“Grocery retailing has arguably already entered its post-pandemic state. It experienced rapid change in the early months – with sales spikes, widespread shortages and concerns about virus transmission – but quickly settled into its new normal. Today, most Canadians are comfortable going to the grocery store and little will change once the pandemic actually ends.
Looking ahead, a big question will be about what role online shopping can play. It initially surged in relevance, but remains niche in 2021. Given how important in-person shopping is in grocery retail, its most likely trajectory is to become a complementary tool that supports a hybrid in-person/online grocery shopping experience rather than a standalone option for shoppers.”
– Scott Stewart, Associate Director, Lifestyles & Retail

This Report covers the following areas:

  • Grocery shopping responsibilities and frequency.
  • Where groceries are purchased: in-store or online.
  • Motivators for online grocery shoppers to use that channel.
  • How shoppers prefer to purchase certain grocery categories.
  • Common behaviours among in-store shoppers.

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

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

            • Top takeaways
              • Market overview
                • Impact of COVID-19 on grocery retailing
                  • Figure 1: Immediate, short and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on grocery retailing, 2021
                • Opportunities
                  • Grocery retailing is ubiquitous and frequent
                    • Grocery was one of the first industries to ‘get back to normal’
                      • Challenges
                        • Online grocery shopping will remain secondary
                          • Price-sensitivity is poised to increase
                          • The Market – Key Takeaways

                            • As industry sales settle, external factors create some uncertainty
                              • Demographic trends in Canada will impact grocery retail
                              • The Market – By the Numbers

                                • Grocery retail sales spiked in 2020 then settled
                                  • Figure 2: Seasonally adjusted monthly sales, 2019-21
                              • Market Factors

                                • The Canadian population is continuing to diversify
                                  • Figure 3: Immigrants as a proportion of Canadian population, 1871-2036
                                • South Asian Canadians will have the largest impact
                                  • Figure 4: Population of visible minority groups in Canada (thousands), 2011 vs 2036
                                • The country is becoming more urban and dense
                                  • Figure 5: Occupied private dwellings, by type: distribution and growth, 2016
                                  • Figure 6: Proportion of Canadians living in a CMA, 2001-20
                                • Grocery inflation matches the overall market’s fast pace
                                  • Figure 7: Consumer Price Index: all items and food purchased from stores, August 2017-21
                                  • Figure 8: Consumer Price Index: categories of food purchased from stores, 2019-21
                                • Sustainability concerns will become more important in grocery retail
                                  • Figure 9: Category most important to shop for sustainable products, 2021
                                • Store layouts and online vs in-store will become considerations, too
                                  • Impact of COVID-19 on grocery retail
                                    • Immediate impacts (2020)
                                      • Figure 10: Stocked up on groceries as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, 2020
                                      • Figure 11: Attitudes towards shopping in a pandemic (% yes), 2020
                                      • Figure 12: COVID-related attitudes and behaviours, 2020
                                    • Short term (2021)
                                      • Recovery (2022-25)
                                      • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                        • Amid industry growth, grocery retail competition increased
                                        • Competitive Strategies

                                          • Empire Company’s sales trends are a reflection of the industry
                                            • Empire has been strategically aggressive
                                              • No Frills brings lifestyle marketing to grocery
                                                • Figure 13: No Frills Instagram post, 2021
                                                • Figure 14: No Frills: Aisles of Glory – Legend of the Haul™, 2021
                                              • Online channels made brick-and-mortar less of a barrier to grocery sales
                                                • Figure 15: Mama Earth Instagram post, 2021
                                              • Amazon is positioned to capitalize on online grocery shopping trends
                                              • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                                • Who shops for groceries and how often
                                                  • In-store and online grocery shopping
                                                    • Reasons for online grocery shopping
                                                      • Grocery categories: in-store vs online
                                                        • In-store grocery shopping behaviours
                                                        • Who Shops for Groceries and How Often

