Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 predicts Canadians will finally get relief from “sticker‑shock”

- December 7, 2023

Food prices will likely rise by 2.5-4.5% in 2024, compared to 5-7% in 2023. (Tara Clark photo/Pexels)
Food prices will likely rise by 2.5-4.5% in 2024, compared to 5-7% in 2023. (Tara Clark photo/Pexels)

Everyone is talking about the cost of living, particularly at the grocery store. The researchers behind Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 insist that some relief is coming.

Canada’s Food Price Report (CFPR) is an annual collaboration between research partners Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of British Columbia. This cross-country research team uses historical data sources, machine-learning algorithms, and predictive analytics tools developed over many years to make predictions about Canadian food prices.

The report forecasts that overall food prices will increase, but by less than last year. Food prices will likely rise by 2.5% to 4.5% (compared to 5% to 7% in 2023). The average family of four is expected to spend $16,297.20 on food in 2024, an increase of up to $701.79 from last year (compared to an increase of $1,065 in 2023). The 2024 increases align with inflation, which is something. Andrea Rankin, Research Associate at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says the report “offers some good news” and that “Canadians can anticipate possibly calmer food prices through the coming year.”

“The estimated increase of 2.5-4.5% for 2024 provides customers with much needed relief from the higher increases observed in previous years,” says Stuart Smyth, Chair, Agri-Food Innovation and Sustainability Enhancement at the University of Saskatchewan. “They should expect to see a degree of stability return to food prices. I am optimistic that the phrase ‘sticker-shock’ will become less commonly used throughout grocery stores in 2024.”

Read the full report: English (PDF: 600 KBS) l French (PDF: 600 KBS)

Following a tough year

For people struggling to balance their budget, this may not provide much comfort. 2023 was a tumultuous year.

“The year 2023 posed significant financial challenges for Canadian families, one of the toughest in recent memory,” says Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, project lead, professor, and director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. Food Bank Canada’s 2023 Hunger Count revealed there were nearly two million food bank visits in Canada in 2023, which is the highest level on record, and a 78.5% increase since March 2019. There were unprecedented wildfires and flooding across Canada. The unlawful Ukrainian invasion and unrest in the Middle East contributed and continue to affect energy costs and commodity prices. Rental rates and utilities are higher than ever. A recent study by TransUnion found that the average Canadian household debt has increased by 4.2% over last year.

Although the report shows that Canadians are spending less on food this year, despite inflation, this is a concern to researchers. Reduced expenditures in the face of elevated food prices indicates Canadians are decreasing the quantity and quality of food they are buying. Customers are frustrated and angry with grocery corporations and their excessive profits and perceived exploitation of inflationary trends and loopholes. Profiteering, price gouging, and price-fixing are discussed more and more in the news. There is resentment among industry employees as well, with many workers striking across the country throughout 2023 (Sobeys, Metro Inc., Rogers Sugar Refinery, etc). 

Customers are frustrated and angry with grocery corporations and their excessive profits and perceived exploitation of inflationary trends and loopholes. (Kampus Productions)

Empowering consumers

This is why the research behind CFPR is important. It can empower consumers and help them plan. “This report examines the impact of food inflation on Canadians and the possible reasons for food price inflation trends,” says Kelleen L. Wiseman, Academic Director and Manager, Master of Food & Resource Economics at the University of British Columbia. “This research makes a valuable contribution to the important topic of food affordability. The report data informs consumer expectations by familiarizing them with past and current trends.”

Politicians should take note. “Policy makers, the public, and business leaders all need tools to understand how trends may play out,” says Dr. Evan Fraser, Director, Arrell Food Institute, the University of Guelph. “Canada’s Food Price Report provides a grounded evidence base for discussions on how the landscape may change over the course of the next year.”

The federal government is exploring competition in the Canadian grocery sector. The introduction of Bill C-56 aims to increase competition in the grocery sector, which will hopefully translate to increased affordability. It remains to be seen what the effect will be, but it is a start.

In the meantime, consumers can look forward to slightly better prospects in 2024. 

For more information, please read the complete Canada’s Food Price Report 2024.

Dalhousie University Authors and Advisors:

·      Dr. Sylvain Charlebois (Project Lead - Dalhousie University) Faculties of Management and Agriculture

·      Andrea Rankin Faculty of Management

·      Stacey Taylor Faculty of Computer Science

·      Dr. Vlado Keselj Faculty of Computer Science

·      Dr. Gumataw Abebe Faculty of Agriculture

·      Dr. Stefanie Colombo Faculty of Agriculture

·      Dr. Kathleen Kevany Faculty of Agriculture

·      Dr. Monika Korzun Faculty of Agriculture

·      Dr. Paola A. Marignani Faculty of Medicine

·      Janet Music Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

·      Dr. Rick Nason Faculty of Management

·      Dr. Armağan Özbilge Faculty of Management

·      Dr. Phoebe Stephens Faculty of Agriculture

·      Samantha Taylor Faculty of Management


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