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Transparency on food prices key to rebuilding trust for consumers: Study

A new study from Dalhousie's Agri-Food Analytics Lab and Caddle examines which factors Canadians believe contribute the most to food inflation
Minded man viewing receipts in supermarket and tracking prices

While many Canadians hold grocers to blame for higher food prices, a new study finds improved transparency could help rebuild trust between retailers and inflation-weary consumers. 

Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in partnership with Caddle, surveyed Canadians about what they believe contributes to food inflation. 

Nationally, 30.3% of Canadians think grocery chain price gouging is the main cause of higher food prices, while 29.9% believe inflation or monetary/fiscal policies are to blame. But attitudes appear to vary from province to province. 

[Read more: "Independent grocers defend chains against food inflation accusations"]

In Nova Scotia, 51.8% of respondents believe grocery chains are price gouging consumers, followed by Newfoundland and Labrador (38.1%), Prince Edward Island (36.1%), British Columbia (33.4%), Alberta (33.1%), Ontario (31.7%), New Brunswick (30.2%) and Manitoba (29.7%). 

Interestingly, both Quebec and Saskatchewan are the only provinces that believe inflation and monetary/fiscal policies are the primary reason for the skyrocketing cost of food – not price gouging. 

"Grocers may stock their shelves with the freshest produce and finest goods, but without the  trust of their consumers, their offerings [will not sway consumers],” said Janet Music, research  associate at the lab, in a statement. “Their business is largely misunderstood by the Canadian public. For grocers, transparency, ethics, and sustainability will be even more critical moving forward.”

Nearly half (46.6%) of Canadians surveyed said they would appreciate more price freezes, and 44.2% expect more transparency related to food sales. 

While 36.4% of respondents wish loyalty programs were more generous, a total of 33.4% would like more competition in Canada. 

A total of 44% of respondents believe that governments should intervene and regulate the price of some staples at the grocery store.  

Only 19.1% believe the government should implement a windfall tax – a tax levied on unexpected profits or gains that are not part of a company's normal business operations. 


A small number of Canadians (4.5%) believe the government should create a crown corporation and start its own grocery chain. 

The survey asked if Canadians were supportive of the grocery code of conduct. Of those that were aware, 68.1% believed it would be beneficial. 

[Read more: "Draft of grocery code still lacks details on enforcement measures"]

Provinces with the highest percentage of support are Nova Scotia (76.5%) and British Columbia (74.5%), while the lowest are Prince Edward Island (53.2%) and Manitoba (64.2%).  

"The Grocery Code of Conduct is not just a set of rules, it's a lifeline for Canadian shoppers,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in a statement. “It ensures fair pricing, transparency, consistency, and accountability from retailers, giving  consumers the peace of mind they deserve when purchasing their groceries.”

This article first appeared on Canadian Grocer

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