The Dynamic Food Service Industry

Best restaurant in Toronto Canada offering exquisite food service dishes

The Dynamic Food Service Industry

The food service industry in Canada is a thriving and dynamic one that is constantly evolving to meet the changing demands and expectations of consumers. In recent years, there have been several significant trends and changes in the Canadian food service industry, which are worth exploring.

Healthy and Sustainable Options:

One of the most prominent trends in the Canadian food service industry is a growing focus on healthy and sustainable options. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact of their food choices on their health and the environment, and are looking for healthier and more sustainable alternatives. This trend has led to the rise of plant-based options, such as vegan and vegetarian dishes, as well as an emphasis on using locally sources and organic ingredients.

Food Delivery and Takeout Service:

Another major trend is the increasing popularity of food delivery and takeout service. With busier schedules consumers are opting for the convenience of having their food delivered directly to their door, food service brands are responding by offering delivery and takeout options to meet this demand. This has led to a proliferation of online ordering platforms and delivery services, which are making it easier than ever to enjoy restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of one’s own home.

Technology and Innovation:

Technology is also playing an increasing important role in this arena. From point-of-sale systems to advanced kitchen equipment, technological advancements are streamlining operations and making it easier for restaurants to provide high-quality food service to their customers. Additionally, the rise of virtual kitchens and cloud kitchens are allowing businesses to expand their reach and tap into new customer base, without the need for a physical location.

International Flavors and Cuisines:

As more and more Canadians travel and experience different cultures and cuisines, they are becoming more adventurous with their food choices and are looking for new and exciting flavors. This has led to the rise of ethnic-inspired dishes and fusion cuisines, which are incorporating traditional ingredients and cooking methods from around the world.

In a nutshell

In conclusion, the Canadian food service industry is evolving and adapting to meet the changing needs and demands of consumers. With a growing focus on healthy and sustainable options, the increasing popularity of food delivery and takeout services, and technological advancements, the industry is ready for an exciting growth and innovation in the years to come.

Whether you are a grocery store or a restaurant business owner in the food service industry, it is important to stay on top of these trends in order to stay ahead of the curve and succeed in this ever-changing and dynamic industry.


Best restaurant in Toronto Canada offering exquisite food service dishes
Serving exquisite food at restaurants in Canada

Snacking Trends Among Canadians

Grocery shopper choosing nuts for healthy snacking

As the Big Football Game is fast approaching, consumers are starting to stock up with their favourite snacks. Below are some interesting facts and snacking trends that will help grocery retailers make their snack category stand-out.

Snacking is a big part of Canadian culture, with an increasing number of consumers choosing to snack throughout the day instead of traditional meal times. This trend is driven by a number of factors, including busy lifestyles, increased focus on health and wellness, and the availability of a wide variety of convenient and delicious snack options.

One trend that has been gaining popularity is the movement towards healthier snacks. This includes non-GMO, Organic, Keto or Gluten-Free goodies. Having these options in easy to grab-and-go formats is key to make the most of this growing trend. This shift is driven by the fact that consumers are becoming more self-aware, informed in the fact that a balanced diet is critical in maintaining one’s own mental and physical health and well being. In todays current landscape, retailers offering better-for-you snacks keeps customers satisfied.

Another snacking trend worth blogging about is the rise of plant-based options. Many Canadians are choosing to nibble on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains throughout the day rather than consuming highly processed or high-calorie foods. With more and more Canadians choosing to reduce their consumption of animal products, there is a corresponding increase in demand for protein packed, plant-based snacks, such as nuts, seeds and dried fruit retailers will reap the benefits of making these options readily available to their consumers.

Last but definitely not least consumers are looking to expand their palate profiles and seek out snacks with more unique and ethnic flavors. Global taste elements such as sweet, bitter, sour, salty, umami (meaty), cool and hot are becoming increasingly popular. Showcasing a delicate balance of these world favorites is a sure way to keep your customers coming for more.

In conclusion, snacking trends are constantly evolving, with more and more consumers choosing healthier, plant-based, and world flavour options. As a result, retailers who acknowledge these growing industry trends and capitalize on the opportunity will stay ahead of their competitors, no matter the game.

Grocery shopper choosing nuts for healthy snacking
Adding healthy snacks to the grocery shopping

Shifting Customer Trends – Making The Most of Change

Shifting Customer Trends – Making The Most of Change

With the ever-changing landscape of working and living styles, Grocery channels are feeling the impact of new customer expectations, going beyond product availability and e-commerce. Understanding these consumer behaviours and trending habits can help retailers decipher how to adapt their businesses’ strategies in order to  get customers what they’re after.

