Food In Canada

Canadians strive for sustainable eating habits, but face barriers: Sodexo Canada study

By Food in Canada Staff   

Sustainability Food Trends Consumer behaviour Editor pick Sodexo Canada

Sodexo Canada releases the results of its first ever Sustainable Food Barometer. This new research reveals the sustainable food habits and intentions of Canadians, as well as the current disparities between their aspirations and behaviours. The Barometer identifies the narratives and incentives needed to induce changes in eating habits and support consumers in making the shift towards more sustainable diets.

The Barometer is based on a survey of more than 1,500 Canadians conducted by Leger in December 2023.

“Sodexo Canada is committed to reducing our environmental impact through offering more sustainable food choices, and sourcing, preparing and serving them in more enjoyable and sustainable ways,” says Sodexo Canada CEO Johanne Bélanger. “We encourage Canadians to join us for the health benefits and cost savings, as well as the ultimate benefit of limiting climate change.”

Three key takeaways of the Sodexo Food Sustainability Barometer are:

1. Canadians are well aware of the urgent need to change eating habits and have aspirations to do so

Nearly 9 out of 10 Canadians (87 per cent) believe adopting more sustainable behaviours is an urgent matter, compared to 79 per cent globally. This is the same across all income categories, and recognition of urgency is highest in those aged 18-24 (98 per cent).

The majority of Canadians say they have already adopted some sustainable food habits: 75 per cent say they reduce their household food waste, 68 per cent eat seasonal produce, and 56 per cent buy local produce whenever possible. These are comparable to global trends (71 per cent; 63 per cent; 55 per cent).

Many Canadians are ready to or have already adopted several other sustainable practices with 86 per cent reducing their consumption of processed foods, 82 per cent avoiding plastic packaging by choosing bulk foods or using reusable bags, and 79 per cent wishing to consume sustainably produced products whenever possible.

2. There’s a gap between intentions and actions

While strong, the feeling of urgency and the desire to change come up against financial considerations and entrenched eating habits, both in Canada and globally.

Changes that Canadians are prepared to make are more about reduction or adjustments than in-depth transformations.

When shopping for groceries, price is the most important factor for Canadians: 91 per cent selected price as a top five most important factor, followed by taste (72 per cent) and nutritional value (67 per cent). The least important factor among Canadians was the product’s environmental impact (21 per cent).

Three quarters (74 per cent) of Canadians say they don’t have the desire, intention or don’t know if they would give up meat. Two-thirds (67 per cent) don’t want to give up fish and over half (54 per cent) say the same about dairy. This is substantially higher than the global average (meat: 42 per cent; fish: 45 per cent).

However, progress is seen in the willingness of Canadians to reduce their consumption of animal proteins in favour of plant proteins (46 per cent) and reduce their consumption of dairy products (46 per cent). Globally, in the event of a reduction in meat consumption, readjustments would occur but without major diet upheavals.

3. Individual benefits of sustainable food choices are more motivating than the collective benefits for society, but not exclusively

The primary motivation for eating more sustainably in Canada, and in all countries, is the expected health benefits (52 per cent Canada / 46 per cent global), followed by the expected financial savings (49 per cent Canada / 35 per cent global, except Brazil).

Canadians want agency in choosing sustainability. They are more likely to be persuaded by the desire to contribute to Canada’s food autonomy (29 per cent), and to role model for future generations (22 per cent), than they are by changes to law or imposed regulations (13 per cent).

“Sodexo Canada is continuously working to improve how and what we serve Canadians, conscious of our role as leaders and our environmental impact,” says Sodexo Canada CSR senior sustainability manager Davide Del Brocco. “The Sustainable Food Barometer helps us better understand how consumers think about making sustainable choices and how we can continue to support progressive change, making tasty, healthy meals that reduce our impact on the planet across the entire food ecosystem.”

The global trends are based on Sodexo’s International Sustainable Food Barometer survey conducted by Harris Interactive, which polled over 5,000 people in Brazil, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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