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New Dalhousie study reveals Canadians’ grocery shopping habits are changing


A new study from Dalhousie University aims to better understand Canadians’ grocery shopping behaviour and pinpoint how grocers can make a go of it in today’s food economy.

“Most Canadians grocery shop, and grocery stores are the interface between consumers and our food systems,” says Professor Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University’s Faculties of Management and Agriculture, principal investigator for the Grocery Experience National Survey Report. “It’s critical to assess how Canadians are reacting to what is being offered to them.”

How often are Canadians shopping and how much time do they spend?

Results of the survey suggest that consumer demand is becoming more fragmented, with the average Canadian shopper visiting 2.3 grocery stores regularly. The shopper visits a grocery store 5.43 times a month, about 1.29 times a week, and spends 32 minutes. Most Canadians spend more than 20 minutes on each visit. Compare this to American consumers, who shop 1.6 times a week, 24 per cent more often than Canadians. Americans spend 43 minutes on average, 34 per cent more time than Canadians. It appears Canadians are shopping in more stores, visiting the same stores less frequently and spending less time per visit.

How is our grocery shopping behaviour evolving?

Almost half of Canadians don’t intend to purchase food online, but a little more than a third are thinking about it. This could be one reason why most grocers are deploying an aggressive e-commerce strategy of late. The Canadian landscape is also shifting with the advent of meal kits. Meal kits typically come from subscription services that deliver the fresh components of a meal right to your door. Almost 60 per cent of urban Canadians are either subscribing to a meal kit service or thinking about it. Another significant finding is that 66 per cent of Canadians say they have used self-checkouts, which are becoming increasingly popular.

 What do Canadians look for in a shopping experience?

Younger Canadians prefer to shop at food stores where they know people. While survey respondents from urban cores like to know who owns the store, Canadians in general aren’t concerned about store ownership. Plus, Canadians are curious shoppers: just over a third report buying a food product without really knowing what it is. Québec respondents are the most intrepid, with about half trying unknown foods. In terms of customer service, 81.7 per cent of Canadians believe it is important to be able to ask for help when grocery shopping.

The study, which took place over three days in October 2018, surveyed 1,053 people across the country in both English and French.


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2 Comments » for New Dalhousie study reveals Canadians’ grocery shopping habits are changing
  1. Doug Holmes says:

    Your article includes the comment “Almost 60 per cent of urban Canadians are either subscribing to a meal kit service or thinking about it”, but I can find no reference in the attached report to support this. Do you have another source (interview, release notes, …) to support this? The reason I ask is that if 5% of the 1053 people (53 people) are considering this, even if all of them are urban that would mean there are only 88 urban people in the survey vs 965 rural.

    • Hello Doug – thank you for writing. The Press Release we received from Dalhousie mentioned those numbers, but you seem to be correct, in that the study’s data does not correlate. We are trying to straighten out the numbers with Dalhousie, and will update as soon as possible.

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