Canadians will pay more for local food, but don’t necessarily look for it

Younger people said they were more likely to pay a premium

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A new study says that four of five Canadians are willing to pay more for locally produced food.

The study, conducted by the Dalhousie University Food Analytics Lab in cooperation with Caddle is based on survey data from more than 10,000 Canadians.

While Canadians said they were willing to pay more, they also were found to pay little attention to where their food originates while shopping.

The survey said that 79.5 per cent of Canadians are willing to pay some kind of premium for locally grown produce when grocery shopping.

However, only 25 per cent of 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,” the study said.

How much of a premium are you willing to pay for local grown fresh produce?
photo: Dalhousie Univerity Agri-Food Analytics Lab

Survey respondents are also famous for supporting certain products, but not following their words with actions when they get to the supermarket.

“Price, unsurprisingly, is the most common important factor for Canadians, with almost half (47.8 per cent) citing the price of fruits and vegetables as the most important factor.”

Governments have put greater focus on food autonomy after some limited shortages during the initial pandemic lockdown.

The definition of local varies across the country.

In the Prairies and Maritimes, local is mostly considered to be within the province, whereas respondents from Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia are more willing to consider local as a region of the province.

Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University considers the results as telling. “Most surveys will suggest consumers want to buy local produce, but retail results aren’t typically there despite aggressive campaigns to promote locally grown produce,” said Charlebois. “Asking consumers to support the so-called local economy, when ‘local’ means something different to different people is unreasonable, especially during a recession.”

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More than half of people in Generation Z are willing to pay a premium greater than 10 per cent for locally grown produce, with only 15.9 per cent of respondents saying they wouldn’t pay any premium at all.

Baby Boomers are the least willing to pay a premium, with 25 per cent saying they would pay any sort of premium at all.

The survey also found that Canadians are least willing to pay a premium on strawberries, should they be grown locally.

The survey also asked about greenhouse versus conventionally grown produce and Canadians generally saw both as being equal quality.

About the author

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John Greig

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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