Money conscious behaviours, mindful purchasing and sustainable purchasing are the three biggest grocery industry trends to look out for in 2023.

  1. Money Matters:

According to The Canadian Press “Grocery prices have been rising at the fastest pace in decades in recent months.”

Amid global instability and rise of unemployment, consumers are now becoming more conscious with their money and spending habits. Deloitte Fresh Food Customer Survey 2022 states that there is a 53% increase in concern over food prices and consumers are now worried about exceeding monthly grocery budgets.

Inflation being the key economic factor is impacting lives of consumers more than ever. It is expected that recession and unemployment levels will rise to 6.3% by end of 2023. Therefore, lowering the grocery expenses will prevail as consumers reconcile their personal values with practical realities.

  1. Convenience is Key:

Grocery shopping is facing a monumental change in buying habits as consumer are now drifting from brand loyalty to perceived value of the products. Availability, convenience and value from product are now key players that are considered while making any buying decision.

48% consumers reported to have said that availability of stock is what is most important to them while 34% said that availability when they are shopping – convenience – is what makes them purchase. While a staggering 81% reported that value makes the difference to them which includes larger pack sizes, promotions, delivery and better prices.

To become a mindful purchaser, customers are now trying different brands and 73% out of those intend to continue to incorporate the new brands into their routine. Gen Z and high earners are most prone to switching brands.

  1. Mindful Sustainability:

Grocery shopping is the foremost category when it comes to sustainable purchasing. People are now favoring brands that care and protect the environment and have a sense of corporate environmental sustainability.

60% of consumers say their priorities keep changing as a result of everything going on in the world. 55% of consumers are newly motivated to buy items produced locally and sustainably.

Reduction on food waste and efficient consumption from purchases are key ways that are commonly being used to ensure sustainability.

In a nutshell, Grocery business has many challenges ahead to ensure customer loyalty since brand loyalty or having only popular brands at store may not be an ideal business solution going forward.


Grocery industry trends for 2023
Customer making mindful purchasing decision for grocery

Canada’s Children Medication Shortage Update

Account of tylenol shortage canada and kid's advil shortage 2022 by CJR Wholesale grocers

At the moment, there is a shortage of acetaminophen and ibuprofen products, commonly known as Children’s Tylenol and Advil across Canada. Owing to an early rise in viral illnesses over the spring and summer of 2022, cold and flu has come sooner than expected affecting infants and children with respiratory issues thus leaving parents across the nation concerned with how to treat their young ones.

Who is impacted?

Manufacturers, hospitals, provinces and territories and health-related associations, such as: Canadian Pediatric Society and Canadian Pharmacists Association are among many institutions that are directly affected by the shortage of the medications.

Hospitals in Canada have seen increased influx of children to the ER as partners cannot find acetaminophen and ibuprofen, brand name Tylenol and Advil, at stores and pharmacies. The inflow of respiratory illness cases to the hospitals has made ERs work at their full capacity and yet not been able to fulfill the demand thus delaying the caregiving of much severe emergency cases while creating backlogs in pediatric care.

What’s responsible for the shortage? As per officials, the shortage has risen due to unprecedented demand of the same. Leading families to go cross border to find the supplies they need for their sick littles

Since these medications are available over-the-counter and parents do not require prescriptions for purchases, Food, Health & Consumer Products Industry of Canada has been adversely obstructed by the shortages impacting the businesses.

What should you Do and Not Do?

Officials have approved significant imports of acetaminophen and ibuprofen from Australia and United States in an attempt to curb the situation as well as working with manufactures and suppliers to increase local produce and supply of the same. Health Canada is recommending parents to not overstock the medications so that access to masses amidst the shortage can be ensured.

Health officials are also refraining people from overdosing their children. “Do not use adult fever and pain medications on children under 12 years of age without consulting a health care professional. There is a serious risk of overdosing, especially when administering acetaminophen, and a risk of liver injury in infants and children.” It says.

Canadian Pharmacists Association has also developed information for families and caregivers on children’s fever and pain medication.

Account of tylenol shortage canada and kid's advil shortage 2022 by CJR Wholesale grocers
Drug Store with Children’s Tylenol and Advil Shortage and caution on purchases

Inflation has Canadians Stressed and Hungry

Several new surveys have found Canadians are feeling very stressed from soaring inflation rates, including the rise of grocery products. Statistics Canada writes, “Canadians pay 9.7% more for food at stores compared to a year ago” –  the largest increase since September 1981.

The FP Canada Financial Stress Index survey says that 38% of respondees have cited money as their primary source of stress – almost twice as significant as health, work, or personal relationships. Soaring inflation has Canadians stressed and hungry — and it isn’t ending anytime soon.

One-in-five Canadians reported going hungry at least once between March 2020 and March 2022, as much of the world was put on hold due to COVID-19. The survey conducted by Mainstreet Research found almost a quarter of Canadians reported eating less than they should because there wasn’t enough money for food – a figure that nearly doubled for those earning under $50,000 a year. 

So why are grocery prices so high?  CBS News reports that the food supply has a domino effect. Pesticides and fertilizer costs have risen by almost 50% because most of the ingredients used for agricultural chemicals are exported from Russia.

CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors insights on inflation and impact on consumer buying

Over 60% of Canadians say rising grocery prices impact their stress levels significantly, and in turn, more and more Canadians are turning to food banks for support. Single mothers, families with young children and elderly persons are being hit the hardest. 

Food Banks Canada CEO Kirstin Beardsley says “Food banks in most regions of Canada are experiencing an influx of Canadians visiting food banks for the first time – a number that’s increased by up to 25 percent in some regions.”

On a local level, organizations such as the Mississauga Food Bank depend on donations from wholesalers like CJR and their partners to help, because it doesn’t seem like grocery prices will be leveling off any time soon. 

Canada’s Formula Shortage Update

woman feeding baby with formula

At the moment, Canada’s formula shortage is affecting parents across the nation.

Following the recall of certain powdered Similac products that were allegedly responsible for the bacterial infection that led to the death of two newborns, Abbott Laboratories closed down its factory in Michigan that produced infant formula in February. The plant was reopened earlier in June but closed down for about two weeks due to damage after intense thunderstorms on June 13 as the company claimed it needs time to analyze damage and re-sanitize the factory.

Who’s impacted?

Only hydrolyzed formulas and amino acid-based formulas are impacted by the present shortage in Canada. These formulas are designed especially for infants at risk for life-threatening allergic anaphylactic responses.

For parents and caregivers of newborns with specific medical issues and dietary allergies, Health Canada has revised its formula shortage notice and stated that new shipments are anticipated to arrive next week. However, the organization issued a warning that supplies would probably remain scarce throughout the summer. Buyers are concerned that prices will continue to rise

“While shipments of specialized formulas are arriving in Canada to alleviate the effects of the shortage and will be available through pharmacies nationwide starting the first week of July, supply of these specialized products will continue to be limited throughout the summer,” the advisory said.

What are your options?

Health Canada also recommends consulting a medical expert to go over your baby’s specific needs and potential substitutes. Do not make your own formula or use another type of milk substitute. If you are breastfeeding and bottle-feeding at the same time, if you can, maintain your supply, and ask your doctor for recommendations on an allergen-free diet if necessary.

“If your baby does not need specialized infant formula, please don’t buy it,” it says. “Keep specialized infant formulas for babies with allergies and medical conditions.”

For more information on Canada’s formula shortage and updates, click here.

CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors analyse the formula milk shortage in Canadian market
Mother feeds baby with formula

Do Meal-Kits Still Fit The Bill?

Meal kits being the ultimate solution? CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors review of the new segments in industry

The COVID Effect

Meal-kits gained popularity quite early in the pandemic when lockdowns swept populations and kept people stuck at home—multiplying the number of potential customers. Many people turned to meal-kit delivery service in search of new meal ideas, or to simply learn how to cook during the pandemic. Now, due to various factors, it appears demand has peaked as consumers already have enough on their plate.

“As the pandemic has gone on, the product of meal kits has gone from a necessity and a convenience item, to a luxury, to a treat,” said Mo Dezyanian, president of Empathy, a Toronto-based marketing firm. 


Cutting Back

Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the Canada’s Food Price Report, predicted some consumers will trade the now-luxury of meal kits and grocery delivery for less convenient but cost saving solutions.

“People are going to become more frugal as a result of higher inflation,” he explained. The report estimated that the price of food would increase between five and seven per cent this year, and food that comes in the form of delivered groceries or online meal kits was forecast to rise an additional eight per cent beyond inflation. 

