Changes in how the industry produces and consumes food are happening so fast that the very definitions of such key food terms as meat, sweet, green, convenient and fast are shifting. So are concepts like what it means to be a vending machine, or have a family dinner. The question is: “Are we, as humans, ready for the future of food?” The answer seems to be, “yes.”

A new report by Ipsos, New York, focuses on these changes and the implications for a wide range of business sectors. Ipsos first asked executives from the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta; McDonald’s Corp., Chicago; and Farmer’s Fridge, Chicago; as well as leading scientists and policy makers about the big questions they are facing. Ipsos then surveyed more than 25,000 people in 30 countries to start diving into the answers. The United States and Canada mirror global trends that show people are more likely to think that their access to healthy and quality food will increase in the future, but that it will come at a cost. And, those surveyed are more than twice as likely to say that the costs of food will get worse in the future.

Here are some of the shifting definitions that will drive the future of food:

What is convenience? Chris Kempczinski, president of McDonald’s USA, wanted to know how customers are defining “fast” and “convenient” in today’s delivery-driven world. Do people even need a physical restaurant to order from? What role does brand play in decisions? Ipsos found some breaking points for consumers in terms of how far in advance they must order. In fact, 77% would be open to ordering food delivered from a generic kitchen rather than a branded restaurant.

Can vending machine food be as good as from restaurants? Luke Saunders, founder and CEO of Farmer’s Fridge, wanted to know if people need restaurants or if vending machines can fulfil some of that role. They can, according to Ipsos research, if they tackle the hot food challenges.

Is the family dinner really dead? Chef Rick Bayless keeps hearing that no one has time for a sit-down dinner any more. Ipsos data reveals the family dinner is alive and well. In households with at least two people, large majorities in the United States and Canada (84% and 85%, respectively) eat with family at least three times a week.

Can you have beef without cows? Or seafood without fish? The definitions of meat are changing as well. The Good Food Institute, Washington, D.C., promotes the industry that is redefining what goes into burgers or chicken patties and wanted to know if people are ready to accept these new products, for the good of the planet and potentially their health as well. According to the Ipsos study, Millennials will lead the way.

Are there better ways to get sweet than sugar? Today’s health-conscious shopper is wary of high levels of sugar consumption. Robert Long, chief innovation officer for Coca-Cola, talks about the trends and technology. Ipsos finds that sugary beverages are just one of many categories that might need to rethink and reformulate.

About the study

This study gathered research and analysis from the United States, Canada and 28 other nations as well.