Under pressure from high food prices, a new survey shows almost half of Canadians are prioritizing the cost of their groceries instead of nutrition.
The results from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab in Halifax and the consumer data company Caddle found that 45.5 per cent of those surveyed are placing a greater emphasis on cost, rather than nutritional value, when it comes to the food they buy.
At the same time, 63.3 per cent say they are also concerned that compromising on nutrition will negatively affect their long-term health.
Asked if they reduced the amount of meat or protein they bought due to high food costs, 49.2 per cent said they had.
“But generally speaking, Canadians are actually concerned about their own health due to higher food prices over the long term. That’s three out of five Canadians, which is a lot,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
MILLENNIALS ‘CLEARLY FEELING THE PRESSURE RIGHT NOW’
The report says those with higher incomes “unsurprisingly” were generally less likely to prioritize cost or be concerned about losing nutrition due to the high price of food.
“Of course, there’s always a way to balance things, regardless of what happens to food prices,” Charlebois said.
“But it’s increasingly becoming more difficult for a growing number of Canadians.”
New Brunswick and Alberta were the only provinces where a majority of survey respondents said they were placing cost over nutrition at the grocery store.
Albertans also were the most likely to say they were concerned about the long-term effects of compromising on their nutrition due to high food prices at 70 per cent. A majority of respondents in all provinces shared those concerns.
Across generational lines, millennials or those born between 1981 and 1996, were among the most likely to say they were prioritizing cost at almost 53 per cent, behind the Greatest Generation (1900-45) at almost 55 per cent and ahead of Gen Z at 52.5 per cent.
Although a majority of all generations were worried about compromising on nutrition, millennials were the most likely to say they had concerns at nearly 69 per cent.
Charlebois says this generation is “clearly feeling the pressure right now.”
“They probably have kids and so right now when they show up at the grocery store, they may not be earning the amount of money they need to buy the food they want in order to support a nutritious diet, unfortunately,” he said.
The survey comes ahead of a Thanksgiving holiday that will likely end up costing Canadians much more than in previous years.
Although the pace of inflation has slowed somewhat, especially when compared to the heights seen in 2022, the latest Consumer Price Index report from Statistics Canada shows that the cost of most food items did increase year-over-year in August.
Meanwhile, the federal government has set a deadline for the country’s grocery giants to come up with a plan to stabilize food prices by Thanksgiving.
CANADIANS SHOPPING MORE AT DISCOUNT, DOLLAR STORES
The survey found that most respondents have “substantially” changed their shopping habits, including using coupons, apps, loyalty programs or flyers more often. Close to half of those surveyed have also considered growing their own food in response to inflation.
Almost 64 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to choose a generic brand as a cost-saving measure.
Asked which stores they visited more often in the previous 12 months, discount stores were the most common at about 59 per cent. Roughly half cited supermarkets and about 47 per cent said they were going to dollar stores more often.
The report says many are choosing to “increase the frequency of their store visits compared to the previous year in their quest to economize while grocery shopping.”
Meanwhile, 18.5 per cent of Canadians said they were visiting farmers’ markets more often, about 17 per cent said they were increasingly shopping online and roughly 13 per cent were going to convenience stores more.
A large majority of those surveyed — about 79 per cent — said they had significantly reduced their food waste in the past year, which the report says could be a sign that Canadians are trying not to waste leftovers and repurpose their ingredients.
The survey took place in September and included a “representative” sample of 5,521 Canadians.
The results have a margin of error of 2.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Dalhousie University and Caddle provided funding for the survey.