Use of GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic surging among Canadians

Drugs affect food industry

Canadians’ use of GLP-1 drugs is reshaping the food industry

The rise of GLP-1 drugs, as exemplified by the widespread usage of medications like Ozempic, is revolutionizing societal attitudes toward health and dietary habits. A new study conducted by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab and Caddle reveals that between 900,000 and 1.4 million Canadians have incorporated these medications into their daily routine.

This trend mirrors a broader North American movement, with projections indicating that up to 30 million adults in the United States may be using GLP-1 drugs by 2030.

The survey reveals a varied user demographic, with a slight majority of males (11% compared to 10 % for females) and millennials taking the lead at 12%. Ontario boasts the highest usage rate in Canada at 13%, while Prince Edward Island records the lowest at 4%. A majority of users (79%) have been using these drugs for more than three months, indicating a significant dependence on them.

The primary reasons for usage are managing type 2 diabetes (57.2%) and seeking weight loss (27.2%), which reflects a complex interplay between health needs and body image goals. The impact on dietary choices is particularly notable, with 45.5% of users reporting reduced food intake, especially high-calorie items.

The most significant declines are seen in sweet bakery goods, candies, and carbonated soft drinks, suggesting a shift in eating patterns that challenges traditional food industry sectors.

This data paints a picture of a society grappling with the balance between health pursuits and the convenience of quick solutions. The GLP-1 trend is not just a medical story but presents a rich social, economic, and ethical narrative.

The impact of GLP-1 drugs such as Ozempic goes beyond personal health, indicating a transformation in consumer dietary behaviours. With 45.5% of users eating less overall and specific declines in indulgent food categories, this shift is reshaping the food landscape. The survey outlines a 30.6% decrease in sweet bakery goods consumption, a 30.4% decline in candy consumption, and a 29.7% drop in packaged cookie consumption among GLP-1 users. Even the consumption of carbonated soft drinks has decreased by 28.8% underscoring a shift towards healthier beverage choices.

However, the impact of GLP-1 drugs extends beyond food consumption to include significant changes in alcohol intake and dining habits. The survey reveals that 19.2% of GLP-1 users have reduced their consumption of alcoholic beverages, suggesting a broader trend towards healthier lifestyle choices encompassing both food and drink.

For the restaurant industry, the ramifications are considerable. The data indicates that 21.6% of GLP-1 drug users are dining out less frequently, while 16.4% are purchasing fewer groceries. This decline in patronage poses challenges for restaurants, particularly those that rely on high-margin items like snacks and fast foods. To adapt, restaurants may need to innovate their menus to include healthier, lower-calorie options that cater to the dietary preferences of GLP-1 users, such as diabetes-friendly or weight-management dishes.

The shift also has broader cultural implications, signalling a move away from traditional comfort foods and indulgences towards a more health-conscious approach to eating.

The long-term effects on food producers and retailers are profound. The decline in demand for sugary snacks and drinks suggests a trend toward healthier products that cater to the dietary needs of GLP-1 drug users. This presents an opportunity for the food and beverage industry to reassess its offerings, align with evolving consumer demand for healthier options, and innovate and foster growth by developing new product lines that appeal to health-conscious consumers.

The GLP-1 drug trend is reshaping the food industry, driving a cultural shift in consumer preferences toward healthier eating habits. This evolution challenges traditional food sectors and opens new avenues for innovation and adaptation in response to changing dietary trends.

Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Decoding discrepancies in Canada's food price data

Checking food inflation

There are different ways to monitor food prices and inflation. However, when evaluating the accuracy of our federal agency tasked with measuring food price changes, it's clear that much work is needed.

As months pass, Statistics Canada’s reports suggest that food inflation is easing, and prices are gradually stabilizing. However, many consumers are not experiencing this stabilization firsthand. This perceptual discrepancy has raised questions about the accuracy of Statistics Canada’s data on food prices.

