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Page | Last updated: 16 Feb 2023

Growing consumption

By 2030, the consumer class is expected to reach almost 5 billion people. This means 1.3 billion more people with increased purchasing power than today.

timeline and images small_Consumerism
(© Photo by Gabrielle Ribeiro on Unsplash)


A Megatrend is a long-term driving force that is observable now and will continue to have a global impact in years to come

By 2030, the global middle class, also termed the consumer class, is expected to reach 4.8 billion people - that is 1.3 billion more people with increased purchasing power than today. The rise of the middle class in emerging economies and the increase in business models targeting people at the ‘bottom of the income pyramid’, are collectively making consumption patterns an increasingly important force - which is shaping global production systems.

Consumer behaviour and choices matter, and are changing, with trends towards sustainable consumption, wellbeing and civic brands. This consumption has slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the scale of the expanding consumer class, while a driver for economic development, is going to increase demand for food, water and energy substantially in parallel, bringing resource and environment challenges in the long run.


This Megatrend is part of the Megatrends Hub



The driving forces of the Megatrend change over time. This timeline indicates more established and newer trends that are influencing the future direction of the Megatrend

timeline and images small Consumption


They indicate a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society. 

Sustainable consumption

We no longer view our buying decisions only in the light of our needs and desires. The choices of brands, products and services that exist today are seen as an opportunity for responding to global challenges (e.g. climate change, inequalities) and choices made can help shape our society and economy according to our values.

Our digital lives

Extended reality technologies (such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality) and the increasing amount of time we are spending in online spaces is allowing businesses to offer personalised shopping experiences easily. It is also allowing consumers to customise their own virtual world through design (using avatars for example), if they wish to.


The competition for consumers has moved far beyond just product quality and characteristics, and brands are now increasingly trying to tap into their customers’ emotions, perceptions and values and to provide ‘experiential shopping’ – where the real life, i.e. in-person physical shopping experience includes enjoyable elements as a leisure pursuit might. As well as serving the purpose, it feels good.


Previously Covered Trends

These are trends that were spotted in the past, and might have grown or faded away in time.

-    Eco-friendly products
-    E-commerce
-    Social media influencers
-    Attention economy
-    Millennials


Future Snapshots

A future snapshot shows a plausible image of what might happen in the future in relation to this Megatrend. It is a creation built using knowledge and imagination. These snapshots presented here are excerpts of inspiring future-oriented reports written by other colleagues and organisations.


‘Private Algocracy’ (scenario 2)

Imagine...the power over data, data analytics and decision making are fully moved to multi-national data companies.

Big multinational digital companies have taken over the economy in an oligopolistic or even duopolistic concentration, while the social gap was increasing. Strong global competition between Silicon Valley and Chinese digital companies developed, leaving Europe mainly as a sales market. The economic power lies in the corporations with the best access to Big Data and respective data analytics tools.

The digital multinationals provide services to citizens, through which individuals get their news, communicate and exchange opinions with others, buy their products and services, pay, etc. Step-by-step, digital tech companies have taken over the majority of the economy, including areas of public services. Personal data has been monetized, thus creating a new data economy. Through the walled gardens of digital giants’ business ecosystems, individuals receive all kind of products and services, including outsourced public services.

Other sketched scenarios are: 'DIY democracy', 'Super Collaborative Government' and 'Over-Regulatocracy'.

Page 32 - The Future of Government 2030+, EC 2019


Healthy New World (scenario 1)

What if food policies guide consumers towards healthy diets, with authoritative state nutrition guidelines, strong regulations on food quality and safety, and fiscal measures to discourage unhealthy diets?

Estelle, 15 (daughter) “...we jumped over the fence of the school next to the sport fields. As agreed last week, each of us brought a few sweets and candies... Some kids didn’t manage to get them but we shared what we had. Our parents and teachers would have a fit if they saw us stuffed with candies and sweets! We are only allowed a few of them each week. Plus, they are really expensive with all the government taxes on fat and sugar and we can’t afford them with our own pocket money... but hey, what are grandparents for anyway!”

Other sketched scenarios are: 'Heal the world, Eat to live', and 'Me, myself and I'.

Tomorrow's healthy society - Research priorities for foods and diets, EC 2014


Shared Circular Strategies (scenario 2)

As European society has grown very concerned about sustainable development, with a strong sense of urgency, bold policy measures have been taken to make the EU economy greener and more resilient to climatic events. Strong social movements in the EU, some global, are pressing for ever-lower environmental impacts from human activities, promoting sharing and collaboration, demanding sustainable procurement, and requesting ‘circular products’. To a degree, they influence the development of infrastructures and the behaviour of all stakeholders. The consumer market has changed compared to 25 years ago – people are now used to sharing tools, equipment and facilities. Many companies, which used to sell products, now sell services derived from their traditional products. These products, now redesigned, remain in their ownership (clothing, lighting, home furnishings, etc.)

Other sketched scenarios are: 'Multiple Connected Initiatives', 'Compact Green Innovation' and 'Local Self-Reliance'.

p39 2035: Paths towards a sustainable EU economy - Sustainable transitions and the potential of eco-innovation for jobs and economic development in the EU eco-industries 2035, EC 2015


Further Reading

Want to explore more? Some interesting readings below:

  • EU consumer rights - EC
  • Household Budget Surveys - Eurostat
  • Sustainable consumption policies - EC
  • Food Futures: Sustainable food systems - EC JRC


This Megatrends hub is a repository of foresight related information. It highlights long-term driving forces and its underlying shorter-term trends. This repository can help you understand the changing society in a broad and more systemic way. 

Disclaimer: this repository is by no means comprehensive and apart from established scientific knowledge contains also issues which are subject to scientific debate and where research is ongoing or only starting (indicated as stronger or weaker trends) to give the reader some insights and ways to further explore the topics in more depth.