Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

According to a new report, Canadians are changing their grocery shopping habits to help cope with high food costs

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Canadians are changing the way they grocery shop to help cope with the high cost of living, visiting stores more often and actively seeking deals, finds a new report from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab (AAL) at Dalhousie University.

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Driven by discounts, food-rescue apps are gaining popularity as ways to save money while reducing food waste, though more than half (57.6 per cent) of Canadians have never used them. Among those who have used these apps, however, almost all (95.1 per cent) would recommend them.

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Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can browse photos of items approaching their best-before dates from nearby grocery stores for up to 50 per cent off — a mixed produce box for $3.44, for example, or a half-priced chicken breast. After you’ve placed an order via the app, you pick up your discounted groceries from a designated area, which is subject to the same food safety precautions and procedures as the rest of the grocery store.

Lack of awareness of food-rescue apps and the benefits they offer may be one reason more Canadians aren’t using them. Comfort could be another, says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the AAL.

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“People might find it more convenient to shop for food in traditional ways, such as visiting grocery stores or markets. Some consumers might be hesitant to use food-rescue apps due to concerns about the quality and safety of rescued food. With these apps, you’re buying a picture and making a leap of faith, in a way, and someone could buy something they won’t want or need.”

The Canadians who do use them are motivated primarily by cost savings (73 per cent), reducing waste (34.5 per cent), discovering unique or discounted food items (31.9 per cent), supporting sustainability and eco-friendly practices (21.5 per cent) and convenience (16 per cent).

Of the food-rescue apps, Toronto-based Flashfood is the most popular at 61.2 per cent, followed by Copenhagen-based Too Good To Go at 41.6 per cent and Montreal-based FoodHero at 13.8 per cent.

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(Charlebois adds that Flashfood’s downloads tripled in Canada in January after Loblaw, one of its partners, announced it would end 50 per cent discounts on food nearing best-by dates, only to reverse its decision a few days later.)

Nearly 60 per cent of food produced in Canada is wasted, according to Flashfood’s 2022 Impact Report. Waste occurs at every stage in the food supply chain, with retail accounting for five to 15 per cent. “Although the retail sector contributes a small percentage of overall food waste, the absolute amount of waste is still very significant because retailers handle enormous volumes of food.”

According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2024, the annual food expenditure for a family of four will hit $16,297.20, an increase of $701.79 from 2023. Too Good To Go estimates that buying one Surprise Bag per week would help that same family save nearly $700.

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The AAL report found that nearly half of Canadians (47.3 per cent) consider a 50 per cent discount enough motivation to buy food nearing its best-before date, while 26.1 per cent think a 30 per cent price cut is sufficient. Responses were similar regarding food-rescue apps: 45.6 per cent are happy with a 50 per cent discount, 22.1 per cent think a 30 per cent reduction would be enough and 20.4 per cent believe discounts should be greater than 50 per cent.

The rising popularity of food-rescue apps highlights a shift in attitudes, said Janet Music, AAL research manager. “This signals a growing demand for innovative solutions that marry convenience with conscientious consumption in today’s grocery industry.”

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