“Food-Delivery” Revolution Ripe for Policy & Research

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Globally, more and more people have been getting the meals they consume delivered by third-party services, such as Doordash, Grubhub, or Uber-Eats – a trend largely attributable to broader changes in the food systems in many regions worldwide, communication technology innovations, and recent COVID-19 lockdowns. In a Policy Forum, Eva-Marie Meemken and colleagues say the consequences and policy implications of this “food-delivery revolution” remain poorly understood yet deserve greater research attention. Over the past several years, third-party online food delivery services have exploded. As a result, global revenues in this sector increased from $90 billion in 2018 to $294 billion in 2021 and are expected to exceed $466 billion by 2026. What’s more, much of this growth has taken place in low- and middle-income countries and has taken place alongside similar growth in restaurants and other food-service establishments across these regions. Meemken et al. refer to these food system transformations as the “delivery revolution” and “restaurant revolution,” respectively. According to the authors, these both have implications for policy and research, particularly regarding environmental protection, healthy diets, and poverty reduction through job creation. Here, the authors discuss the drivers of these revolutions and their broader consequences. These consequences include global changes in market power and competition within the food-services sector, changes in local and regional labor markets, growing “Westernization” of diets, and potential environmental impacts due to extra food packaging waste. “As of writing this paper, several countries have implemented new policies related to the food delivery sector,” write the authors. “Such efforts may help advance progress toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially those focusing on reducing all forms of malnutrition and poverty, enduring decent work and spurring economic growth, and sustainable farming and consumption.”

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