As Canada’s food costs continue to rise with no end in sight and rumours of an impending recession, consumers are looking at ways to best stretch their dollars. In the last 12 months, three out of four Canadians have changed the way they buy food to try and offset the increased costs.
The recently released annual Global Food Index sheds light on Canada’s food costs and what that means for consumers. As of 2012, the guide has been based on four factors: food access, safety, sustainable development, and food affordability. This year’s guide ranks Canada in seventh place for the second year in a row.
However, our food affordability rank dropped one spot this year to 25. This category is based on consumers’ ability to purchase food, their vulnerability to price shocks, and the support they receive from programs and policies when these shocks happen. Since 2021, food inflation has surpassed general inflation in Canada, as consumers struggle to keep up with the costs.
A shift in spending
Consumers are shifting their habits to try and stay on top of the costs. A recent study reported that in the last year, 33.7 per cent of Canadians have used more loyalty points to pay for groceries, 32.1 per cent are reading weekly flyers more, and almost 24 per cent are using coupons more frequently at the grocery store.
Some are even taking a more homegrown approach, with 15.5 per cent of consumers growing their own produce this year to try and limit what they need from the store.
Other consumer are finding ways to save money by expanding their food sources. In the last 12 months, 12.9 per cent of Canadians have started to visit more than one grocery store, over 19 per cent of consumers visited discount stores, and 11.5 per cent have visited dollar stores more often to buy food.
These strategies are not enough for some, though, as 24 per cent of consumers have reached more desperate levels, cutting back on the amount of food they buy. Others are struggling and skipping meals (7.1 per cent) or charging groceries to a credit card without a pay-back plan (6.6 per cent). The serious problem is that these solutions cannot last, only proving temporary, short-term relief.
A look ahead
While some experts have tentatively suggested the worst could be behind us, it’s distinctly possible that more price hikes are on the horizon with produce and perishables, as winter arrives and the value of the Canadian dollar weakens.
Experts are calling for a food autonomy policy, a stronger food processing sector, better domestic logistics, temporary price freezes, and fiscal measures like tax reductions to help Canadians stay afloat over the coming months.