Changes in global food demand are creating new challenges and opportunities for industries connected to agriculture. Demand for food products is expanding alongside a rising world population that is also becoming wealthier. Yet, a wealthier consumer also tends to be a choosier consumer, even as some in impoverished regions can ill afford to be selective. Industries attempting to meet the increasingly variant demands of end users must understand who the consumers are, what they want, and how they want to purchase. In addition to expanding consumer preferences, which includes a growing emphasis on food quality and food safety, shifts in global demographics are contributing to broad changes in the demand for food and agricultural products.

The 2015 Agricultural Symposium, Responding to Future Food Demands, shed light on how global demand for food is changing and the corresponding adjustments being made across food and agricultural supply chains. The symposium began with a near-term outlook by describing the current environment for food and agricultural industries and recent changes in agricultural markets. The remainder of the first day of the symposium focused on emerging trends in global food demand arising from underlying changes in consumers. On the second day of the symposium, sessions focused on how agricultural industries, financiers, and policymakers will need to respond to these emerging trends.

2015 Agricultural Symposium summary article
PDF2015 Agricultural Symposium program

Setting the Stage

The opening session described the current environment and near-term prospects for food and agricultural industries. Speakers discussed recent developments in food and commodity prices, fundamentals associated with global supply and demand, and current conditions surrounding agricultural finance and investment.

Mike Boehlje
, Distinguished Professor, Purdue University 
Bill Lapp, President, Advanced Economic Solutions 

Demographic Trends and Consumer Preferences

This session explored the ways in which demographic shifts and evolving food preferences are shaping global food demand. Speakers discussed how broad and emerging trends in demographics, and consumers' corresponding preferences, are likely to shape the aggregate demand for food and agricultural products in the future.

Wendy Umberger, Associate Professor, University of Adelaide | PDFPaper
Jill McCluskey, Professor, Washington State University | PDFPaper

Industry Panelists:
Bob Nolan
, Senior Vice President of Insights and Analytics, ConAgra Foods
Joshua Sosland, Vice Chairman, Sosland Publishing Corp.

Dinner Keynote

Esther George, President and Chief Executive Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Producing for a Diverse Customer

This session discussed how agricultural production and food-based businesses are responding to the wide and expanding range of consumer demands. Speakers talked about how technology, production practices, and marketing strategies are adapting to the needs — and wants — of the future customer base.

Julie Caswell
, Professor, University of Massachusets | PDFPaper

Industry Panelists:
Brett Begemann
, President and Chief Operating Officer, Monsanto
Scott Portnoy, Corporate Vice President, Cargill

Financing Efficiency and Innovation

This session explored how evolving consumer food preferences are translating into new financing opportunities. Speakers discussed how agricultural finance might evolve, from traditional agricultural lending to private equity and venture capital, in an effort to meet the complex needs of tomorrow's consumers.

Ejnar Knudsen, Managing Member, AGR Partners
Gene Moses, Senior Strategist, International Finance Corporation
Michael Swanson, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo

Concluding Policy Discussion

The symposium wrapped up with a concluding policy discussion where panelists described how policy might respond to emerging trends in consumer food demand and the corresponding supply adjustments being made.

Robert Johansson, Chief Economist, USDA
David Hallam, Former Director, Trade and Markets Division, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)