                                                          • Almost all Canadians shop for groceries
                                                            • Figure 16: Grocery shopping responsibility, 2021
                                                          • Women are more likely than men to be solely responsible for groceries
                                                            • Figure 17: Grocery shopping responsibility, by gender, 2021
                                                            • Figure 18: Sole responsibility for grocery shopping, by gender and parental status, 2021
                                                          • Cultural differences in gender divide
                                                            • Figure 19: Sole responsibility for grocery shopping, by gender and race, 2021
                                                            • Figure 20: Sole responsibility for grocery shopping, by gender and region, 2021
                                                          • The youngest consumers are the only outliers
                                                            • Figure 21: Grocery shopping responsibility, by age, 2021
                                                          • Grocery shopping is a weekly trip for most Canadians
                                                            • Figure 22: Grocery shopping frequency, 2020 vs 2021
                                                          • Evidence of European-influenced higher-frequency visits
                                                            • Figure 23: Grocery shopping frequency, by region, origin and race, 2021
                                                            • Figure 24: Grocery shopping frequency, by living location, 2021
                                                          • Frequency is driven by demand to keep well stocked and an enjoyment of shopping
                                                          • In-store and Online Grocery Shopping

                                                            • In-store dominates the grocery shopping industry
                                                              • Figure 25: Grocery shopping channels used in the past month, 2021
                                                            • In-store shopping skews to older consumers
                                                              • Figure 26: Grocery shopping channels used in the past month, by age, 2021
                                                              • Figure 27: Grocery shopping channels used in the past month, by parental status, 2021
                                                            • Online grocery shopping is underdeveloped in Quebec
                                                              • Figure 28: Grocery shopping channels used in the past month, by region, 2021
                                                            • Multicultural Canadians are more likely to shop for groceries online
                                                              • Figure 29: Grocery shopping channels used in the past month, by race, 2021
                                                            • How online grocery shopping can complement in-store shopping
                                                              • Figure 30: Welcome to PC Express online grocery pickup!, 2020
                                                            • How online shopping has changed and will change
                                                              • Figure 31: Online grocery shopping compared to before the pandemic, 2021
                                                              • Figure 32: Expect to shop for groceries online more often in the long run, 2021
                                                          • Reasons for Online Grocery Shopping

                                                              • Online grocery shoppers want to save time
                                                                • Figure 33: Reasons for shopping for groceries online, 2021
                                                              • Convenience should be a major focus to complement time savings
                                                                • Online shopping can pay for itself
                                                                • Grocery Categories: In-store vs Online

                                                                  • Fresh, perishable food categories are an in-store purchase
                                                                    • Figure 34: Grocery category shopping channels: fresh/perishable food, 2021
                                                                  • Online shoppers are more open, but still prefer in-store shopping for these items
                                                                    • Figure 35: Online shoppers’ grocery category shopping channels: fresh/perishable food, 2021
                                                                  • Non-perishables are an online opportunity, but frozen foods highlight concerns with transport
                                                                    • Figure 36: Grocery category shopping channels: frozen/non-perishable food, 2021
                                                                    • Figure 37: Online shoppers’ grocery category shopping channels: frozen/non-perishable food, 2021
                                                                  • Beverages should be a target category for online retailers
                                                                    • Figure 38: Grocery category shopping channels: beverages, 2021
                                                                  • In-store and online preferences vary by demographics
                                                                    • Younger consumers are more likely to include online as part of their grocery habits
                                                                      • Figure 39: Grocery category shopping channels (NET: any items), by age, 2021
                                                                    • Living situations make some consumers more open to online shopping
                                                                      • Figure 40: Grocery category shopping channels (NET: any items), by parental status, 2021
                                                                      • Figure 41: Grocery category shopping channels (NET: any items), by living location, 2021
                                                                    • There are cultural differences in willingness to use online grocery shopping
                                                                      • Figure 42: Grocery category shopping channels (NET: any items), by race, 2021
                                                                      • Figure 43: Grocery category shopping channels (NET: any items), overall vs Quebec, 2021
                                                                  • In-store Grocery Shopping Behaviours

                                                                    • Grocery trips are a planned, habitual behaviour
                                                                      • Figure 44: Typical in-store grocery shopping behaviours, 2021
                                                                      • Figure 45: Typically make a list before shopping in-store, by age, 2021
                                                                    • Shoppers are more likely to have a consistent path than to wander
                                                                      • Figure 46: Typical paths around the store while shopping, by age, 2021
                                                                    • Few admit to impulse purchases
                                                                      • Product research in the digital age
                                                                        • Tech enables convenient price comparisons across different retailers
                                                                          • Figure 47: Get Flipp Instagram post, 2021
                                                                        • Frequent shoppers are the most likely to compare prices
                                                                          • Figure 48: Typical price comparison behaviours, by grocery shopping frequency, 2021
                                                                      • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                        • Data sources
                                                                          • Consumer survey data
                                                                            • Mintel Trend Drivers
                                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                                  • Terms

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