Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of Canadians attitudes towards healthy eating including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

The consumer approach to healthy eating has always been about balancing goals with making realistic choices. Today, some 65% of Canadians report that their likelihood to make healthy food choices hasn’t changed since the onset of the pandemic, yet the data also shows that eating habits have shifted – from eating more often throughout the day to cooking more indulgent foods.

Brands need to encourage through nudges that are relevant and fun, but that can easily fit into consumers’ existing routines. Functional claims will play a bigger role in helping to manage healthy choices, but also to validate less healthy choices like treats. The door is open for companies across virtually all categories to participate in the wellness conversation – it’s time to think more about cross-category collaborations and brand extensions as people look to address their health in a more well-rounded way.

Quickly understand

  • Approach to healthy eating Canadian knowledge about healthy eating
  • Attitudes towards online and in-store shopping
  • Food and emotional wellness
  • Shifts in approach to healthy eating and eating habits as a result of COVID-19

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Carol Wong-Li, a leading analyst in the lifestyles and leisure sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The pandemic has vastly impacted the physical context surrounding eating – everything from where we are eating, to when, why or how often we are eating, even to who we are eating with. But we know that managing a healthy lifestyle has always been about balancing aspirational goals against realistic choices, and this holds true even now. Carol Wong-Li
Associate Director – Lifestyles and Leisure

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
    • Impact of COVID-19 on attitudes towards healthy eating
      • Figure 1: Short-, medium- and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on attitudes towards healthy eating
    • Opportunities
    • Focus on functional benefits to validate food choices
    • Lean into familiar ingredients that stay fresher longer
    • Now is the time to elevate the joy of cooking for young Millennial men
    • Challenges
    • Younger consumers lack clarity on healthy eating – information consumption may be contributing to the problem
    • Food and immunity: interest is high, action is not – yet
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • Two-in-three Canadians are overweight or obese
    • Canada’s Food Guide saw a revamp and update to include info on eating during the pandemic
    • Preventative measures changed how Canadians shop for food and the ingredients they bought
    • The role of food-at-home has more significance
    • The face of the nation is literally changing; health considerations must adjust accordingly
    • The cost of food is expected to rise
  4. Market Factors

    • Nearly two-thirds of Canadians are overweight or obese
      • Figure 2: Distribution of underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese, by age, 2018
      • Figure 3: Overweight or obese, men vs women, 2018
    • Updates to Canada’s Food Guide: a relaunch in 2019 and info for eating during the COVID-19 pandemic
      • Figure 4: Canada Food Guide Instagram post, January 2019
    • To better support Canadians, specific resources were added in light of the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Preventative measures shape changes in grocery shopping habits and lists
      • Figure 5: Grocery shopping frequency, 2018 vs 2020, May 2018/June 2020
    • Eating out is now a home-based activity
    • Food-at-home is now central in satiating emotions
    • Home cooking and foodservice really is an inverse relationship these days
      • Figure 6: Canadian retail trade and food and beverage store sales, January-November 2020
      • Figure 7: Canadian basket weight for food components, February-October 2020
    • Food costs are expected to rise; savings from eating out less may not go as far
    • Functional claims need to be more of a focus given an aging population
      • Figure 8: Population aged 0-14 and 65+, 1995-2035*
      • Figure 9: Eating healthy is important for my physical wellbeing’ (% agree), by age, September 2020
    • Diversity in the population brings an openness to new flavours and a wider range of health concerns
    • Immigration will drive a shift in health concerns
      • Figure 10: Proportion of foreign-born population in Canada, 1981-2036
    • A richer cultural mosaic opens new possibilities in ‘healthy eating’
      • Figure 11: Self-identification of ethnicity, by generation, June 2020
  5. Competitive Strategies – A Global View

    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Wellbeing Trend Driver
    • All hands on deck: food and physical health come into focus for more than just food-related retailers
      • Figure 12: IKEA Japan Instagram post, April 2020
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Technology Trend Driver
    • Toss it up: mixing greens and games to encourage better eating habits
      • Figure 13: Kostministeriet Facebook posts, June 2020
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Experiences Trend Driver
    • Extending the brand experience: pivoting to continue providing relevant experiences
      • Figure 14: Post Cereals Facebook posts, July 2020
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Surroundings Trend Driver
    • Updating food guidelines to include climate-friendly actions
      • Figure 15: Fødevarestyrelsen Instagram post, January 2021
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Identity Trend Driver
    • Tapping into common interests to encouraging connection in disconnected times
      • Figure 16: OREO Instagram post, December 2020
  6. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • It’s a little stretchy: the Canadian approach to healthy eating is not as well balanced as they think
    • Eating healthy? Sure, it’s as clear as mud for younger consumers
    • Comfort is key: food and emotional wellness are a true pairing
    • Mindset towards healthy eating hasn’t changed much even though eating habits have
    • Food and immunity: interest is high, action is not
  7. Approach to Healthy Eating

