Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains and impacting food purchasing habits, Canadian households were expected to spend $12,667 on food during 2020. Following the impact to the supply chain, the pandemic has pushed governments to consider food autonomy as a priority and look more at local supply chains.
A Dalhousie University study was designed to gauge consumer willingness-to-pay for locally grown food as well as the perceptions of greenhouse-grown crops, what factors people consider when purchasing produce, where people purchase their produce, and how important fruits and vegetables are to their diets. This survey was conducted in partnership with Caddle.
The survey first looked at how Canadians define what local foods are. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, food is considered local if it is either grown in the province where it is being sold or when crossing provincial borders, if it is sold within 50 km of the province it was grown in. Previously, food could only be considered local if it was sold within 50 km of where it was produced or within the same municipality or an adjacent one. Consumer definitions of local, however, vary across the country.
In the Atlantic provinces and the Prairie provinces, most respondents stated that if food is grown within the province it is considered local, while consumers in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec are more likely to consider only food grown within their region to be local.
Prince Edward Island residents consider where produce is grown more than the rest of Canadians, with 38.4 % of respondents saying that they consider where their produce comes from as important when choosing fruits and vegetables at the store.
When deciding what fruits and vegetables to buy, 79.5% of Canadians are willing to pay some kind of premium for locally grown produce when grocery shopping. However, only one in four (25.0%) Canadians consider where food is grown as important. This can be called the local food paradox. Most want to pay more, but few are actively looking for opportunities to do so.
Price, unsurprisingly, is the most common important factor for Canadians, with almost half (47.8%) citing the price of fruits and vegetables as the most important factor.
Younger Canadians' preferences
Young Canadians are more willing to pay a premium for locally grown produce. Over half of Generation Z are willing to pay a premium greater than 10% for locally grown produce, with only 15.9% stating that they are unwilling to pay any premium at all. Baby Boomers are the least willing to pay a premium, as 25% of respondents in that age category said that they were unwilling to pay any premium at all and only 38% are willing to pay a premium greater than 10%. The survey also looked at different products. Interestingly, strawberries are the one product Canadians are least likely to want to pay a premium on, should it be grown locally.