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A tale of two (or more) Canadas

Each year we write a report called Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC) where we answer a seemingly simple, yet important, question: how do Canadians eat (and drink)?

While we endeavour to cover over-arching trends, each year we also strive to look at eating habits from different perspectives and provide unique context. In this year’s edition, which we’re working on right now, we’re examining how the eating habits of Canadians vary across the different regions.

One of the themes that’s emerging is how there are, in some respects, two Canadas divided among provinces that are “haves” and “have nots” according to various economic and social indicators.

For instance, provinces in the Atlantic region have much higher unemployment rates compared to Western Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the May 2012 unemployment rate in Newfoundland was 12 per cent (the highest in the country) versus 4.5 per cent in Alberta (the lowest in the country).

The regional difference in the employment situation in and of itself is notable, but peeling back the proverbial onion, the impact that this has from a demographic perspective has significant implications for the food industry, and indeed for all industries.

Newfoundland has the oldest population with a median (middle) age of just under 44. Alberta, by contrast, is the youngest at 36. Fueled by the promise of employment, Canadians appear to be migrating West.

What does this means in terms of eating habits?

We know that health often becomes more influential in deciding on what to eat with age, so it stands to reason that Newfoundlanders should eat “healthier” than Albertans. This doesn’t appear to be the case, however, as Albertans by comparison eat more fruits and vegetables in an average day. Clearly, culture and other factors hold influence.

In short, as we examine our data to find differences in Canada’s regional makeup, we’re more certain than ever that it’s difficult to lump all Canadians into one bucket.

While there are common threads that link us, there are differences that are crucial for anyone in the food and beverage industry to understand.

This year’s EPIC will outline some of those differences, and we’ll see if the data points towards ‘A Tale of Two Canadas.’

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