Transparency key to rebuilding trust between grocers and consumers: Study

New research from Dalhousie's Agri-Food Analytics Lab and Caddle examines which factors Canadians believe contribute the most to food inflation
inflation illustration

While many Canadians hold grocers to blame for higher food prices, a new study finds improved transparency could help rebuild trust between retailers and inflation-weary consumers. 

Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in partnership with Caddle, surveyed Canadians about what they believe contributes to food inflation. 

Nationally, 30.3% of Canadians think grocery chain price gouging is the main cause of higher food prices, while 29.9% believe inflation or monetary/fiscal policies are to blame. But attitudes appear to vary from province to province. 

[Read more: “Independent grocers defend chains against food inflation accusations”]

In Nova Scotia, 51.8% of respondents believe grocery chains are price gouging consumers, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (38.1%), Prince Edward Island (36.1%), British Columbia (33.4%), Alberta (33.1%), Ontario (31.7%), New Brunswick (30.2%) and Manitoba (29.7%). 

Interestingly, both Quebec and Saskatchewan are the only provinces that believe inflation and monetary/fiscal policies are the primary reason for the skyrocketing cost of food – not price gouging. 

"Grocers may stock their shelves with the freshest produce and finest goods, but without the  trust of their consumers, their offerings [will not sway consumers],” said Janet Music, research  associate at the lab, in a statement. “Their business is largely misunderstood by the Canadian public. For grocers, transparency, ethics, and sustainability will be even more critical moving forward.”

Nearly half (46.6%) of Canadians surveyed said they would appreciate more price freezes, and 44.2% expect more transparency related to food sales. 

While 36.4% of respondents wish loyalty programs were more generous, a total of 33.4% would like more competition in Canada. 

A total of 44% of respondents believe that governments should intervene and regulate the price of some staples at the grocery store.  

Only 19.1% believe the government should implement a windfall tax – a tax levied on unexpected profits or gains that are not part of a company's normal business operations. 

A small number of Canadians (4.5%) believe the government should create a crown corporation and start its own grocery chain. 

[Read more: “Committee hopeful grocery code of conduct will be in place by end of year”]

The survey asked if Canadians were supportive of the grocery code of conduct. Of those that were aware, 68.1% believed it would be beneficial. 

Provinces with the highest percentage of support are Nova Scotia (76.5%) and British Columbia (74.5%), while the lowest are Prince Edward Island (53.2%) and Manitoba (64.2%).  

"The Grocery Code of Conduct is not just a set of rules, it's a lifeline for Canadian shoppers,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in a statement. “It ensures fair pricing, transparency, consistency, and accountability from retailers, giving  consumers the peace of mind they deserve when purchasing their groceries.”

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds