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Food costs lead Canadians to shop around, cut back: study

Rising food costs have become a major concern for Canadians, a new RBC report says.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

How much Canadians pay for their food is becoming a major concern, according to a new survey.

A huge majority of consumers in a Royal Bank of Canada survey – 91 per cent – said belt-tightening and smarter decisions are the order of the day when buying food.

And 84 per cent said they believe the food they purchase has increased in price over the past year, says the quarterly RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index.

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The average Canadian shopper spends $411 per month on groceries. One third – 33 per cent – in the poll said rising food prices have had a significant impact on their budgets, while 43 per cent said they have cut back on other expenses.

More than half of those surveyed – 57 per cent – said they are comparison shopping for food items more than before; 41 per cent said they are sticking more closely to a budget than before and indulging less in impulse purchases.

A smaller percentage – 15 per cent – say they are cutting back elsewhere, such as relying less on their vehicles, according to the survey results.

"In light of concerns over escalating food prices, more Canadians are looking for cost-saving strategies they can use on their next trip to the grocery store," Jason Round, head of financial planning support at RBC Financial Planning, said in a news release Thursday.

A provincial and regional breakdown of the poll results indicates that Quebec shoppers claim the highest monthly grocery bill – $448 – while Ontarians have the lowest at $379.

In British Columbia, it's $415; Alberta: $440; Saskatchewan and Manitoba: $401; and Atlantic Canada: $420.

Food inflation rose 2.4 per cent last year, compared with increases of 3.8 per cent in 2011 and 1.4 per cent in 2010, says the bank.

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Last year, an RBC study forecast that the 2012 U.S. drought could send food prices back up between three and four per cent in 2013.

"Even though we are seeing rising food costs, overall inflation should remain below two per cent in 2013," said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at RBC.

"We are in an environment of modest growth, so pressures from rising food prices won't dominate inflationary expectations."

RBC predicts that the Canadian economy will grow by 1.8 per cent in 2013.

According to RBC's index, 60 per cent of Canadians polled believe the economy is in good shape, down eight percentage points since the last quarter.

Thirty per cent of those polled said they think the economy will worsen in the next year, compared with 26 per cent who believe it will improve.

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The index survey is conducted online using Ipsos Reid's national I-Say Consumer Panel of 3,024 individuals. Data were collected between April 2 and April 15, 2013.

The poll is considered accurate within plus or minus two percentage points.

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About the Author
Quebec Business Correspondent

Bertrand has been covering Quebec business and finance since 2000. Before joining The Globe and Mail in 2000, he was the Toronto-based national business correspondent for Southam News. He has a B.A. from McGill University and a Bachelor of Applied Arts from Ryerson. More

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