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Consumers growing cynical of Canada’s food industry: Report

New research finds public trust in Canada’s agri-food industry remains steady, but affordability concerns create skepticism among consumers

Growing concerns around the cost of groceries could hinder Canadians’ trust in the country’s food industry.

The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI)’s 2023 Public Trust Research found that public trust in Canada’s agri-food system remains steady, but consumers are becoming more cynical.

Forty seven per cent of Canadians rated their concern about food affordability as a 9 or 10 (on a scale of one to 10) – eight points higher than in 2022 and 19 points higher than in 2020.

Although supply chain costs are the top reason Canadians feel is to blame for the rising cost of food (41%), this is down from 56% who felt the same last year. 

Notably, there has been significant growth in those who feel businesses wanting to increase their profits are why food costs have risen (34% in 2023 vs 20% in 2022).

Perceptions around the direction of Canada’s food system have levelled off, CCFI says, following a period of decline after a 2020 high. 

Most feel the country’s food system is either headed in the right direction (34%) or are unsure (41%), while 26% think things are headed in the wrong direction. 

Farmers are the most trusted group (21%) followed by scientists (18%). Fifty one per cent of Canadians rated grocery stores as “moderately trustworthy,” while only 7% rated them as “very trustworthy.”  

In response to high prices, consumers are adapting by: reducing food waste (45%), cooking more meals at home (42%) and buying less food (37%), the non-profit reported. Sixty per cent of Canadians say they are interested in learning about how to spend less on food.

When it comes to buying food, Canadians place the most importance on price, followed by quality, freshness and nutritional value. Fewer points were allocated to environmental impact or convenience compared to 2022. 

CCFI highlighted food safety and transparency as the most important ingredients in maintaining public trust. 

“Year after year, we continue to be impressed by the scope and magnitude of our Public Trust Research and the value it provides our agri-food system,” said Mike Dungate, chair of the CCFI board of directors, in a statement. “We urge the Canadian food system to take a collaborative and proactive approach to addressing consumer concerns and encouraging informed food choices that Canadians can feel good about.” 

See some other insights from the report below:

  • Nearly four in 10 Canadians say that over the past year, the amount of meat they eat has decreased (37%)
  • Four in ten Canadians agree that if farm animals are treated humanely, they have no problem consuming meat, milk and eggs, a sentiment that has weakened since last year (40% vs 43%)
  • Canadians most commonly associate sustainable food with its impact on the environment (38%), followed at a distance by food safety and being grown/raised locally
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