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Price is the top reason Canadians don’t buy more produce (Survey)

While cost is a concern, time could be what’s really stopping people from eating more fruit and veggies
Baskets or fresh produce
Shutterstock/Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

Canadians tend to believe they have to empty their wallets to shop the produce aisle.

A new report from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University found the No. 1 reason Canadians don’t buy produce more often is the price (39.5%). Other barriers to buying fruit and vegetables are “too much work to prepare” (30.5%), “not very tasty” (10.5%) and “not sure how to prepare/cook them” (8%).

“There is a perception that visiting the produce section is expensive,” says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab. “If you’re not careful, you can pay a lot...but there are good deals out there.”

Charlebois believes time is a significant barrier for consumers: most fruits and veggies aren’t “grab and go” and need to be cleaned and prepped. “You need to get creative to get your loved ones to be interested in eating fruits and vegetables,” says Charlebois. “It’s just not a natural for many Canadians to make produce taste good, especially compared to other staples like meat.”

While 86.6% of consumers primarily buy their fruits and vegetables at a grocery store, 4.6% say they buy most of their produce at a farmers market and 1.2% grow all their produce themselves. More than a quarter (27.4%) of Canadians claim to buy only local fruits and vegetables.

On frequency, 43.1% of Canadians buy enough produce to meet the recommended amount in Canada’s Food Guide, a few days a week, and 29.3% buy the recommended amount every day. The highest rate of daily purchases is in B.C. (31.4%), followed by Ontario (31%). The lowest rate in the country is Prince Edward Island (11.6%), followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (19.7%).

Charlebois suggests while the new Food Guide is becoming more popular and well known among Canadians, the recommendations might not be realistic. The guide advises Canadians to “make half of your plate vegetables and fruits.” “It is quite an ambitious guide provided by Health Canada, especially given the fact that the category is quite volatile from a price perspective,” says Charlebois.

Health is a big purchase motivator, with nearly 75% of Canadians agreeing health benefits are an important reason to buy produce. Most people buy fresh (64.9%) compared to frozen produce (18.7%). “Consumers may not know about the quality that the freezer aisle can provide,” says Charlebois. “Things have improved quite a bit and if you’re concerned about prices, you have options.”

The study also asked Canadians what information sources influence their fruit and vegetable choices. The number-one source is food and cooking websites (39%), followed by nutritionists (25.3%), Canada’s Food Guide (20.8%), cookbooks (20.2%), dietitians (14.7%), and doctors (14.5%).

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