Canadian Food is Changing: the evolution of the Canadian Food Guide

fresh food

Canada’s Food Guide was born in 1942. At the time, its focus was on improving the health of Canadians and preventing nutritional deficiencies, while citizens were subject to wartime food rationing protocols. Since then, the food guide has transformed many times but its primary focus remains the same: helping Canadians stay on top of their health. 

The Canadian Food Guide comes up with their suggested intake through scientific and nutritional research, medical experts and welfare workers. The guide serves as a general outline for the average Canadian – but individual needs may vary. Its intention is to help foster conversations around healthy food intake and educate the general public on what constitutes a “healthy” diet. 

One of the biggest commitments towards Canadian Health was implemented by the FDA on January 1, 2017: all major foodservice chains are now required to post the calorie counts of food and drink items for sale. Initially, many Canadians were shocked by the numbers listed on their favourite foods and beverages, but once that wore off – restaurant owners found that it actually helped build trust between consumers and service providers. It also forced fast food providers to rethink the meals they provided. More and more healthy, low-calorie and low-fat meals started popping up on menus across the board. 

It’s been 12 years since the last revision of Canada’s Food Guide – and the contents of which have proved to be fairly controversial. It uses an actual plate instead of traditional “servings”, and talks about our relationship to food as opposed to simply regurgitating research. The official recommendation encourages:

New Canada Food Guide Image


  • Fruits and Vegetables (sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach, strawberries, apples, etc)
  • Protein Foods (nuts, beans, meat, fish, eggs)
  • Whole Grain Foods (pasta, rice, quinoa, bread)
  • Water as your drink of choice

The primary differences lie in emphasizing plant-based proteins – instead of always choosing plant-based foods. This is a significant departure from words like milk and meat, which many Canadians grew up with. It’s important to note that Canada’s Food Guide does not discredit meat and dairy industries, but instead opens “healthy” to include plant-based diets. 


CFG also moved away from whole grain foods, instead of refined – and sugar such as juice or pop. Historically, sugary beverages have been the number one source of sugar in Canadian diets – and Canadians have paid the price. In 2017, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported 64% of Canadians over 18 are statistically obese. Compare that to 2002 – 15 years earlier, when that number fell much lower at only 15%.

Food production industries will likely feel the impact of these changes to Canada’s Food Guide in the coming years, leading behemoths like dairy, meat and refined grains to rethink the ways they produce and market their food products in the future. 

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Flexitarian Diets

Cattle looking at camera

While veganism continues to climb in popularity, another consumer habit tends to be overlooked: the rise of ethical meat-eaters.

Over 65% of North American consumers are looking for what can be called “better-for-me” items. These include products that are better for the environment, animals, farmers or workers. Last weekend, the Annual Meat Conference in Dallas met to discuss how grocers can better reach consumers, in an industry that has begun to seem “off-trend.” In Europe, meat consumption has been steadily dropping since the 1970s with a 4.2% drop in meat purchase since 2017. 

According to a report by Winsight Grocery Business, we’re witnessing “a shift toward a flexitarian diet, or a mostly plant-based diet with limited amounts of meat and poultry.” 

Of the shoppers interviewed:

  • 86% identified as meat-eaters
  • 10% identified as flexitarians

Of that 10%, a lot of consumers are of generation X and Z, which demonstrates an above-average interest in the future of individual health, concerns about environmental impact and animal treatment. Many consumers are shifting towards a plant-based diet because of concerns with reasons listed above, so words like grass-fed, organic and antibiotic-free, matter. Winsight’s report says, “Seven out of every 10 shoppers believe humanely raised, free-range, grass-fed and hormone-free benefits the livestock.”

That means, to keep shoppers interested in meat products, the food industry has an obligation to creating a more sustainable, ethical environment.

Reducing Waste in Canada

man driving forklift in warehouse

Whispers about waste-free systems have been circling conversations about corporate responsibility for the last few years – but 2019 may just be the year we see change. Already, several huge brands like Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle are repackaging food and grocery items from toothbrushes to ice cream – in reusable containers. These packages will be ordered from the retailers’ e-commerce sites, but in-store purchases are expected to follow shortly after.

