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Canadian consumers crave a local focus


By The Conference Board of Canada

Food grown and consumed locally across Canada should be more deeply integrated into the broader national food distribution system, a move that would benefit local producers and ultimately the whole food economy, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. Most food grown locally in Canada is currently sold through large retail chains and major distributors within the food system, a pattern that is likely to continue.

“Local food is a growing part of the Canadian food system and interest has surged in recent years,” said Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning. “What we’re finding is that there is room to expand the role of local food systems in Canada, and that in doing so, there are significant economic benefits to be realized.”

The Centre for Food in Canada report, Cultivating Opportunities: Canada’s Growing Appetite for Local Food, finds that the economic impact of local food systems is most significant in Quebec and Ontario.

Across Canada, 20 per cent of food is consumed within the same province in which it is produced—a widely-used definition of local food. Quebec leads with 29 per cent of the province’s overall food production (in total dollar value) being consumed by Quebecers. In Ontario, 24 per cent of food produced (by value) is eaten within the province. Locally-produced food also makes up a substantial share of the food consumed in British Columbia (16 per cent) and Nova Scotia (13 per cent).

Top 5 local concerns

  • Interest in local food is being driven by concerns about quality, health and nutrition, food safety, local economics and farmers, and the environment.
  • The bulk of local food in Canada is sold through large retail chains and major distributors, a pattern that is expected to continue in the future.
  • Local food systems have economic benefits for a wide range of businesses. The largest economic benefits go to small and medium sized producers, as well as retailers and foodservice operators that focus on niche and premium markets.
  • Local food is not a standalone solution to public concerns about the food system. Non-local food plays an important role in providing Canadians with access to a wide variety of products; Canada also benefits from global trade in food.
  • Consumers want to support their local economy and farmers. Many also believe that local produce is fresher than alternatives. Availability and convenience, as well as the price of some local food products, are the main barriers preventing consumers from buying local food.