“What they’re selling is convenience and inspiration—and that’s expensive. People are looking to cut down on their grocery bills, so they’re going to do [meal prep] themselves,” says Janet Music, research associate at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab.


Pivot, Pivot, Pivot

From lockdowns easing and restaurants opening back up to geopolitical issues and the highest inflation rates in 30 years, meal kit services have a lot stacked against them. 

Food Navigator, however, explains that some meal kit companies are moving their attention to online marketplaces. This way they can provide extra grocery products and include “a la carté” items in addition to meal kit subscriptions. It points to companies like Imperfect Foods and HelloFresh as two different brands who have made the pivot in anticipation of the change.

Grocery retailers could also benefit from making moves in the meal-kit department. A recent survey conducted by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in partnership with Caddle, notes that grocers have improved at delivering food to consumers’ homes, and some are offering meal kits themselves. According to NielsenIQ, the retention rate for customers of online grocery sites is also typically much higher. More than 80% of the time online grocery shoppers will go back to buying more food online. “If grocery stores are selling convenience and meal kits are also selling convenience, people are probably going to default to retailers because it’s much cheaper,” says Music.


Meal kits being the ultimate solution? CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors review of the new segments in industry

Produce Prices Rise: Saving and Spending

Consumer Saving and spending analysis by CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors

Almost a third of consumers in Ontario are skimping on the produce since inflation took a deep dive into the average Ontarian’s pockets.

Numerator’s latest data suggests roughly 75% of shoppers noticed the steep price hike for fruits, and 78% for vegetables, respectively. The increases are “moderately to extremely concerning” for over half (55%) of the province’s consumers.

The most recent consumer tracking study also found:

-46% of consumers say they’re buying more fresh fruits and vegetables only when they’re on sale

-32% are cutting back on fresh fruits and vegetables

-30% have switched to less expensive types

-30% are buying more frozen fruits and vegetables

-27% are buying less produce overall 

-13% are buying more canned fruits and vegetables

“Food inflation was already a reality because of COVID disruptions to the supply chain. As a result, favourite produce commodities may not be available,” explains the general manager, international business, at Numerator, Sean Martin. “If they are available, the quality may be poorer than what shoppers have grown accustomed to—and prices will be higher.”

To combat the quality issues as the cost of fresh produce increases, experts say consumers can still look to frozen or canned produce. Not only can it be slightly more affordable, but frozen fruits and vegetables can be used for a longer amount of time, helping prevent food waste. Still, local produce can also sometimes be less expensive when in season and helps support local farmers. Experts, like Lisa Thompson from, suggest monitoring household food waste to see what regularly gets tossed out. “We get into the habit of buying the same stuff all the time,” Thompson said. “Now is a good time to pay attention to what you throw out.”

Another tip to stay on budget is to check the local weekly flyers, use coupons whenever possible, collect points where you can and keep an eye on sales and discounts. “For the truly price-sensitive households, who only have so much to spend on groceries each week, discount channels and promotions are going to play a bigger role in maintaining some access to fresh produce as prices go up,” Martin says. “Although households with more purchasing power may not feel the impact as much as price-sensitive households, we already are seeing a significant shift in produce spend to the club channel, where basket sizes are larger but quality per dollar spent provides much better value than other channels.”

Like Martin mentioned, shopping at a wholesale or bulk-food store or buying larger-sized formats is one way to save when it comes to fresh produce, but this usually comes with a higher upfront cost and requires more storage space. One solution could be to shop with a friend if you or your family doesn’t need the additional product. “I have a friend I shop with at Costco and if we both need avocados this week we’ll split a bag,” Thompson said. “It’s cheaper than buying them at the grocery store and also reduces food waste.”

That being said, “Value as a principle does not rule out premiumization for produce,” says Brian Ettkin, Canadian lead, strategy & solutions consulting, at Numerator. “Shoppers are still looking for innovation that creates better value for their families. Produce marketers and retailers can capitalize on this trend by continuing to find solutions that meet consumer needs beyond price, such as time savings, convenience or new flavour profiles.” Items such as salad kits or pre-chopped fruits and vegetables are still in demand, Numerator reports, with nearly 11% more Ontario households buying salad kits in the last quarter, while those buying salad greens declined 8.4%. Some consumers know that if it’s already prepped, it’s more likely to get eaten, and that is valuable in itself.


