While the growing global population provides one challenge for those in agriculture to produce more food, another challenge is being presented by a growing middle class.

Dr. Mark Lyons, Alltech global vice president and head of greater China, said that by 2022, the segment of the global population that is considered middle class will be larger than the segment that is considered poor.

“More people will join our global economy than exist in it today,” said Lyons, who spoke on May 22 at One 17, the Alltech Ideas Conference in Lexington, Kentucky. “This is an era of unprecedented improvement.”

The growth is coming at a more rapid pace, he said, with the global middle class expected to double to 4 billion by 2030.

And with a growing middle class and increased abilities to afford protein and be more selective in the types of food they eat, the pressure to increase yields without increasing agricultural land use is greater than ever, he said.

Lyons pointed to middle class growth in Asia, as well as in Africa, where there is a growing young population that is positive about their finances.

According to Lyons, the emerging middle class has become a new type of customer, which has taken the global food industry by surprise. This is a group of people that is brand-conscious, but has a tendency to reject large food companies. They prefer locally grown products, Lyons said, and they are more apt to respond to recommendations from friends about food products than they do to advertisements.