Assessing the accuracy of data from the federal agency has been challenging, but recent analysis provides some insights. Through systematic price checks across the country, a discrepancy between Statistics Canada’s reports and the Agri-Food Analytics Lab’s Price Portal data has emerged. As methodologies and data access can vary, discrepancies are expected. But this of course raises concerns about the accuracy of national statistical forecasting and its impact on consumers and policy decisions.

For example, the February 2024 list of selected food products released by Statistics Canada last week shows significant differences compared to the prices observed in grocery stores. That list is always released a few weeks after the CPI. When comparing our list of prices with Statistics Canada’s data, we found that the mean absolute error (MAE) between the two lists is 5.59. That means, on average, prices reported by Statistics Canada deviate from the actual observed values by 5.59%.

Specifically, February 2024 data reveals significant variances in food price changes. For instance, oranges were reported at -6% by Statistics Canada, while our data shows an increase of 20.1%. Similarly, avocados were reported at -4% by Statistics Canada, compared to our observation of a 9% increase. These discrepancies are not isolated instances; they are part of a pattern where 47% (16 out of 34 items listed) of food items are underestimated by Statistics Canada. This suggests that the agency’s reports may not always accurately reflect food inflation, although it is not indicative of a deliberate underestimation.

The implications of these underestimations and overestimations are significant. For consumers, it means that the cost of living might be higher than anticipated, impacting household financial planning. For the economy, it suggests that inflation in the food sector might be more pervasive than official figures indicate, potentially leading to misinformed policy decisions.

The MAE of 5.59 is not just a statistical figure; it represents the variance in real-world costs that Canadians face daily. This variance can exacerbate financial strain on families and may necessitate a recalibration of social assistance programs to accurately reflect the cost of living.

To enhance the accuracy of food price data, there is a clear need for Statistics Canada to refine its data collection and analysis methods. Collaboration with independent research bodies could improve the reliability of the data, ensuring that it accurately reflects market trends and aids in better-informed decision-making.

In October, Minister François-Philippe Champagne announced an investment in the Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to broaden the scope of existing consumer projects, including expanding research in the retail sector, specifically in groceries. However, further investment is necessary.

Regardless of public opinion, Statistics Canada remains a crucial source of economic indicators. However, these are just that — indicators. Canada could benefit from a broader spectrum of reliable data sources.

While there is no reason to believe that these differences are deliberate, the discrepancies highlighted by Dalhousie University’s Price Checks urge a re-evaluation of how food price data is collected and reported in Canada. Canadians need to feel confident about the accuracy of the federal agency’s reports.

Addressing these discrepancies is crucial for better budgeting and policy planning, ultimately affecting the economic well-being of all Canadians.

Sylvain Charlebois is a professor and senior director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University and co-host of the Food Professor podcast.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Manitoba NDP to ditch carbon tax as B.C. NDP doubles down

B.C.'s price on carbon

He’s younger, hipper and has a fresher mandate from voters, so maybe it’s not surprising that Manitoba’s NDP premier, Wab Kinew, can see what B.C.’s NDP premier, David Eby, apparently cannot: The carbon tax is sinking fast.

Kinew has hurled the unpopular tax under the bus, publicly declaring that Manitoba will seek an exemption from Ottawa and, at the prime minister’s invitation, find a different way to fight climate pollution during an affordability crisis.

“Governments like ours that are committed to solving the climate crisis, at least doing our part, we have to show that we're going to be flexible, we're going to keep life affordable," Kinew told CBC.

The move leaves Eby as the only premier still defending the carbon tax. He has little backup, except for a provincial carbon tax rebate program that only offers small-scale financial relief to very low-income British Columbians via cheques that look like they come from the federal government.

Kinew won a strong majority government six months ago, and still has his finger on the pulse of the electorate. He met with Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre last week, who is in the middle of a national “axe the tax” tour and who polls suggest is poised to become Canada’s next prime minister.

“He has said he wants to exempt Manitoba from the carbon tax, and I agree with that—I want to exempt everyone from the carbon tax,” Poilievre told reporters at a joint press conference.

“I'm obviously a Conservative, he's obviously a New Democrat, but that doesn't mean we can't share our priorities and have good conversations together.”

