Over the past two decades, Canadian consumers have shown an increasing interest in the country’s food supply, including where their food comes from, how it is produced, the environmental impacts of that production, nutritional composition and health benefits, and more.
This has only intensified during the pandemic, and a new report from Nourish Food Marketing has spotlighted how Canadian consumers view the Canadian agri-food sector today, as well as their expectations of stakeholders and their trust in those responsible for their food supply.
Consumers are thinking like farmers
Nourish notes that both Grassroots Public Affairs (Grassroots) and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) have released studies that outline consumer mindsets about the Canadian food system as of spring 2022.
Overall, consumers are showing less concern around modern farming techniques and technologies such as pesticide use, food produced from genetically modified organisms, and antibiotic use in livestock production.
Furthermore, the perception that organic food is healthier also seems to be waning.
The CCFI research notes that while the rising cost of food is the single biggest issue of concern in 2021 compared to 2020, sustainability and environmental concerns made the top five list of key issues for the first time ever in 2021.
It also found that the number of Canadians who feel the food system is “headed in the right direction” declined significantly, dropping eight percentage points year over year. It’s worth noting that most of this decline was seen in Canadians who don’t know or couldn’t say whether we are headed in the right direction (a six per cent increase), with only two per cent suggesting that they feel the system is headed in the wrong direction.
Meanwhile, the Grassroots study, released in April 2022 (approximately six months after the CCFI study), clearly identified consumers’ concerns around the rising cost of food.
According to the study, over seven in ten Canadians have opted for lower-cost food items, a 33 per cent increase since 2020, and almost half of Canadians have purchased less food than usual, a 25 per cent increase.
Trust levels are on the rise
Similar to the CCFI study, Grassroots found that 57 per cent of Canadians believe farmers take animal rights more seriously today than in the past, and 25 per cent of Canadians believe today’s agricultural practices are less harmful to the environment. There’s still work to be done in this arena, though, as 23 per cent believe these practices are actually more harmful.
Significantly, Grassroots found that 48 per cent of Canadians cited agriculture as one of the top three industries that have the capability to drive the Canadian economy post-pandemic.
While overall trust in the food system has declined slightly over time, the CCFI study indicates that a majority of Canadians indicate they trust food produced in Canada more than food produced outside the country.