CEPII, Recherche et Expertise sur l'economie mondiale
Nutrition transition and the structure of global food demand


Christophe Gouel
Houssein Guimbard

 Highlights :
  • We estimate an economic model able to replicate the main features of the nutrition transition, which characterizes the evolution of diet with per capita income: rise in calorie consumption with increased income, diversification from starchy staples, and increased caloric demand for animal-based products, fats, and sweeteners.
  • We use this model to project global food demand between 2010 and 2050.
  • We predict an increase in caloric demand of 46% for 2050, mainly attributable to low-middle and low income countries.
  • Using alternative projections of populations and revenues shows large uncertainties in the rise of demand for animal-based (alt. vegetal-based) calories, ranging from 78% to 109% (alt. 20% to 42%).

 Abstract :
Estimating future demand for food is a critical aspect of global food security analyses. The process linking dietary changes to wealth is known as the nutrition transition and presents well-identified features that help to predict consumption changes in poor countries. This study proposes to represent the nutrition transition with a nonhomothetic, flexible-in-income, demand system, known as the Modified Implicitly Directly Additive Demand System (MAIDADS). The resulting model is transparent and estimated statistically based on cross-sectional information from FAOSTAT. It captures the main features of the nutrition transition: rise in demand for calories associated with income growth; diversification of diets away from starchy staples; and a large increase in caloric demand for animal-based products, fats, and sweeteners. The estimated model is used to project food demand between 2010 and 2050 based on a set of plausible futures (trend projections and Shared Socioeconomic Pathways scenarios). The main results of these projections are as follows: (1) global food demand will increase by 46%, less than half the growth in the previous four decades; (2) this growth will be attributable mainly to lower-middle-income and low-income countries; (3) the structure of global food demand will change over the period, with a 95% increase in demand for animal-based calories and a much smaller 18% increase in demand for starchy staples; and (4) the analysis of a range of population and income projections reveals important uncertainties: depending on the scenario, the projected increases in demand for animal-based and vegetal-based calories range from 78 to 109% and from 20 to 42%, respectively.

 Keywords : Bennett’s law | food demand | food security | nutrition transition

 JEL : D12, Q11
CEPII Working Paper
N°2017-05, March 2017

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