Canada's Food Price Report 2024
Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 predicts Canadians will finally get relief from “sticker-shock” in 2024
Food price increases will be lower than in previous years.
Halifax — Food affordability remains a top concern for Canadians. Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 forecasts that overall food prices will increase by 2.5% to 4.5%. 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. The most significant increases range from 5% to 7% in the categories of bakery, meat, and vegetables.
This marks the 14th edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, 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 to make predictions about Canadian food prices. Within this interdisciplinary approach, scholars from the participating universities contribute insights and expertise from diverse fields.
2023 was a tumultuous year politically, environmentally, and economically. There were unprecedented wildfires and flooding across Canada. The conflict in Europe and unrest in the Middle East continue to affect energy costs and commodity prices. Canadians face many financial pressures, such as higher rental rates and utilities, and rising personal debt. “The year 2023 posed significant financial challenges for Canadian families, one of the toughest in recent memory,” 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 2 million food bank visits in Canada in 2023, which is the highest level on record, and a 78.5% increase since March 2019.
Despite inflation, Canadians are spending less on food this year. Food retail sales data indicates a decline in monthly spend per capita between August 2022 and August 2023 (from $261.24 to $252.89). Estimated annual spending for a family of four in the past year was $693 lower than originally projected. However, this decrease 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 losing trust in food sector corporations. There is a prevailing sentiment that grocers profit excessively and exploit inflationary trends. Profiteering and price gouging were common media stories. Canada Bread Company pled guilty to four counts of price-fixing under the Competition Act. In 2023, industry employees felt empowered to seek improved wages and working conditions, with strikes occurring at Sobeys, Metro Inc., British Columbia ports, the St. Lawrence Seeway, Rogers Sugar Refinery, and Windsor Salt. These disputes resulted in product shortages and shipping delays.
Food prices are complicated and influenced by many global factors. Researchers say this is why we need Canada’s Food Price Report. “This report examines the impact of food inflation on Canadians and 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 could mean enhanced affordability. The Bill aims to promote competition in the grocery sector through proposed amendments to the Competition Act. But it is currently unclear if this goal will be met.
In general, researchers insist that this report predicts better prospects for consumers in 2024. Andrea Rankin, Research Associate at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says the report “offers some good news” and provides “some relief…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.”
For more information, please read the complete Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 found below.
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, Director Agri-Food Analytics Lab,
Janet Music, Research Program Coordinator
Agri-Food Analytics Lab,