But it’s not just behemoths in the industry who are committed to waste-free ideals. Nada Grocery is a carefully designed supply chain who boasts “we’re just food, no packaging.” This up and coming company sells hundreds of food products without single-use packaging, delivering their goods in large barrels and vats you can buy in any amount. Customers bring their own reusable containers – or pick and choose from bins of free miscellaneous containers donated to the store. And Nada isn’t the only store of its kind.

Unboxed Market is Toronto’s very first zero-waste grocery store, which runs much the same as Nada. It’s set to open this year. 

Loblaw Companies and Walmart have also publicly committed to reducing single-use plastic, synthetic microbeads in their labels, and eliminating “hard to recycle” products. 

McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Walmart says “This is real action… we are trying to change the way that people produce and consume products.” CJR Wholesale is committed to working with partners in order to reduce waste in the food distribution ecosystem.  In an increasingly environmentally-conscious social economy, moves like these are just the beginning.


10 Grocery Trends to Expect in 2019

large receipt of food products

2018 proved to be a complex year for grocery retailers and food manufacturers, as disruptions are quickly changing the game in an industry that’s notoriously slow to adapt. Here are the top trends that will continue to shape how grocery will look in 2019.

Rising prices

According to a Dalhousie study, the average Canadian household will spend $411 more in 2019 than in 2018 as food prices are projected to rise between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent. The rising transportation and commodity costs are forcing manufacturers and retailers to increase their prices, with vegetables leading the way as the highest price climb – between 4 and 6 per cent. 

Diet trends

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that dietary restrictions are on the rise. A Nielsen study shows the number of people following specific diet plans has increased from 29 per cent in 2016 to 37 per cent in 2018. The increase in popularity of certain diets like ketogenic and paleo calls for high amounts of protein, so naturally, the protein supplement market is projected to increase as well. Similarly, vegan and gluten-free diets call for vegan options, which led to a 23 per cent increase in plant-based meat sales in 2018. Roughly one-third of Canadians are considering reducing their meat consumption in the next 6 months.


Natural wellness and health trends

Taking it a step further than simple dietary restrictions, naturally derived wellness additives will continue to grow in popularity in 2019, as functional foods are a top health trend. This includes things like turmeric, probiotic dairy, and CBDs. People are looking for foods that help them fill holes in their diet.

Ethical buying

Now more than ever, consumers are hyper-aware of how their food is sourced and which companies have and follow good ethical practices. 63 per cent of global consumers prefer to buy goods and services from companies that stand for a shared purpose, and whose company leaders stick to their company’s ethos. Moreover, companies that have forward-thinking social values, and employ sustainable and positive environmental practices are far more likely to attract consumers, thus improving competitiveness. 

E-Commerce expansion

Grocery e-commerce is hugely prominent, with the rise in grocery delivery as well as major online retailers moving into the brick-and-mortar space to disrupt the industry. Consumers want convenience now more than ever, and it’s clear that the grocery industry understands – more brick-and-mortar retailers are partnering with third-party companies to help expand their reach and increase the convenient options for shoppers. 

Higher demand for delivery

To expand on the previous point, consumers want convenience. Grocers are expanding their delivery services to include prepared foods and complete meals, which also means changing the way retailers develop their infrastructure. Expect the meal kit delivery market to grow in 2019, as well as monthly grocery subscription boxes. 

Change in how people shop

The way in which consumers shop in-store has shifted. Instead of stocking up on one long trip to the grocery store, people are making shorter, quick fill-up trips more often. Nearly half of consumers view shopping as a chore and want it to be as need-based as possible, rather than spending more time browsing through aisles. In fact, 10% of shoppers say they buy solely for the meal they’re cooking that same day. 

Reinventing the in-store experience

Because of so many changes in the way consumers shop, grocery retailers need to create ways to maintain foot traffic. Some upgrades in big box grocery stores included prepared foods and dedicated eating spaces, enhanced department services, and smartphone integration related to deals, store navigation, checkout, and personalized offers.  

Revival of frozen foods

Frozen foods were in decline for the last few years due to the rising popularity of fresh foods, however, as consumers shift towards convenience and easily-snackable foods, manufacturers are getting them back into frozen foods with clever packaging and healthier ingredients. 

Stores as a health resource
With the overwhelming amount of information available to consumers in regards to health-consciousness and nutrition, some grocers have launched tools or specific small-store models designed to help shoppers learn and make better decisions at the checkout. 

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