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Canadians’ surprising food resolutions for 2021 (Survey)

Dalhousie survey looks at how Canadians expect to change their food shopping and eating habits in the new year

The pandemic has driven Canadians to switch up some of their food-related New Year’s resolutions, but they’re not all what you might expect.

In the second annual end-of-year survey by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in partnership with Angus Reid, 60% of respondents said they won’t eat out as much in 2021—the same percentage as in 2020.

“There’s a mix of emotions out there... but with the news of the COVID-19 vaccine, perhaps people are a bit more hopeful about having access to some sort of normalcy in months to come,” says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. “I think that’s reflected in the data and why people are thinking about going out to eat and doing different things.”

Some other things that haven’t changed much: “I intend to use coupons and read flyers more often” (49% in 2020 vs. 47% in 2021); “I will buy in bulk more often” (41% vs. 43%); and “I intend to visit the freezer aisle more often” (24% vs. 25%).

For Charlebois, the biggest surprise was Canadians resisting that most common of resolutions: diet and health. While 42% of respondents said they’d change their diet and eat healthier in 2020, just 30% said the same for 2021.

“We’ve been talking about the ‘COVID 15’ and pandemic pounds, and I think a lot of people are fully aware that we haven’t taken care of ourselves as much as we should have,” he says. “So, I was a little bit surprised to see fewer people wanting to change their diet in the new year.”

What’s not surprising is that online food shopping is more popular for 2021 compared to 2020: 7% of respondents said they’ll order food online more often in 2021, up from just 3% in 2020.

While 48% said they’ll visit different food retail stores in 2020, that figure dropped to 34% for 2021. Charlebois says given the most recent Canada’s Food Price Report, which found food prices are expected to increase 3% to 5% in 2021, one might expect Canadians would want to be frugal and strategic in their shopping. “It’s hard to be strategic if you only rely on one store,” he says. “But I suspect because of the virus people are much more focused and disciplined, and they don’t want to spend too much time in stores.”

The survey also suggests gardening will be big next year: 30% said they intend to continue or will start to garden, up from 12% the previous year.

Related: More Canadians are growing their own food. What does that mean for grocers?

What they’re not digging as much is plant-based products. Nearly one-quarter (23%) said they’ll eat more plant-based products and less meat in 2021, down from 31% in 2020.

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