Implications of the global meal delivery revolution


MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (08/18/2022) — What’s on the menu for today’s consumers? Eat in. Globally, people are increasingly having their meals delivered by third parties such as DoorDash, Grubhub or Uber Eats. Global online food delivery industry revenue has grown significantly from $90 billion in 2018 to $294 billion in 2021, and is expected to exceed $466 billion by 2026.

According to an article published today in sciencethis revolution in food delivery has far-reaching implications for nutrition, the environment, job creation, labor and public policy options.

The authors of the article, including those from the University of Minnesota Marc BellemareDistinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Applied Economics, outline the drivers of this food delivery revolution and its context within a broader transformation of the entire food system, noting that the consequences and policy implications remain poorly understood and deserve more attention.

The authors found:

  • The food delivery revolution has created new jobs, with understudied implications for migrant workers, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Delivery jobs are often precarious, even in high-income countries, with poor safety standards, unpredictable schedules and frequent traffic accidents.
  • The dramatic growth in food delivery is both a cause and a consequence of the nutrition transition – a growing desire for higher quality and more convenient foods – exacerbating the challenges of promoting healthy diets and food environments to reduce obesity and associated non-communicable diseases. According to Bellemare, an important question in this context is whether people eat more or differently when having food delivered compared to eating out.
  • Delivery probably generates more packaging waste than home preparation and presents other environmental challenges, such as single-use packaging, food waste, transport and energy consumption. The use of single-use packaging has exploded with the rise of food delivery, creating additional pollution from solid waste, especially in low-income countries where solid waste and recycling systems are often out of control. bad quality.

Although the increased demand for food delivery can be attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts predict the trend will continue and hope that policies addressing the potential consequences will follow.

“COVID-19 has shifted much of the demand for food eaten outdoors to food prepared outdoors,” Bellemare said. “With the lifting of lockdowns and other COVID-19 related measures in many countries, this trend is reversing somewhat, but we have good reason to believe that newly learned eating habits are here to stay. “

Several countries have already implemented new policies related to the food delivery sector, which could advance progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. However, further research is still needed to assess the effectiveness of these policies.


About the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences
The College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota (FCANS) strives to inspire minds, nurture people and sustainably improve the natural environment. CFANS has a heritage of innovation, bringing discoveries to life through science and educating the next generation of leaders. Every day, students, professors and researchers use science to meet the great challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s world. CFANS offers an unparalleled breadth of experiential learning opportunities for students and the community, with 12 academic departments, 10 research and outreach centers across the state, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Bell Museum of Natural History and dozens of interdisciplinary centers.


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