HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – Food prices in Canada are forecast to rise 1 percent to 3 percent in 2018, slightly lower than the forecast in 2016 but higher than what Canadians have experienced to date, according to the most recent edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, published jointly by Dalhousie Univ. and the Univ. of Guelph.

Food expenses for the average Canadian family of four could increase as much as $348 to a total of $11,948 next year. Prices for vegetables are expected to rise 4-6 percent, while spending on food away from home is forecast to reach record levels. “Vegetable prices are expected to be affected mainly by unaccommodating climate patterns” such as La Niña, the report authors explained. “The foodservice industry is expected to be responsible for 59 percent of the anticipated food expenditure increases in 2018.”

Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the report, and dean of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie Univ., said consumers will continue to spend more money on ready-to-eat foods and dining out as they prioritize convenience.

“Canadians will eat out more frequently in 2018, and that will come at a cost,” Charlebois said.

Food categories such as dairy, bakery products, meat and seafood are forecast to rise by no more than 2 percent. “Food price increases are expected to affect most provinces, but be consistent with the general inflation rate,” according to the report. “Atlantic Canada will likely see food prices rise after a year of stagnation. For British Columbians, prices will continue to increase due to a higher general inflation rate. Both Ontario and Alberta will face a more competitive marketplace, which will entice grocers to keep prices low.”

The report authors also explore food trends for 2018 and the evolving retail environment. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is cited as a driving force behind disruption in the Canadian food retail space, noted Simon Somogyi, co-author of the report and a professor in the Faculty of Agriculture at Dalhousie.

“The recent purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon is having a significant impact on the Canadian food retail sector,” Somogyi said. “Other major food retailers are now changing their business models, particularly in how they sell to consumers, including online offerings.”

Other significant food topics in 2018 will be changing attitudes to animal proteins, Canada’s revamped Food Guide, and the rise of the “grocerant,” which is a blend of grocery and restaurant services.

Click here to view the full report.