Year in Review in the Grocery Industry

2020 has challenged all Canadians in many ways, but none so much as the front-line workers, who have been just awarded the Nation Builder of the Year Award. 

Food retailers and their frontline workers have done an incredible job continuously adapting as protocols shift and change in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging Canada. 

After 10 months of “new normal,” Grocery stores and their supply chains have pivoted their services and built systems to help keep customers safe and serviced. Food suppliers from farm to table have been the centre of local communities for thousands of years, and the familiarity and trust they’ve always had has only increased. With 2020 nearly over, here’s a snapshot of everything the grocery industry has been through this year:



  • 2020 began with single-use plastic at an all-time low
  • Grocery delivery apps predicted to rise by 7% in the next few years 



  • essential items like toilet paper, eggs, milk sold out
  • hand sanitizer demand booms
  • delivery service app downloads surge
  • 80 billion dollar food service industry is virtually decimated
  • CJR Wholesale one of the only grocery suppliers that does not run out of essential products


  • Essential product supply gets reinforcement and shortages are replenished
  • masks, plexiglass, new cleaning protocols, and limited capacity for foot traffic in grocery stores  are standardized
  • Physical distancing and enhanced safety procedures increase operation costs by 5% 
  • Hero pay officially implemented
  • Some stores providing early hours to front line workers and seniors only 


  • Canada adapts to the new normal and all major grocery stores and their suppliers give up reluctance to plan for grocery delivery and adapted procedures
  • Baking ingredient sales are at an all time high 
  • Terms like “contactless delivery” are normalized
  • Prime Minister announces plan to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act and increase the Canadian Dairy Commission’s (CDC) borrowing limit by $200 million

June, July & August


  • Data suggest 700,000 Canadians have experience food insecurity since March
  • Schools open and huge spikes in COVID-19 cases result
  • Indigenous seafood suppliers experience acts of vandalism
  • Grocery sales dip as restaurants reopen
  • Tensions between suppliers and grocery stores grow due to increased fees

October & November

  • Nova Scotia farmers receive 1.2 million to offset COVID costs
  • Indigenous seafood suppliers begin negotiations with government to protect treaties 
  • Covid cases increase after thanksgiving gatherings
  • Conversations around COVID-19 vaccine provide hope for Canadian businesses in every industry
  • Some Hero Pay reinstated


  • Second lockdown in Toronto & the GTA 
  • Restaurants are far better prepared than in March 2020 and have adapted their service offerings to meet grey zone criteria in Ontario
  • Restaurants are required to close for the second time in 2020 


What’s next for 2021? Leave your comments below.

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