What will Ethiopia look like in 2050

How population growth will shape the future of the food industry

02/20/2020 | Sesotec

From climate change to geopolitical upheaval, this century will face many challenges for the global food industry and the nutrition of the future. But one megatrend in particular will have a significant impact on supply chains and production processes: global population growth. The question inevitably arises as to how industrial food production will feed a projected world population of more than nine billion in 2050. What will the food situation look like worldwide? Is food safety guaranteed at all times? In this context, automated technologies play a key role.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that in 30 years, 9.7 billion people will inhabit this planet. This rapid population growth will change many aspects of our lives in this world: in particular, the way we live, work and eat.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that global food production must increase by at least 70 percent. Otherwise, adequate nutrition for the world's population in 2050 would not be guaranteed. Another major challenge: the question of how the shrinking availability of resources can be reconciled with the increasing expectations of consumers.

The fact is: if food is to remain safe, healthy, affordable and rich in the future, industrial food production must rely on innovative solutions.

Food production and population growth: past, present and future

Analogous to the growth of the world population and increasing prosperity, the possibilities for industrial food production have grown steadily over the last century. Household incomes and living standards have risen and food manufacturers have always been able to meet the increasing demand for high-quality food through technical innovations.
Technological advances in food production have made it possible to produce a greater amount of safe and nutritious food. This is remarkable in that the area available for agricultural and industrial development has declined.
Today's food diversity is unprecedented in human history. This is especially true for industrialized nations: in Germany, for example, the average customer can choose between more than 170,000 different foods every day (BVE, "Germany - Partner of the World 2018", p. 28).

However, given the emerging demographic and ecological changes, industrial food production will have great difficulty maintaining the current high quality and availability standards until 2050. In addition, the global population development is noticeably putting a strain on natural resources, which are essential for well-functioning food production. A constant further development of previous technological solutions is therefore required in order to meet future challenges and to be able to guarantee nutrition in the future through a functioning food supply.

Increase food production despite limited resources

In various areas of industrial food production, the automation of processes is already contributing to major improvements in terms of efficiency and sustainability. Agriculture, processing, packaging: intelligent systems are already processing huge amounts of data in real time in order to make better use of available resources and achieve optimal results.

At the same time, the increase in production volume requires stricter controls over food safety and product quality. The solution is, among other things, automated inspection technologies, because they enable the production volume to be increased without compromising the safety and quality of the food. Whether metal detectors, optical sensors or X-rays: Innovative inspection systems can be programmed with product information and specific processing conditions in order to work with high precision.

Thanks to the installation of these highly developed and automated inspection devices at important and critical points in the production process, contamination and defects can be reliably identified and removed. The early detection of contamination also reduces the food losses caused by product recalls and cross-contamination.

The growth of the world population and the increased commitment to food safety

Global trade will increase as the world's population grows, according to the forecast. But it also means that contaminated food that ends up on the market can have far-reaching consequences for public health. Moreover, confidence in the companies that have placed contaminated food on the market could drop significantly.

For food manufacturers there is therefore the need to check their upstream and downstream partners for their integrity with regard to compliance with food safety standards.

Modern inspection technologies play a key role here. They help manufacturers and international control authorities to trace contaminants right back to their source. In this sense, they make their contribution to more transparency in the food industry and fulfill the information obligation vis-à-vis the public.


The consumer culture in a world of 9.7 billion people

Technological advances like these are needed to feed the world's population in 2050. However, it is not only necessary to guarantee the supply in terms of quantity; the individual expectations of consumers must also be met. In 2050, the world population will not only be more multicultural than ever, but will also deal with the important issues relating to health, ethics and sustainability.

Migration and demographic change lead to urban area growth and diversity. With the emerging multiculturalism in many cities around the globe, new challenges arise, but also new markets for the nutrition of the future. In order to meet the needs of a growing population with a wide variety of dietary preferences, the food industry has to adapt its manufacturing processes. The product portfolio needs to be expanded, for example in order to meet different tastes and religious standards, even in previously homogeneous markets.

In addition, life in a world of 9.7 billion people will inevitably lead to changed thought patterns: People will be more critical of the issues of resources, health and consumption. A change in consumer attitudes is already visible: surveys by the European Food Safety Authority (efsa) show that the majority of Europeans (55 percent) are highly aware of issues such as health, the environment and food safety. Two thirds of them even changed their consumption behavior as a result.


The growth of the world population will bring changes with it: for global supply chains, the international economy and the global food culture. On the one hand, increasing food production is needed to prevent food shortages. On the other hand, the food industry has to live up to a dynamic consumer culture at all times without losing sight of the welfare of public health and that of the environment. This requires innovative technologies and controls in all sectors of industrial food production. Every advance is decisive for the nutrition of the future.

About Sesotec

Sesotec has been one of the leading specialists in foreign body detection and material sorting for more than 40 years. We develop and build high-tech systems for a wide variety of requirements in the food industry - in close cooperation with our customers all over the world.

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