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 Coupons.com, 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.