Eight megatrends in Nordic-Baltic food systems

#1

Technology will penetrate all areas of social life

We’re living in the fourth industrial revolution — Industry 4.0 — where practices will be intimately connected with knowledge, and knowledge will create practices.

 

New technologies combined with digital innovations will make it possible to engage with longstanding societal, environmental and economic issues. Furthermore, our personal access to technology, as well as any limits to its access, will continue to influence our relationship with food.

In a context in which data is the new gold, collected from satellites, drones, equipment and machines such as those used by the primary sector and the food industry, nature-based solutions will provide a counter-balance to the “tech-can-fix-it” paradigm.

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#2

Food systems will be redesigned with a new set of goals

The 21st century is creating further turmoil in food systems. The present challenges associated with food security, new dietary patterns and the increasing perception of food as a lifestyle commodity will result in growing numbers of conflicting ideas regarding how to produce, distribute, sell and consume food. Climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation will become even larger threats to the Nordic-Baltic region and the world.

The agri-food industry will become a key player in reversing many environmental issues. The major challenge will be ensuring diets that support human and planetary health, while striking a balance between promoting international trade in food and agriculture and protecting local food systems.
 

#3

Digitalisation is opening new horizons

New digital technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchains, digital twinning, internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing, will present new opportunities and challenges for the food system. Digitalisation will ensure the decisions we make are more informed than ever before.

The world will become more connected, and digital services more available and sophisticated, but the digital divide will also become more pronounced.

By adapting inclusive policies, digitalisation will support the development of small and medium-sized businesses in rural areas and mitigate challenges faced by rural areas in general by decreasing the distance between town and country.
 

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#4

Society will become increasingly polarised

While the long-term effects and indirect consequences of the processes related to globalisation are debatable, it’s clear that transparency, human rights and welfare have improved on a global level. However, it’s also apparent that current global structural arrangements do not benefit everyone equally.

Marginal groups will continue to struggle to benefit from the changes surrounding them. A clear indication of this and major paradox is that people working in food systems across the globe continue to be among the most food insecure.

The effects of polarisation will manifest through various social processes — differing possibilities, extremely different opinions, social distancing of groups and lack of empathy. This will have an impact on trust and, therefore, on any attempts to introduce change.

#5

Products will be valued based on the amount of waste they produce

Decoupling economic growth and waste generation will remain one of the most significant and challenging tasks of our time. Implementing a circular economy that promotes the recursive movement of goods and materials through remanufacture, retake, reuse, repair and recycle will be crucial in order to move away from a throw-away culture. Packaging will be reconsidered and single-use items will be phased out.

Food waste reduction will be addressed on multiple fronts. Here, cities will play a significant role, while at the farm level, entrepreneurs in the region will attempt to improve on-farm nutrient cycling.

Both high-tech and nature-based solutions will facilitate behaviour change towards a circular paradigm.

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#6

A new appreciation for the environment will develop

Nature is and will be an important common and individual resource. Its role in securing collective wellbeing will become ever more prominent. Therefore, environmental challenges related to climate change, loss of biodiversity, waste and pollution will be central to any decision-making process, with the central aim of promoting sustainability and resilience.

Environmental regulations will become stricter. Following implementation of these regulations, monitoring institutions will also be strengthened. With this, new non-governmental and commercial players supporting those looking to improve their environmental performance will emerge.

New identities combining traditional and modern ways of engaging with environmental issues will also develop. The role nature plays in ensuring emotional wellbeing will facilitate the emergence of new services and products.

#7

Anxiety and fear will become pervasive in our society

We’re living our everyday lives in a world full of new individual and collective risks. The possibility of these risks materialising as well as the impact of these risks have grown constantly over the past few decades. This has generated anxiety that is now affecting our choices, attitudes and behaviours and, our ability to engage with the future.

Climate anxiety will grow. Meanwhile, people will have to face many of the issues that frighten them. For some, fear and paralysed change will trigger the desire to stay fit and healthy.

Eventually, trust building will become increasingly important in a context in which lack of trust is interfering with a sense of control over personal wellbeing and that of the planet.

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#8

New lifestyles will emerge and redefine our value systems

Lifestyles — the combined interests, opinions, behaviours, and behavioural orientations of an individual, group or culture — will rapidly change in the Nordic-Baltic region. Collective and individual identities will redefine themselves in parallel to value systems. Dietary shifts will lead to a healthier and more environmentally sustainable Nordic-Baltic region.

The marketing budgets of large food production enterprises will grow. Self-proclaimed food experts and influencers will also gain more power and influence over the personal lifestyle choices of citizens.

Cooking will increase as a hobby rather than a life skill. Furthermore, it will continue to transition from a social practice to an individual experience.

Read more:

Eight megatrends in Nordic-Baltic food systems (online publication)

Eight megatrends in Nordic-Baltic food systems (full report, PDF)

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© 2020 Nordic Council of Ministers