, shopping for food and cooking.
First, there are the most important drivers of demand:  the growing global middle class, and growing world population in general.  The UN estimates that total world food demand could increase by 70% in the forty years between 2010 and 2050.  This is based on overall population growth to about 10 billion people, and continued rapid development of the middle class, its size and its income.  One of the first things a household with rising income typically spends on is additional calories and more meat intake.  This increased demand is going to put strains on agricultural water supplies.  In addition, there will be the environmental effects of adding to the world’s farmland acreage, the use of fertilizers and the use of pesticides.  Chicken and farmed fish (aquaculture) will be the fastest growing protein food segments.
Agricultural technologies (“agtech”) will play a large role:  better control of irrigation to reduce waste will help tame water challenges; precision agriculture, based on GPS-guided farm equipment, aerial mapping and management via drones; biotechnology’s role in higher-yielding seeds; remote sensors for crop field analytics; and better software and analytics for management of the entire food supply chain—from the farm to the warehouse to the store and consumer.  Developing nations will be forced to improve their roadway, freight train and warehouse infrastructures to reduce food wastage and shorten time to market.  Innovative food products will eventually play a role, such as functional processed foods that offer better nutritional values, the application of nanotechnology to food storage and packaging, and the creation of food proteins in the laboratory.
The Coronavirus pandemic caused some trends to accelerate to the present day.  Supermarkets have been forced to provide smooth integration between online ordering, home delivery and in-store pickup or shopping.  Food and grocery product e-commerce is soaring.  In affluent markets, ready-to-eat foods will grow in importance, whether they are picked up at prepared food displays in supermarkets or sent straight to the home by food delivery services.  The popularity of complete packages of recipes and meal ingredients, delivered fresh to the door, such as services like Blue Apron, are part of this trend, providing a vital service to consumers who want to cook at home but don’t have the time or the inclination to shop. 
Supermarket customers are buying less per trip, choosing instead to buy fresh foods that don’t keep on pantry shelves or in refrigerators for long.  Sales of shelf-stable foods are falling while items such as cleaning supplies and paper goods are more and more often purchased online.  Most aisles in the middle of supermarkets offer vast selections of these staple consumer goods, which is one of the reasons why supermarkets are so large.  As the industry evolves over time, supermarkets may have to become smaller in order to be economically viable.  This has been a recent trend in retail stores of many types.  On the other hand, savvy grocers may be able to repurpose portions of supermarkets in order to make them more interesting and entertaining to shop in.  A good example of this strategy is the massive luxury supermarkets branded Central Market as run by HEB in Texas.  These stores are true shopping destinations and may feature such unique departments as a European-style bakery, olive oil bar, dine-in café, old-fashioned butcher shop, and areas where specialty items such as fine chocolates are created on-site.
Consumers will place heavier demands on food suppliers.  Food consumers with relatively high incomes will respond well to an ever-widening array of choices of brands and types of food.  Many will demand greater transparency of food origin and higher food safety standards.  Smartphone apps will play a dominant role in reading bar codes on food packages and displaying related food origin information.
Consumers want clear-cut choices and alternatives such as foods that are free of genetically modified ingredients, offer healthier nutrition or are gluten-free.  There is likewise demand for foods that are vegetarian, meats from humanely raised animals, organically produced foods, free-trade foods or other categories that cater to distinct consumer preferences.  These categories of foods will continue to enjoy soaring growth, while traditional, high-output food processors will be deeply challenged to reposition their products to satisfy these consumers.  At the same time, many consumers will boost the market for more artisanal, locally produced, or hand-crafted foods.

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