The promotion of healthy diets and positive nutritional choices globally requires the development of global, regional, and local markets that have the capability and resilience to deliver better quality, healthy products to consumers across the spectrum of affordability. This is particularly relevant in a century where lifestyle diseases and poor diets are now combining with the threat of climate change to pose major societal challenges going forward.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) have agreed a global strategy aimed at encouraging improved nutrition, especially in urban food systems. This will entail encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate in creating efficient and nutrition-focused agricultural and end-product networks that meet the challenge of urbanising societies.

Nutrition trends and factors affecting food production

The FAO reports that 50% of the world’s population currently lives in cities, with that expected to rise to 70% by mid-century. This creates great and growing pressure on food production and distribution networks to meet the needs of those urban consumer societies, especially in the developing world.

Lower income populations in those conurbations exhibit greater sensitivity to factors such as price and supply instability, natural disasters, and climate change effects. This impacts the availability and quality of food, exacerbating health challenges from starvation at one end to the obesity epidemic at the other.

There is a clear need to be met in nutritious diets; GlobalData research in 2018 identified that 62% of food consumers globally reported being often or always influenced by how a product impacted their health and wellbeing when making choices. The ability to meet this need may not always be consistent, however.

Natural, recognisable and ‘real’ ingredients

As shown in trend-leading developed markets, formulations with natural, recognisable, and ‘real’ ingredients are likely to be well received by consumers seeking “cleaner” food solutions with minimal processing, additives, and preservatives. To meet this kind of demand in a more universal, stable manner in emerging markets however requires investment in the agricultural side and also the mechanics of the market:  distribution, quality-focused end-product manufacture, and education that informs consumers of positive choices and builds trust in local production.

Private sector solutions, as per the FAO and GAIN programme, are key, with agricultural producers and end product manufacturers needing (with help) to step up to make food systems more resilient and safe.

There are significant opportunities for brands to take positive roles in building consumer trust and innovating to combine nutritional quality and diversity, and affordability in local food systems. This addresses health and wellness challenges while also building a local food marketplace that challenges historic perceptions of what is good and reliable.