Canadian food prices are on the rise – and the pandemic has made it worse

mom and son with groceriesBack in March, as the pandemic came to the forefront in Canada, the Peanut Bureau of Canada (PBC), reported on how consumer shopping habits were quickly shifting to adapt to the new realities of living, and how trends were changing the grocery retail landscape. Now, new research from Sylvain Charlebois, a professor from Dalhousie University’s Agri-food Analytics Lab, has found that not only have Canadian grocery bills been steadily rising over the past two decades, but the pandemic has also augmented this trend. 

Charlebois’ research, which compared two decades of consumer price and food price indices from all Canadian provinces and territories, found that since 2000, the price of a typical grocery basket has increased by about 240 per cent. Additionally, all provinces and territories have seen their food price index outstrip the consumer price indices – most up to 10 points. 

The pandemic has accelerated this trend due to rising COVID-19 operational costs within the food sector. As a result, the average Canadian household could see their monthly food expenditures soar to 10.5 per cent to 11 per cent (or more, predicated by province). This at a time when poverty rates in Canada are rising. Statistics Canada reports that since March, an “additional 700,000 people have experienced food insecurity.” 

Moreover, recent consumer trends around food and grocery spending are showing more consumers are cooking and eating at home. A recent CIBC consumer report entitled “The Consumer and COVID-19: Changes in how we eat” found the following trends among Canadian and American consumers: 

- 60 per cent of those surveyed are cooking from scratch more often;
- 57 per cent are not comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant; and
- a whopping 75 per cent are enjoying cooking more now than pre-COVID.

Fortunately, the price of pantry staples like sugar, flour and peanut butter remains affordable. The cost of peanut butter has risen only 5 per cent since 2000. 

Ultimately, these trends, coupled with the forthcoming holiday season, typically the best quarter for retail food sales, the predicted and now unfolding “second wave” of COVID-19 across Canada and increased food prices will continue to impact Canadian consumers and the food trade. 


Source: Canadian Grocer