What is the world eating?

Cereals, roots and pulses remain at the top of the world’s dietary choices. However, obesity rates are increasing and 45.9% of the food purchased in Irish households is ‘ultra-processed’.

Futurist Rudy de Waele spoke at R&H Hall’s annual conference this week and, aside from giving a great insight into the future of technology and the working environment – which you can read more about next week on AgriLand – he presented some startling facts on consumer trends.

What are we eating?

While cereal, roots and pulses remain the largest food group by far, sugar, meat and dairy are all increasing steadily as a proportion of the world’s diet. The use of vegetable oils is also set to increase significantly in the future.

A large proportion of food consumed is now processed. Ultra-processed food takes up at least 40% of most northern European countries’ diets. This differs in Mediterranean countries where this figure is 20% or less.


The increase in sugar consumption and processed foods has no doubt contributed to the rise in obesity.

“In the US, one in two adults are obese; one in three children are obese,” Rudy explained.

In the early 1970s, just under 15% of the US population was obese; that figure is expected to hit between 45% and 50% by 2030. Less than 15% of the UK’s population was obese in the 1990s; this is predicted to rise to 35% by 2030.