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Food shopping behavior in Canada - statistics & facts

Food retail is one of the largest and most competitive industries in Canada, with food and beverage retail store sales accounting for just under 144 billion Canadian dollars in 2021. However, despite steadily growing sales, due to inflation many consumers felt that food prices were rising much faster than their household income and thus found it challenging to pay their grocery bills. Because of this, 62 percent of respondents to a February 2022 survey stated they changed their eating habits and were eating out less to compensate for increased food prices while 46 percent chose to switch to cheaper, lower quality brands to help save money.

Store choice and buying behavior

The choice of where to shop for groceries has been influenced by the inflation, with the majority considering the price of products a major factor in their decision-making process. However, things like product freshness and stock availability seemed to be almost as important, showing how consumers may not necessarily compromise in these areas. Grocery stores were the preferred channel for Canadians when shopping for groceries, with 75 percent of those who shopped there tending to stick to the same store they usually go to instead of choosing multiple stores. Despite the fact that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic brought a shift in consumption habits and a significant increase in online grocery sales, in-store grocery shopping intentions were growing positively once again with 74 percent of respondents stating that in a post-coronavirus pandemic world, they would shop the same as before.

Digital growth

In-store purchases were on the rise again, but online grocery purchases were here to stay and continue their growth. Between 2019 and 2021, the share of Canadian shoppers ordering groceries online for both home delivery and in-store pick up grew. The latter appeared to be the preferred online shopping method in most provinces and territories across Canada , while delivery seemed to be more popular among Generation Z and Millennials.

The sustainable shift

Grocery shoppers in Canada not only turned in large numbers to online shopping channels in recent years, but they were also moving toward more sustainable consumerism. A recent survey showed that many consumers were buying from companies that supported environmental protection or were purchasing more biodegradable and eco-friendly products. Issues such as these were such an important factor for many consumers that two out of three switched to a grocery store that demonstrated a stronger commitment to sustainability. When it came to how grocery stores should demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, shoppers believed the focus should be on donating food instead of throwing it away, promoting reusable bag incentives, and having locally-sourced products.

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