Thinking about post-COVID-19 food | Press


The author notes that the legacy of the pandemic has caused many consumers to reconsider where they shop and buy their food regularly.

Sylvain Charlebois

Sylvain Charlebois
Senior Director, Agri-Food Analytical Sciences Laboratory, Dalhousie University

With the pandemic, the world has changed and so has our relationship with food. The food industry will have to adapt.

Released on April 21

This week, Montreal is hosting the SIAL¢1The largest food innovation show in North America. The food industry is coming together for the first time since March 2020 to question the trends, tastes and flavors of the future. After more than two years of the pandemic, the mission promises that it will be difficult to set consumers’ new expectations.

At SIAL, Dalhousie University’s Laboratory of Agri-Food Analytical Sciences has released new data on the Canadian food market. By some estimates, by 2025, the food market in Canada will become more established, more virtual, and will be heavily influenced by the growing curiosity of food literate consumers. Let’s review some facts presented at SIAL.

Home life first. Undoubtedly, this lifestyle has taken root. Many people spend much more time at home. By 2025, nearly 40% of these people will be working from home at least one day a week, while their relationship to food will be changed forever. We spend more time at home cooking and learning new recipes. In fact, not only have 34.2% of Canadians learned a new recipe since the start of the pandemic, but 51.8% have learned several new recipes as well. About 40% of people learned new skills like making bread or pasta at home, and 45.2% discovered new ingredients that they had not used before the pandemic.

In other words, food literacy in Canada has increased since the start of the pandemic. With more in-depth food knowledge, consumers know how to make more informed choices. The industry should appeal to an inquisitive public who has an informed view on a large number of products.

Then pets. The number of households with at least one pet has also increased. Since the start of the pandemic, 26.1% of Canadian households have adopted a pet for the first time. This represents one out of every four people, and half of these households choose either a cat or a dog. This statistic is not trivial because research tells us that a pet owner becomes more sensitive to ethical pet treatment. For protein, this is a game changer. In fact, we estimate that 3.2 million Canadians consider themselves flexitarian, nearly 1 million pescetarians, 913,000 vegetarians, and 560,000 vegans. In addition to veganism, the rates of meat-free or low-meat diets continue to rise in the country. It is certain that the rising prices of meat stalls recently contributed to this distribution. Food innovators need to consider this data.

The phenomenon of urban sprawl. With families moving to the slums and countryside in large numbers and epidemics accumulating in some businesses, many are shopping elsewhere. In fact, 26.1% of Canadians are visiting retailers they hadn’t visited before the pandemic. The portrait of the restoration suffered the same influences. The legacy of the pandemic has caused many consumers to reconsider where they shop and buy their food regularly. There are great opportunities for the industry.

The virtual market is exploding. About 40% of Canadians order food at a retail or catering service at least every two weeks. And people at SIAL were told that by 2025, 30.1% of Canadians will continue to regularly buy food online. We also predict that 10% of food sales in Canada will be made online by 2025. Before the pandemic, estimates were around 1.7%. What changed!

And finally, Canadians turn to social networks to learn about food trends. Apart from the family, YouTube, TikTok and Facebook are the most used communication tools and greatly affect the nutrition of citizens. Especially after a pandemic has forced everyone to use more online information, the industry needs to increase its presence on these platforms if it is to influence trends. The way we do business with consumers has changed a lot.

1. SIAL, North America’s largest food innovation expo, is held at the Palais des Congrès in Montreal until April 22.

Learn more

  • 913,000
    Number of Canadians who self-identify as vegetarian

    Source: Dalhousie University Agri-Food Analytical Sciences Laboratory

  • 560,000
    Number of Canadians who consider themselves vegan

    Source: Dalhousie University Agri-Food Analytical Sciences Laboratory

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