If you’ve been trying to save money on your grocery bill by waiting until food is marked down to 50 per cent, get ready for some sticker shock on your next visit to a Loblaw-owned grocery store.
According to an email from Loblaw Companies Ltd. reviewed by CBC News, it will no longer discount perishable foods like meat, fruit, and vegetables by 50 per cent as they near their best-before date.
CBC News reached out to the company on Monday morning for comment but the company has yet to respond.
For those who rely on the discounts, like Edmund Duarte, 66, a senior citizen on a fixed income who lives near Yarmouth, N.S., the change is devastating. He says he bases his weekly food shopping on what’s been discounted.
Duarte said he first noticed the shift last week at his local Atlantic Superstore branch where items he’d previously seen listed at 50 per cent off were now 30 per cent off.
“It’s a slap in the face to all of us — especially the senior citizens,” he said Monday in an interview as he calculated the increase to his grocery bills.
Bill VanGorder, the national advocacy chair for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, said he’s received many concerned phone calls from seniors across the country who have noticed the change.
“What we’ve been hearing is that because of the pressures of the cost of living … seniors have been depending on buying their perishable foods … when they reduce prices in the grocery stores,” he said.
But it’s not just seniors who will be impacted, says Charles Levkoe, the Canada Research Chair in Equitable and Sustainable Food Systems at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.
“It is going to be those who are already vulnerable,” he said, noting studies have shown that Black and Indigenous people are more likely to be food insecure.
“People who relied on some of these discounts out there to be able to feed themselves are going to face the biggest challenges.”
He said the move by Loblaw to claw back the discount feels especially disingenuous, given the company’s public statements about working with the government to help stabilize grocery prices.
In December, Loblaw CEO Galen Weston told a government committee that his company had “meaningfully” reduced prices on staple items that make up about 10 per cent of its chain-wide sales.
‘More predictable’ discounts
Sylvain Charlebois, who studies food policy and is the director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-food Analytics Lab, said Monday that he reached out to the company directly after receiving reports from concerned consumers about the change.
In an email to Charlebois, Loblaw spokesperson Catherine Thomas said the company is moving away from offering a range of discounts between 30-50 per cent on “serve-tonight” products, toward “a more predictable and consistent offering, including more consistency with our competitors.”
She said additional discounts will be made available on the Flashfood app, which offers deals on products otherwise destined to become food waste.
But for Duarte, this explanation still doesn’t hold water.
“It wasn’t costing them anything. Because once the food leaves the shelves … it’s garbage,” he said. “Why try to squeeze another 20 per cent profit out of something you’re going to dispose of?”
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