    • Canadians’ approach to healthy eating is somewhat elastic
      • Figure 17: Likelihood to eat foods considered healthy, September 2020
    • Consider helping consumers balance comfort with action through validation of choices
      • Figure 18: NightFood Instagram post, July 2020
    • Help balance comfort with action by being a resource for bonding over eating occasions
      • Figure 19: Keelings Instagram post, August 2020
      • Figure 20: Keelings Instagram post, September 2020
    • Aging and women: physiological changes drive increased attention to physical health
      • Figure 21: Likelihood to eat foods considered healthy, September 2020
    • Normalizing menopause and its symptoms will count
      • Figure 22: Me.No.Pause – Supporting Women Through Menopause Naturally, February 2019
  8. Knowledge about Healthy Eating

    • Younger Canadians lack clarity on how to eat healthy
      • Figure 23: ‘It is difficult to know which foods are healthy and which are not’ (% agree), by age, September 2020
    • Consuming visual content consumption may leave folks ‘lite’ on nutritional info
      • Figure 24: Basically Instagram post, January 2021
    • Consider taking inspiration from modern financial experts to reach young people
    • This is urgent: a lack of clarity has a trickling effect to the next generation
      • Figure 25: ‘It is difficult to know which foods are healthy and which are not’ (% agree), parents with under-5s vs overall, September 2020
      • Figure 26: Concern about healthiness of children’s diet and difficulty finding healthy foods that appeal to children (% agree), by age of children at home, September 2020
    • Acknowledging the knowledge gap is an important first step to connecting with young parents
      • Figure 27: Solly Baby post, October 2020
      • Figure 28: Dove Men+Care Global Channel, August 2020
      • Figure 29: Dove Men+Care Global Channel, September 2020
    • Proactive changes in menu offerings for kids will resonate – now more than ever
  9. Food and Emotional Wellness

    • Healthy eating and emotional wellness go hand in hand
      • Figure 30: Select attitudes towards healthy eating and managing emotional wellness, September 2020
    • Lean into the familiar as Canadian cooks are creatures of comfort
      • Figure 31: Instant Pot Instagram post, January 2020
      • Figure 32: California Pizza Kitchen Crispy Thin Crust Plant Based BBQ Recipe Pizza (US), January 2021
      • Figure 33: President’s Choice Instagram post, November 2020
    • Women are more likely to associate comfort with eating healthy foods, so dial up functionality
      • Figure 34: Select attitudes towards healthy eating and managing emotional wellness, men vs women, September 2020
      • Figure 35: Kellogg’s Müsli Mezlca de Cereales Tostados con Almendras (Mexico), December 2019
      • Figure 36: Peak Chocolate Rest Night Time Dark Chocolate (Australia), October 2019
    • Consider ways to combine relaxing rituals with food and drink to enhance the emotional aspect
      • Figure 37: The Republic of Tea Beautifying Botanicals Beauty Sleep Chamomile Rose Tea (US), October 2020
    • Nostalgia is a key player when thinking of food and stress relief for young men and fathers
      • Figure 38: ‘I often eat processed foods from my childhood to help me manage stress’ (% any agree), men 18-34 and fathers with under-18s at home vs overall, September 2020
    • Opportunity exists to build unity over nostalgic foods
      • Figure 39: Chex Mix Facebook posts, May 2020
  10. Shifts in Approach to Healthy Eating and Eating Habits

    • Approach to healthy eating hasn’t changed; how Canadians are eating has
    • Consumer likelihood to be eating healthfully remains stable
      • Figure 40: Likelihood to eat foods considered healthy, September 2020 vs November 2017
      • Figure 41: Change in frequency of eating healthy, September 2020
    • The context has changed, shifting eating motivations and patterns
      • Figure 42: Change in eating and cooking habits since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, September 2020
      • Figure 43: Reasons for eating healthfully more or less often this year, September 2020
    • Food and immunity: interest is high, action is not – it’s a good time to connect
    • Interest in boosting immunity through food is elevated
      • Figure 44: Attitudes towards healthy eating and physical wellness and interest in boosting immunity through food (% any agree), September 2020
    • But few make immunity-boosting foods a top consideration
      • Figure 45: Most important factors when choosing healthy food and beverages, September 2020
    • Context shapes behaviours, connecting the dots needs to fit the context
    • Don’t force it; fit in functional benefits to existing routines for the win
      • Figure 46: Nutrify Natural FibreWater (Denmark), September 2020
    • Young Millennial men are eating healthy more often to cope
      • Figure 47: Change in frequency of eating healthy and reasons for eating healthfully more often, men 25-34 vs overall, September 2020
    • Eating at home more creates opportunities to tie in the emotional benefits of cooking
    • Consider ways of elevating all elements related to the joy of cooking
      • Figure 48: PC Chef Instagram post, December 2020
    • Consider partnering with step-saving cooking appliances to make the cooking process easier
      • Figure 49: Cooks Illustrated Instagram post, February 2021
      • Figure 50: Instant Pot Facebook post, February 2021
    • Be a resource and a community
      • Figure 51: Instant Pot Zesty Lemon Chicken, April 2019
      • Figure 52: Instant Pot Facebook community page, February 2021
  11. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

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