Soaring food costs are compelling nearly half of Canadians to prioritize their shopping budget over nutrition, according to a new survey. This research, conducted by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab and consumer data firm Caddle, revealed that approximately 45.5% of respondents are favouring cost over nutritional value when purchasing food.
Interestingly, an additional 63.3% expressed concern about the potential long-term health impact of compromising dietary value due to the high cost of edibles. It is notable that almost half (49.2%) mentioned they had scaled down their meat or protein purchases as a direct result of inflation in food prices.
Reflecting on these insights, Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, commented how this trend of prioritizing budget overhealth is raising serious health concerns among the majority of Canadians.
The study also highlighted definite socio-economic trends. Individuals with higher incomes were conspicuously less likely to compromise nutritional requirement for cost constraint, unsurprisingly.
However, the notable increase in food prices is causing distress across a growing demographic of Canadians, a struggle most prominently seen in New Brunswick and Alberta. Concerns over long-term health effects of compromised nutrition were highest in Alberta, reflecting a shared worry across the nation.
When dissected across age demographics, over half of millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) reported prioritizing cost over nutrition, a statistic only surpassed by the “Greatest Generation” (people born between 1900-45) and followed closely by Generation Z.
Sharing Charlebois’s concern, a substantial number of millennials (69%) expressed worry over the long-term health impact of diet compromises. He empathized with their circumstances, given their typical family circumstances and rising financial demands, pointing out the obvious pressure on them to deliver nutritious meals within budget constraints.
The timing of the survey is telling, landing just before a Thanksgiving which is set to hit Canadian pockets harder than ever before. While a mild slowdown of inflation has been observed compared to the intense surge in 2022, most food items have witnessed a significant uptick in prices. With the federal government stepping in and setting a timeline for Canada’s grocery giants to stabilize food prices, further developments will be closely watched.
In response to this situation, Canadians have significantly adjusted their shopping habits. The survey reveals widespread use of coupons, apps, loyalty programs and an increase in homegrown produce. A shift towards generic brands and frequenting discount and dollar stores is also prevalent.
Encouragingly, approximately 79% of respondents said they had drastically reduced their food waste in the past year, signalling prudent repurposing of leftovers and efficient use of ingredients.
This survey, conducted in September, collected responses from 5,521 Canadians, with a margin of error sitting comfortably at 2.1% as an indication of the accuracy and authenticity of the results.