Consumer Saving and spending analysis by CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors

Ontario’s COVID-19 Rapid Test Expansion

Part of Canadian Grocers, CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors have partner with ministry of health for free COVID 19 rapid antigen test

The province’s COVID-19 rapid antigen test program that was supposed to carry on for eight weeks, originally set to wrap up in April, will be continuing to offer free rapid test kits until the end of July, a government official has confirmed.

“These tests will provide another layer of protection, support the province’s efforts to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures, and offer people an additional tool that they can use to confidently do the things they love, like visiting family or dining out at their favourite local restaurant,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said at a news conference in Kitchener, Ontario in February.

The Ontario government stated last month that every week, 5.5 million free rapid COVID-19 tests would be offered at designated places province-wide. Tests are limited to one box containing five tests per household.

Ontario is now expanding its free rapid test program to include more pharmacies and grocery stores as the province is in the midst of the pandemic’s sixth wave, according to health experts. 

“As an important tool that helps the province manage and live with COVID-19, the government will continue to provide free rapid antigen tests to the general public through existing channels,” Ministry of Health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said.

CTV reports those channels include grocery stores, pharmacies, workplaces, schools, hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement residences and other congregate settings.

Hilkene said the province will also continue to provide free rapid antigen tests for asymptomatic screening in highest risk sectors.

When the free rapid antigen test program was announced on Feb. 9, no safeguards were in place to prevent people from visiting numerous locations and collecting boxes. Although this is still the case, the government has advised everyone to refrain from hoarding and be responsible. Depending on the location, individuals can pick the tests up in-person or order online.

Canadian Grocer states that across the province there are over 2,300 sites participating in the program, including in the North and in some First Nations communities.

You can find a participating pharmacy or grocery store here

Part of Canadian Grocers, CJR Wholesale Grocers and DairyCentral distributors have partner with ministry of health for free COVID 19 rapid antigen test

Inflation Raising Grocery Bills

Insights on how inflation has impacted the grocery industry and how grocery business is coping up with it

Food inflation in Canada is at 6.5 percent, the highest year-over-year increase in grocery expenditures in more than a decade, thanks to increasing supply costs, shipping fees, and wages.

“We’re starting to see commodity price increases ripple through to the grocery store,” said Stuart Smyth, associate professor and research chair in Agri-Food Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan.

Even over the last five years, grocery prices have increased almost 15 percent, TD Bank economist James Orlando said, with the 10-year gain clocking in at 34 per cent.

Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada, emphasized that the problems seen in the supply chain are a result of systemic issues with labour shortages that have been present in food manufacturing for some time.

“COVID has brought these issues to the forefront and has put us in a difficult position,” he said. “Inflation will be part of our life for a period of time.”

Meat, bread, and fruit were among the major items driving increasing grocery prices, according to StatCan. Canadians paid 7.4 percent more for bakery products in January than a year ago, 16.5 percent more for margarine, and 12.1 percent more for condiments, spices, and vinegars.

Fresh fruit prices rose 8.2 percent due to supply chain interruptions and unfavourable growing circumstances, according to the agency.

Meanwhile, the price of beef has grown by 13%, while chicken has increased by 9%, and fish has increased by 7.9%.

“It’s layer upon layer of issues that are compounding to create these skyrocketing prices,” said Simon Somogyi, University of Guelph professor and Arrell Chair in the Business of Food.

“The cost of everything across the food supply chain is getting so expensive and that’s the same for farms, wholesalers, packers and processors right up to retailers. All these things are coming together on top of other issues like winter storms and shipping delays and the result is higher prices.”

Retail strategist Lisa Hutcheson doesn’t see prices going back to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon. “These are unprecedented times, and it isn’t something we can measure against.”

“Usually Canadians are able to ride out these cycles pretty well, but when you combine it with everything else going on, there aren’t any offsetting factors,” Orlando said.

There will be a “new normal” for the cost of goods, Hutcheson added.

In order to save money, some Canadians may decide to adjust their typical food shopping. According to experts, some buyers will choose conventional fruits and vegetables over more expensive organic options. Others might prefer to buy a store-brand product over name-brand goods.

Consumers can also avoid impulse purchases by planning out the meals in advance and making a grocery list before going to the store and not straying from it. Cutting back could look like perusing the flyers to find deals, considering more affordable plant-based alternative products, and buying frozen fruit and vegetables (which are frozen at their peak quality) rather than fresh (which can turn quickly if they’re not used right away or stored properly, leading to more food waste). 


Insights on how inflation has impacted the grocery industry and how grocery business is coping up with it