Global Food Demand Scenarios for the 21st Century

PLoS One. 2015 Nov 4;10(11):e0139201. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139201. eCollection 2015.


Long-term food demand scenarios are an important tool for studying global food security and for analysing the environmental impacts of agriculture. We provide a simple and transparent method to create scenarios for future plant-based and animal-based calorie demand, using time-dependent regression models between calorie demand and income. The scenarios can be customized to a specific storyline by using different input data for gross domestic product (GDP) and population projections and by assuming different functional forms of the regressions. Our results confirm that total calorie demand increases with income, but we also found a non-income related positive time-trend. The share of animal-based calories is estimated to rise strongly with income for low-income groups. For high income groups, two ambiguous relations between income and the share of animal-based products are consistent with historical data: First, a positive relation with a strong negative time-trend and second a negative relation with a slight negative time-trend. The fits of our regressions are highly significant and our results compare well to other food demand estimates. The method is exemplarily used to construct four food demand scenarios until the year 2100 based on the storylines of the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES). We find in all scenarios a strong increase of global food demand until 2050 with an increasing share of animal-based products, especially in developing countries.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child Mortality
  • Databases, Factual
  • Eating
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Food Supply / history
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Regression Analysis

Grants and funding

BLB, IW, and AP were supported by GLUES (Global Assessment of Land Use Dynamics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Ecosystem Services), 01LL0901A ( SR was supported by CARBO-Extreme FP7/226701 (, Volante FP7/265104 (, and FUME FP7/243888 ( AB was supported by NaWaMa (Sustainable Water Management in a Globalized World) BMBF 01UN1009 (