Rising cost of food is the top concern of Canadians: Study
CCFI report also finds gap between who’s responsible for providing credible food information and who consumers trust
Rising grocery bills are an ongoing concern for Canadians.
New research from Guelph-based Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) found 64% of Canadians are concerned about the rising cost of food, down slightly from last year (67%).
As part of the 2019 Public Research Report, “Connecting with Canadians,” survey participants were asked to rate their level of concern on several life issues including healthcare costs, unemployment, food safety and food affordability. The rising cost of food is the top concern for the fourth year in a row.
This year, keeping healthy food affordable is the number-two issue (62%), followed by rising healthcare costs (58%), rising energy costs (56%) and safety of food imported from outside Canada (52%).
While most Canadians want healthy, affordable food, Paighton Smyth, partner engagement coordinator at CCFI, noted the majority of Canadians’ income is not spent on food in comparison to other parts of the world.
“Some countries spend upwards of 40% of their income to feed their families and Canadians are nowhere near that level,” she said, in an interview with Canadian Grocer.
“It is expensive to [consumers] because maybe broccoli went up $1. But compared to other parts of the world, [food costs are] a small part of their bills… We actually have healthy, affordable food for Canadians if you look at it from a global scale.”
The study also found a gap between who Canadians think is responsible for providing credible food information and who they trust to provide that information. Sixty-five per cent hold government/government agencies responsible, yet only 15% said government is a trusted source. Sixty-seven per cent hold food processors/manufacturers responsible, but only 14% trust them as a source.
The top trusted source for credible food information is farmers/producers (42%), and most Canadians hold them responsible for food information as well (71%).
Forty-six percent hold grocery stores responsible for credible food information and 22% trust them as a source. “Although [grocery stores] are not held responsible to provide credible information, they can be really important vehicles for sharing this information,” said Smyth.
On the food manufacturing front, the study found consumers had moderate to strong concerns relating to food fraud (91%)–the practice of mislabelling, adulterating or counterfeiting food products–and concerns with misleading food labels (89%) for the purpose of marketing. The report noted consumers were starting to look more closely at food labels and asking questions about what certain food labels mean.
“Going forward, the [food] system needs to be aware of consumers’ expectations with accurate marketing techniques,” said Smyth. “They’re much more interested in credible information instead of having a bold or colourful [claim]… Overall, Canadians are more cautious and they’re trying to educate themselves to make empowered decisions.”
CCFI surveyed 2,189 Canadians 18+ and examined the online conversations of close to 260,000 Canadians.