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How Canadians are dealing with rising food prices amid inflationary pressures

·2 min read
How Canadians are dealing with rising food prices amid inflationary pressures

Food prices continue to surge in Canada, prompting many Canadians to change their shopping behaviour in order to save money on their grocery bills.

That's according to a new survey of 10,005 Canadians conducted by Dalhousie University's Agri-Food Analytics lab. The report found that Canada's food inflation rate is close to 5 per cent, with many staple categories such as meat and dairy increasing in recent months due to supply chain issues and difficult weather conditions.

"Typically, you have one category that is affected by food inflation more than others. But this year, it's pretty much everything," said Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food policy at Dalhousie and director of the Agri-Food Analytics lab. 

Canadians have taken notice, with 86 per cent of the people surveyed reporting that food prices are higher than they were six months ago. More than half of Canadians (51.8 per cent) say that meat prices have increased the most in the last six months, followed by groceries and other products (15.7 per cent), vegetables (10.5 per cent) and fruits (9.1 per cent).

The survey respondents also noticed a rising amount of "shrinkflation" – when products are sold at the same price but with less quantity or volume. Nearly three-quarters (73.5 per cent) say they noticed that some food products have shrunk but prices have remained the same or gone up. 

"Clearly, Canadians are noticing that food is becoming more expensive," Charlebois said. "And so to mitigate the impact of these higher food prices, Canadians are approaching their food purchasing strategy very differently nowadays." 

Nearly half of those surveyed (49 per cent) say they have reduced their purchase of meat items in the last six months due to higher prices. Weekly flyers and coupons are also growing in popularity, with 41.6 per cent of Canadians saying they are turning to flyers more compared to last year. More consumers (37.5 per cent) are also turning to private labels – a grocery store's in-house brands – more often than they did in 2020, as well as discounted items (39.6 per cent) with expiry dates within a few days of purchase. 

The survey of 10,005 Canadians was conducted in the summer and has an estimated margin of error of +/- 1.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Food inflation has been a rising concern among Canadians in recent months, as the overall inflation rate hit its highest level since 2003 in August. According to Statistics Canada, prices of meat products rose at the fastest year-over-year pace in August since last June, jumping 6.8 per cent. Prices of fresh and frozen chicken were up 8.4 per cent, due in part to growing demand from restaurants. Fresh and frozen pork also increased 9.3 per cent, largely due to supply chain issues. 

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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