Rising cost of food still a top concern for Canadians

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The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity published its 2017 public trust survey results on Tuesday, coinciding with the second annual Public Trust Summit taking place in Calgary. The research finds the top concerns for Canadians revolve, primarily, around the affordability of food.

The work was built on the foundation of previous studies of consumer attitudes. From May 21 to June 7, 1307 Canadians were surveyed, with the goals of: gauging attitudes about Canadian food, agriculture and the food system, studying segments of consumers, and understanding expectations around transparency.

Overall Life Concerns

Over 60% of consumers ranked the ‘rising cost of food’ highly concerning, making it top of the list for the second year in a row, followed closely by ‘keeping healthy food affordable’, ‘rising energy costs’, ‘rising health care costs’, and the ‘safety of food imported from outside of Canada’.

The fifth placeholder — the safety of imported food — displaced concern for the economy from last year’s findings.

Unchanged from last year, ‘having enough food to feed people outside Canada’ came in lowest on the list.

Top Overall Life Concerns:

  • 62% – Rising Cost of Food
  • 61% – Keeping Healthy Food Affordable
  • 58% – Rising Energy Costs
  • 54% – Rising Health Care Costs
  • 52% – Safety of Food Imported from Outside Canada

Other Food System Concerns:

  • 51% – Food Safety
  • 47% – Climate Change
  • 40% – Humane Treatment of Farm Animals
  • 36% – Having Enough Food to Feed Canada
  • 24% – Having Enough Food to Feed People Outside Canada (lowest concern)

The study further broke down the findings by segment, finding that foodies ranked ‘keeping healthy food affordable’ as their number one concern, followed by the ‘rising cost of food’ and ‘safety of food imported from outside Canada’. They, in comparison to their counterparts, had many concerns, all ranking relatively high on the scale of significance.

Similarly, moms held the ‘rising cost of food’ as their top concern, followed by ‘keeping healthy food affordable’ and ‘rising health care costs’.

Millennials listed fewer concerns, and ranked their concerns lower on the ten-point scale than foodies or moms. The ‘rising cost of food’ was their number one concern, followed by ‘keeping healthy food affordable’ and ‘rising energy costs’.

Direction of Food System

Compared to 2016, when asked if the food system is heading in the right direction or on the wrong track, fewer consumers (-7%) answered the latter, fewer (-7%) answered they were ‘unsure’ and more (+13%) answered they believe it’s heading in the right direction.

Millennials and moms brought up the average of people who were ‘unsure’, while foodies led the group in answering the system is heading in the right direction. Right around 34% of early adopters of technology suggested the system was on the wrong track, leading the groups in that area.

Rating Agreement

The survey also asked participants to rank their level of agreement on various statements. Up from 48% in 2016, 51% of participants agreed they are “personally concerned about the use of hormones in farm animals”. Also up from last year were the number of respondents who agreed they are concerned about the use of pesticides in crop production, and drug residues in meat, milk and eggs (48% and 46%, respectively). And 33% agreed that they trust the government food inspection system ensures safety in Canadian food.

Transparency

In 2015, Americans largely ranked food processors and manufactures as responsible for transparency. Canadians, in 2017, according to CCFI, said “it depends”, with answers across the board, including all of: foodprocessors and manufacturers; government; farmers; grocery stores; and restaurants

Overall, food processors and manufacturers ranked number one, and farmers came in second.

“Canadians are looking for credible information to make informed decisions about their food,” stated Crystal Mackay, CCFI president.

Summary

The CCFI lists its top five insights from the survey as:

  1. The rising cost of food and keeping healthy food affordable matters.
  2. Canadians are not Americans.
  3. Consumers are not one big group.
  4. Transparency leads to trust.
  5. Everyone in the food system has a responsibility for transparency to provide Canadians the information they are looking for.

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