Average Canadian family to pay $ 400 more for grocery next year: report

Alexandra Sagan, the Canadian Press

Published Tuesday, December 4, 2018 6:21 AM EST

Last Updated Tuesday, December 4, 2018 7:17 AM EST

The average Canadian family will pay about $ 400 for groceries and approximately $ 150 for dining out next year, an annual pricing report predicts.

Food prices will rise between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent in 2019, according to the report of researchers at the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University. That means the average family of four will spend $ 12,157 next year – up $ 411 out of 2018.

Vegetables will see the biggest price jumps – between four and six per cent for the category, according to the report.

Meanwhile, meat and seafood prices are expected to fall, with the meat category to decline by one to three per cent and seafood costs remain the same or fall up to two per cent.

Since 2015, the team has predicted prices in the two categories would rise as high as six per cent each year.

"This is a bit of a risk for us … We never did that," said Sylvain Charbois, one of the lead researchers and a professor at Dalhousie University, referring to anticipating a decline.

But the team is confident in its prediction.

They believe it is an oversupply of meat, he said, and Canadians are eating less animal protein. Instead, they show more interest in alternative proteins, such as quinoa and lentils.

The factory-based protein gear is evident in the last manufacturer and restaurant moves as well.

Meat processors Maple Leaf Foods Inc., for example, acquired two companies in the niche in recent years, lightlye foods and field roast greenmeat co.

At the same time, fast food chains have begun to add vegan and vegetarian options to their menus. A & W Food Services from Canada Inc. even temporarily sold out of its beef meat next to the menu.

Industry watchers have attracted the requirement for protein plants to millennials, well-known baby boomers and concerns about antibiotic use in agriculture.

A turning point for animal protein, though, 2014 when beef prices began to rise dramatically, said Charbois.

Between December 2013 and December 2014 the monthly average retail price for one kilo of ground beef rose more than 26 per cent, according to Canada data. For comparison, the price is about 3.5 per cent from December 2012-13. It reached a record high of $ 13.23 in October 2015.

"It really spoiled consumers," said Charbois, adding that they started substituting plant-based protein in their diet.

Butters and grocers will probably take it easy on beef prices next year in an effort to bring people back to the red meat, he said.

Consumers of protein plants will help push down crop prices next year, as will be the weather, according to the report.

"Fruit and vegetables are some of the most perishable, poorly-fed foods that are on the grocery stores," said Simon Somogey, a leading researcher in the report and a university of Guelph professor.

They are particularly influenced by climatic events, as El Niño expected to drop this winter, he said, which can result in warmer and dryer conditions, and create shortages in the supply chain.

As to what vegetables can see the biggest increases, it is difficult to know what produce exactly will become the next cauliflower, Charlesbois said. The cruciferous vegetable saw sowing prices per head in 2016.

Charboebois shows salads and tomatoes as possible candidates for large price fluctuations. Meanwhile, Somogyi said producing imported into Canada is more susceptible to weather events and the corresponding price changes.

The report predicts more easily for bakery (1-6 per cent), dairy (zero to two per cent), fruit (1-6 per cent) and other food items, such as non-perishable, not covered by the other categories (Zero to two per cent).

Restaurant prices will rise between two and four per cent, according to the report, mainly because operators' labor costs have increased as some provinces and territories boosted their mandated minimum hourly wages recently.

The researchers for 2018 are fine prompt. Fruit prices, which they estimated would rise between one and three per cent, stalled stagnant – the only category where they missed the mark.

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