Business and Operations
Key insights into the minds of Canadian consumers
By Laura Aiken
Over 25,000 Canadian consumers weighed in with their top choices for the seventh annual BrandSpark Canadian shopper study. The report uncovered key findings in the areas of environmental accountability, with 82 per cent of consumers believing that companies are exploiting environmentally friendly claims. Healthier options in food and beverage topped the trends, with 88 per cent of Canadians believing that “there is a lot I can do with food and nutrition to prevent illness.” The third hot area was private label versus premium brands, with 47 per cent of survey respondents stating that they have purchased more private label/in-store brands versus premium and name brands.
Over 25,000 Canadian consumers weighed in with their top choices for
the seventh annual BrandSpark Canadian shopper study. The report
uncovered key findings in the areas of environmental accountability,
with 82 per cent of consumers believing that companies are exploiting
environmentally friendly claims. Healthier options in food and beverage
topped the trends, with 88 per cent of Canadians believing that “there
is a lot I can do with food and nutrition to prevent illness.” The
third hot area was private label versus premium brands, with 47 per
cent of survey respondents stating that they have purchased more
private label/in-store brands versus premium and name brands.
“The survey not only provides us with valuable insights about current
products and innovations but also larger movements and shifts in
Canadians’ viewpoints and approaches toward what they purchase and more
importantly why,” says Robert Levy, president of BrandSpark
The recent recession found more Canadians eating at home and being less time crunched than in previous years.
“We can see the impact of the recession on attitudes towards the
environment and health – with both losing ground in terms of
importance,” says Levy, “even so – the vast majority of Canadians (65
per cent) still like trying new products. People have made a big shift
to eat at home more and as a result are spending more time and money in
the grocery store. Finding new products that really deliver is more
important than ever, especially with shoppers demanding greater value
for money. Canadians (73 per cent) also enjoy cooking at home more and
aren’t as time crunched as we might think.”
“Over the past seven years since we’ve been conducting the survey,
environmental accountability has grown to become a primary concern for
Canadian consumers,” says Levy. “Consumers are demanding companies to
be more accountable in terms of their environmental claims and they are
willing to pay for products with realistic and tangible claims such as
Sixty-nine per cent of Canadians surveyed felt that it is important
that a new product is better for the environment, a slight decrease
from 76 per cent as reported in 2009.Eight-two per cent of Canadians
still feel that companies are exploiting environmentally friendly
claims for marketing purposes, virtually no change from the same survey
last year. Packaging is still one of the top environmental concerns
with consumers, and 89 per cent believe that manufacturers still have a
long way to go to reduce the amount of packaging. Reusable shopping
bags are becoming the norm with Canadians as 87 per cent agree to
purchase reusable bags to reduce the amount of plastic.
Healthier options in food and beverage
“Healthy living is still the number one concern for Canadians,” says
Levy. “Consumers want products with added health benefits and they are
willing to pay more for products that will help to prevent illness. One
of the most interesting facts is consumer confidence in food safety. We
saw an improvement by nearly 10 per cent in 2010 when compared with
Eighty-three per cent of respondents want products that offer healthier
options, a two per cent increase from the 81 per cent as reported in
2009. Fifty-nine per cent of consumers are concerned about receiving
added health benefits from the products that they purchase. Confidence
in food safety improved in 2010, with 72 per cent of those surveyed
becoming more concerned about food safety, down from 81 per cent in
Although the debate between natural versus organic products rages on,
60 per cent of Canadian consumers believe that “it is important that a
new product is made from all-natural ingredients” and 45 per cent
believe that “it is more important to me that a product is natural than
“Part of this can be explained by consumer scepticism,” says Levy.
Among consumers who did not purchase organic products, 53 per cent
stated that they “don’t trust that all products labelled as organic are
actually organic” and 48 per cent stated that they “are confused by
what the term organic actually guarantees.” Levy adds, “It appears that
further consumer education is required in the natural versus organic
Private label VS. premium brands
“Understandably Canadians want more value for their dollar,” says Levy,
“and many are turning to private label or in-store brands to deliver.
Although consumer perception of private label quality has decreased
slightly, more Canadians are still buying private label brands versus
premium brands as they perceive they offer extremely good value for
Sixty-one per cent of Canadians think that private label or in-store
brand products are just as good as brand name products, a slight
decrease from 65 per cent as reported in 2009. Sixty-four per cent of
consumers believe that private label brands are usually extremely good
value for money. Forty-seven per cent of Canadians have purchased more
private label products in the past 12 months.
What makes Canadians buy certain products?
The BrandSpark Canadian Shopper Study also asks why consumers make the
purchases that they do. The top five purchase drivers in food and
beverage, in order, are: taste, price, fresh, healthy and it looks
In addition to the BrandSpark Canadian Shopper Study, the company also
conducted trend research in several key global markets including the
U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, Brazil and China.
“What became clear is that on certain issues shoppers globally had
similar views but on many critical issues the views of the shoppers in
these countries differed significantly – especially in the areas of the
economy and confidence,” says Levy.
Canadians (24 per cent) are more confident than Americans (seven per
cent) about the economy and have views similar to Australia (28 per
cent). Canadians (69 per cent) are much more concerned about the
environment than Americans (52 per cent) but still behind the other
countries in the survey.
The survey sheds light on consumer attitudes towards several top trends
facing the pizza industry, including environmental accountability,
organic foods, healthier options and private label products.