Urban Consumers Transform The Global Food System

Posted by on December 12th, 2017 | 0 Comments »

Consumers have a significant influence over the direction of the food and agriculture system. Through their purchases they express their preferences and values, which helps shape the decisions producers make.

For many consumers, low food prices and food safety are paramount concerns, while a growing number are interested in the environmental impact of their food choices.

More than half of the global population lives in medium and large-size cities, a trend that is accelerating in many parts of the world.

The food and agricultural products consumed in cities cross many borders as they are grown, processed, packaged and sold. Asian consumers eat U.S. pork and farmers there feed their cattle corn and soybeans grown by American farmers, while Asian countries provide much of the seafood and fruit juice that is consumed in the U.S.

In Africa, consumers wear clothes manufactured in China with cotton grown in India, while the shelves of Europe’s urban supermarkets are stocked with spices from Africa and coffee from Latin America.

As food and agriculture has become increasingly globalized to meet growing demand, consumers around the world remain concerned about the price, safety, quality and sustainability of what they eat and what they wear.

The 2017 GAP Report® captures the perspectives of urban consumers in China, Africa and the U.S. The story below illustrates how one Chinese family is prioritizing safe, nutritious, affordable food.


The 2017 GAP Report® features stories on the impact of urban consumers in China, Africa and the U.S. on the sustainability of food and agriculture systems.

Chinese Urban Consumers — Choices and Concerns

Shen Nianzi’s parents were farmers who in 2000 moved to an urban area. Today she lives with her husband and son in a fast-growing city in southeast China.

Her husband prefers to eat chicken and pork, but over the past several years, thanks to an increase in their income, they have begun to eat more beef and dairy products.

Like many of her friends who are urban consumers between the ages of 20-35, Shen Nianzi shops at a modern retail food store and wants to purchase more vegetables to provide healthy meals for her family.

In 2017, the Chinese government launched its second 10-year healthy lifestyle campaign, urging consumers to eat less fat, salt and sugar and aim for “a healthy diet, healthy weight and healthy bones.” [1]

Shen Nianzi is also concerned about rice and other food crops that may have been grown in contaminated farm soil, so she is willing to pay more for trusted brands that she knows are high-quality and safe. That is why, since the birth of her son, she has been favoring foreign brands of food and childcare products in her trips to the grocery store.

She is by no means unusual. More than 82 percent of people like Shen Nianzi are willing to pay more for foods they know are higher quality, more nourishing and lacking undesirable ingredients. [2]

You can find more on the relationship between urbanization, consumer demand and global agricultural productivity and sustainability in the 2017 GAP Report®.

[1] Patton, D., “China’s pork demand hits a peak, shocking producers, as diets get healthier,” Reuters (Beijing), June 21, 2017.
[2] “New Eating Trends in China: The Healthier the Better,” Nielsen Research, September 22, 2016.
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