David Hughes, the emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College in London, shows several charts that depict what will drive the markets up and down over the next several years to attendees at the Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum.
David Hughes, the emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College in London, shows several charts that depict what will drive the markets up and down over the next several years to attendees at the Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum.

INDIANAPOLIS — A big topic of discussion at the recent Indiana Livestock, Forage and Grain Forum was the role that agriculture will play amid the world’s growing population.

David Hughes, the emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College in London, spoke about the importance of global markets and their driving factors.

He noted that individuals should never underestimate the scale or the size of the U.S. in terms of wealth as it goes forward, in particular, toward 2060.

“It’s a huge powerful economy that has been stronger more recently, and the focus is on emerging markets,” he said.

Hughes added that he believes America still will be the wealthiest country 50 years from now.

Older economies and markets that have been around still are vital, he said, because wealthy people are willing to pay a premium for the goods and services they want.

However, Hughes noted that while people may have money in their pockets, there has been slow growth across the board.

He said that wherever there are 1.3 billion people eating anything, that’s where the market is going to be, but the factors to consider are if it is in a place where the economy is struggling and if that population is aging.

The population of Japan is about 130 million people, many of whom are growing older, and the population will decline by 30 million over the next 40 years, Hughes noted.

In turn, he said, this will have a drastic effect on the markets, including the market for meat, which will become smaller and smaller each year.

As this progression takes place, the Japanese will want more fish, while fish consumption in the U.S. will increase 10 times more than what it already is today, he predicated.

Besides overseas factors affecting the U.S. market, Hughes also talked about how the age of baby boomers — Americans born between post-World War II years 1946 and 1964 — will be a huge force behind slow market growth in the coming years.

“Hasn’t the meat consumption declined, per-capita basis, in the last few years?” he said.

As many of the nation’s baby boomers move into their 60s, they will eat less, which will affect their portion size and, in turn, the overall amount of meat they will purchase and eat, Hughes explained.

“A slow portion growth is a drift downward in meat consumption,” he said.

The aging population, Hughes said, will decrease the market for fast food industries, as well, in terms of the red meat sandwiches, but the chains that have fish options should see increases in those menu choices.