Canada's Food Price Report 2020

Canada’s Food Price Report marks 10 years of helping consumers understand their annual grocery bill

2020 report forecasts 2 to 4% increase in food prices for Canadian families

Halifax — The 10th annual edition of Canada’s Food Price Report forecasts a 2 to 4% increase in food prices in 2020, bringing the predicted annual cost of food for the average Canadian family to $12,667, an increase of $487 over 2019.

Canada’s Food Price Report 2020 is released jointly by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph. Predictions are made using historical data sources, machine learning algorithms, and predictive analytics tools developed over many years.

Last year’s forecast for annual food spending by the average Canadian family is expected to come within $23. “We were surprised by how accurate our forecast was, despite vegetable prices going up by 12% rather than the predicted 4 to 6%. Forecasting is not easy, and we have learned from our successes and failures over the last 10 years,” says Dalhousie Project Lead Sylvain Charlebois, Professor in the Faculties of Management and Agriculture. “Food inflation is desirable, but when prices increase quickly families can be left behind.”

“Canadians deserve to know more about price changes in the food they consume and how those changes will impact them,” adds Dalhousie researcher Eamonn McGuinty. “This year, the Report reiterates the key headlines impacting food prices for Canadians: climate change, geopolitical conflicts, single-use plastic packaging, the effect of increasingly protectionist trade environments on Canada’s exports, disease outbreaks, and the ongoing technological disruption of the supply chain giving rise to more customizable and tailored food options."

The report’s authors forecast the following price changes for 2020, with meat in particular forecast to go up in price by 4 to 6% despite Canadians’ increasing interest in plant-based protein options.

Table 1: Food Price Forecast for 2020

Food Categories Anticipated Changes (%)
Bakery 0% - 2%
Dairy 1% - 3%
Fruits 1.5% - 3.5%
Meat 4% - 6%
Restaurants 2% - 4%
Seafood 2% - 4%
Vegetables 2% - 4%
Other 2% - 4%
Total Increase in Food Prices 2% - 4%

What do these forecasts mean for Canadian families struggling to afford healthy food? “Already, one in eight Canadian households is food insecure,” says Guelph Project Lead Simon Somogyi of the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics. “With wage growth stagnant, Canadians aren’t making more money, but they still have to eat. The ever-increasing use of food banks across the country is an example of how Canadians can’t afford to put food on their plates.”Food price increases in 2020 in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island are expected to exceed the national average, while price increases in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia are expected to be lower than the national average. The cost of food in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador is likely to align with the national average.

There are opportunities to mitigate costs over the longer term in spite of the challenges facing Canada’s food price landscape. “Our own new food guide is encouraging Canadians to eat more vegetables,” says Charlebois. “Increasing the quantity of vegetables and fruits we produce domestically would be a great start.” This means food policy in Canada needs to support strategies to grow vegetables and fruit all year round, not just in warmer months, including subsidies for indoor and greenhouse farming and funding for research and development into food plant breeds that grow well indoors. In addition, Canada can fill a leadership gap by developing alternatives to single-use plastic materials, legislating plastic use, and implementing tax regimes that encourage producer responsibility.

This year’s research team also included Dalhousie University colleagues Vlado Keselj (Faculty of Computer Science), Janet Music (Agri-Food Analytics Lab), Andrea Giusto (Department of Economics), and Don Fiander (DalAnalytics). They were joined by Joon Son (IBM Canada), Hyejung (Cathy) Bae and Emon Majumder (Applied Research, Nova Scotia Community College), and Jay Harris (Schulich School of Business, York University). University of Guelph researchers included Erna Van Duren and Francis Tapon (Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics), Paul Uys (Ontario Agricultural College), Jess Haines (Family Relations and Applied Nutrition), and Graham Taylor and Alexander Moksyakov (School of Engineering).

Media Contact:

Sylvain Charlebois, Senior Director

Agri-Food Analytics Lab
Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University
902-222-4142 (cell)

Janet Music, Research Program Coordinator 

Agri-Food Analytics Lab
Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University