Unveiling Insights from Sodexo Canada’s First Sustainable Food Barometer

Published on : 1/17/24
  • In a world where our food systems significantly impact the environment, adopting sustainable practices is now more urgent than ever. At Sodexo, we shoulder this responsibility daily, spearheading the first-ever Sustainable Food Barometer to decode the intricate landscape of Canadian attitudes toward sustainable food choices.

    The survey of over 1,500 Canadians conducted by Leger in December 2023 delivers insights with comparisons to the results of Sodexo’s International Sustainable Food Barometer conducted by Harris International, which polled over 5,000 people in Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

    The Barometer reveals current trends, challenges, and motivations, empowering us with actionable strategies to bridge the gap between aspiration and action, driving Canadians toward changes in consumption patterns. These may include raising awareness of plant-based alternatives by facilitating access to lesser-known products and providing ideas for sustainable and tasty recipes.

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    A Growing Movement Towards Sustainable Eating

    Our 2023 Canadian Sustainable Food Barometer reveals a strong positive outlook on sustainable eating among Canadians. United by concerns for health, finances and the climate, they recognize their food choices' profound impact on all three.

    Canadians understand the urgency to change eating habits and aspire to do so. This sense of urgency transcends all income categories and particularly resonates with the younger demographic. 

    • Nearly 9 out of 10 Canadians (87%) express the need for immediate action, compared to 79% globally. This urgency spans all income levels, with the highest recognition at 98% among 18-24-year-olds.
    • Most Canadians say they have already adopted some sustainable food habits: 75% say they reduce their household food waste, 68% eat seasonal produce, and 56% buy local produce whenever possible. These are comparable to global trends —71%; 63%; and 55%, respectively.
    • Many Canadians are ready to or have already adopted several other sustainable practices in their kitchens, with 86% reducing their consumption of processed foods, 82% avoiding plastic packaging by choosing bulk foods or using reusable bags, and 79% wishing to consume sustainably produced products whenever possible.


    The Gap Between Intentions and Actions

    Despite the widespread acknowledgment of the need for sustainable practices in the kitchen, individuals face financial considerations and deeply ingrained eating habits, both in Canada and globally. 

    The changes Canadians are willing to embrace are primarily focused on reducing or adjusting current practices, rather than undergoing extensive transformations. For instance, Canadians engage in or express willingness to adopt approximately 4.8 out of the 13 recommended sustainable behaviours.

    • When shopping for groceries, price overwhelmingly takes precedence, with 91% considering it among the top five most critical factors, followed by taste (72%) and nutritional value (67%). Interestingly, the environmental impact of a product emerges as the least influential factor, at 21%. 
    • There is a strong inclination among Canadians for animal-based proteins. Three-quarters (74%) express a lack of desire, intention or uncertainty about giving up meat, while two-thirds (67%) don’t want to give up fish and over half (54%) say the same about dairy. These figures significantly surpass the global averages of 42% for meat and 45% for fish, highlighting a distinct preference for these dietary staples within the Canadian population.
    • However, Canadians are open to reducing their intake of animal proteins in favour of plant-based options (46%) and cutting back on dairy product consumption (46%).  Reducing meat and dairy intake while incorporating more affordable, tasty, and healthy plant-based meals could occur without significant dietary disruptions.
    • An increasing number of Canadians express a willingness to prioritize local products, with 57% indicating a preference regardless of price. They are also willing to avoid restaurants where they’re not sure if the food served is sustainably sourced (49%). 


    Navigating Individual and Societal Motivations

    Promoting sustainable eating among Canadians means highlighting the personal benefits, like improved health and cost savings, as well as the broader societal advantages of addressing climate change. 

    While individual benefits drive motivation, we must also recognize the collective advantages of sustainable diets. When Canadians are motivated by both personal and communal incentives, they tend to adopt environmentally conscious and health-supportive eating habits, contributing to the growing movement towards sustainable and healthy diets.

    • According to the barometer, the main driver for adopting more sustainable eating habits in Canada and globally is the anticipated health benefits (52% Canada / 46% global), closely followed by the expected financial savings (49% Canada / 35% global, except Brazil).
    • Canadians want agency in choosing sustainability. Their motivation is higher when driven by the desire to contribute to Canada's food autonomy (29%) and to set an example for future generations (22%), as opposed to being influenced by changes in laws or imposed regulations (13%).
    • At the forefront of the shift towards sustainable practices, 23% of Canadians express a desire to be better informed and supported in adopting sustainable consumption behaviours. Additionally, 14% are motivated by being part of a collective movement, while 9% find inspiration in observing others making efforts towards sustainability.


    The Full Picture of Canadian Sustainable Food Habits

    As a leader in sustainable food, we recognize our pivotal role in influencing the million consumers we serve daily toward a more balanced and delicious sustainable diet, by focusing on sustainable sourcing, designing and offering more plant-based recipes, optimizing energy use, and expanding our food waste reduction programs.

    These survey insights will guide us to tailor strategies that resonate with Canadians, fostering a future where sustainable eating is their natural choice.

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