Bren d’Amour, C., Pandey, B., Reba, M., Ahmad, S., Creutzig, F., Seto, K.

Urbanization, processed foods, and eating out in India

in Global Food Security, 12.03.2020

Peer Review , Land Use, Infrastructure and Transport

Urban consumption of processed and fast foods is a challenge to nutrition security. Observed differences in urban versus rural consumption are commonly attributed to higher income levels in urban areas. Yet, there is still no clear understanding of why and how urban dwellers consume differently. Using India as a case study, we analyze expenditures on processed foods and consumption of food away from home (FAFH) of urban, metropolitan, and rural populations using OLS regression models. We show that urban households spend more on processed foods and consume more FAFH than rural households. Most of this difference can be attributed to differing socio-economic and demographic factors, such as higher income, or smaller urban household size. However, even after controlling for these factors, we find differences not only between rural and urban areas but also between different urban areas: households in large metropolitan areas consume more than households in smaller non-metropolitan urban areas. These inter-urban variations suggest that the dichotomy of urban versus rural consumption does not adequately capture the full spectrum of food consumption complexities. Our findings indicate that urbanization is affecting how people consume food beyond shaping their socio-economic and demographic status. We also highlight the need to account for the role of urbanization—beyond an urban-rural dichotomy—when addressing the challenges associated with changing food consumption patterns.