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Confidence in food this year – research results from Dalhousie’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab


For the last two years, the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in partnership with Angus Reid, has released a report on how concerned or confident people feel about the coming year in relation to food, and what they plan to do about it. The pandemic clearly made 2020 an historic year and has impacted how Canadians relate with food, and mostly where the food is prepared and consumed.

After a year marked by a global pandemic 32% of Canadians feel the pandemic will impact their ability to pay for food in 2021. Almost one Canadian in three feel the pandemic will directly impact food prices for the next 12 months.

For two years, we surveyed Canadians on which food category they are most concerned about. For the second year in a row the order between food categories has not changed. Vegetables are the one food category Canadians are most concerned about, but the percentage of Canadians concerned about vegetable prices went from 69% to 61%. Fruits are second at 58%, compared with 60% in 2020. The biggest change between 2020 and 2021 is with meat, with a 3% drop in 2021.

When asked if they will change food shopping habits, only 43% of Canadians say that they will change food shopping habits with 53% in 2020. Given how the pandemic generated uncertainty for many Canadian households, this result is surprising. It appears Canadians have adopted different shopping habits this year and have become more comfortable with what they have been doing since the start of the pandemic.

For those who did intend to change their habits, the survey also asked what Canadians intend to do differently in 2021 versus 2020. Again, results were surprisingly like 2020, except for three options. Only 34% of Canadians intend to visit different retail stores, compared to 48% in 2020. This may have something to do with how fearful some shoppers are of the virus. Familiarity of a store appears to be critical during a pandemic. Eat more plant-based products is less popular compared to 2020, a drop of 8 percentage points compared to 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic, less attention has been given to plant-based products despite a growing number of choices in the market. Also, shopping online is clearly more popular for 2021 compared to 2020. The number of Canadians who intend to buy more only has more than doubled.

We also asked what Canadians intend to do for next year. Results were a little different compared to 2020. The most popular choice this year was to eat more vegetables and fruits in 2021. Last year, the number one new year’s resolution was to focus on reducing waste.

This year, only 40% of Canadians are planning to reduce the amount of food waste they generate, which is the second most popular option. Cooking more was chosen by 38% for 2021, compared to 44% in 2020. Most Canadians were more domesticated in 2020 which may explain the difference. The change in the intent to continue or start a garden between the two years was significant. It went from 12% to 30%. The other significant change is with dieting. Only 30% of Canadians intend to diet in 2021 compared to 42% in 2020. That is a 28% drop compared to last year. Results suggest health may not be a focus for this coming year, although more people are planning to manage their snacking schedule more wisely, at 27%.

Two more categories saw significant changes for 2021. The will to donate to a local food pantry doubled in percentage, from 8% to 16%. That is a significant change. As for lunches to be brought at work, only 14% said they would do it more, versus 25% in 2020. With more telecommuting, that result was not surprising.



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