Complimentary words between an NDP premier and a future prime minister. That relationship does not exist in British Columbia. Poilievre and Eby have never even met.

Poilievre wrote Eby a letter last month asking him to not raise the carbon tax April 1, and cited B.C.’s unique provincial administration of the tax. Eby promptly accused Poilievre of misrepresenting the facts and living “in a baloney factory.”

So Poilievre turned his guns on British Columbia, redirecting his “axe the tax” tour here. He’s already rallied thousands and dunked on BC New Democrats all over the place. He’s urged British Columbians to vote Eby’s NDP out of office this October and “elect a common-sense provincial government.”

“I understand B.C. stands for ‘bring cash’ these days,” Poilievre said at a rally in Nanaimo on Monday.

“In British Columbia, where the federal government mandates the tax and the NDP government happily administers the tax, the government collects $9 billion over the next three years and gives back only $3.5 billion, which means the taxpayer is about $5.5 billion dollars. That's just in B.C. alone.

“My friends. I think you'll all agree that Justin Trudeau and the NDP’s carbon tax is starting to give British Columbians the Eby-jeebies.”

It’s not often you see Eby caught flat-footed on issues. But on the carbon tax, in the last month, he and his strategists have had the absolute wrong read of the public mood. Polls show support for Poilievre’s position, not Eby’s.

When the carbon tax rose 23 per cent to $80 per tonne, adding at least three cents a litre more to the price of gas and sending it well over the $2 mark in Metro Vancouver—even New Democrats could hear the grumbling. The carbon tax now accounts for 17 cents per litre of fuel.

Eby, though, remained resolute on Tuesday when I put the question to him about Kinew’s abdication of the tax.

“I understand Premier Kinew is looking at whether that would be appropriate for Manitoba. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with,” Eby replied.

“But for us in B.C., we see the price on carbon pollution as being just one piece of an overall strategy around climate.

“Given the massive impacts we've seen here in our province from forest fires and droughts and climate-related disasters like the heat dome, we have had to take a leadership role nationally on this issue, and we're going to continue to do that.”

Translation: No change in British Columbia.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, Kinew began laying the groundwork for his new climate trajectory in Tuesday’s provincial budget. It included millions in funding for electric bus manufacturing, EV rebates and geothermal power.

“We want to make a showcase here so other jurisdictions can say: ‘That’s how you run a transit system, that’s how you bring zero-emission buses online,’” Kinew said Tuesday. “That’s how I think we can really punch above our weight in terms of fighting the climate crisis.”

Perhaps most interestingly, the Manitoba government has extended by another three months a cut it made in January to 14-cent-per-litre provincial fuel taxes, to help cash-strapped drivers at the pumps.

B.C.’s Opposition BC United pitched that same plan last year, saying it would save up to 24 cents a litre here. But the BC NDP dismissed it, arguing gas companies would swoop in and raise prices anyway.

Gas in Winnipeg was as low as $1.33 a litre on Tuesday, compared to more than $2 a litre in Metro Vancouver.

Somehow, Manitoba New Democrats are pulling it off. Maybe it has something to do with how newer, smarter, more flexible and more ambitious their New Democrat administration is. In B.C., meanwhile, our NDP is entering its seventh year in power—and increasingly showing every minute of it.

Rob Shaw has spent more than 16 years covering B.C. politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for Glacier Media. He is the co-author of the national bestselling book A Matter of Confidence, host of the weekly podcast Political Capital, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Food sales tell us Canada is getting poorer at alarming rate

Food sales as an indicator

Canada appears to be a “trading-down” market, a trend that may persist for some time.

Recent data from Statistics Canada on the food retail and service industries, as well as fresh GDP figures, paint a concerning picture, especially for those looking to attract more food companies or grocers to our country.

Our population grew by more than 3% last year, yet our GDP increased by less than 1%. While other industrialized economies, such as France and Germany, are experiencing worse economic headwinds, Canada’s economy is highly integrated with the world’s most robust economy at present. Despite our proximity to this economic superpower, the benefits of our geography seem to have stalled.

The most alarming aspect of the January GDP numbers is that Canada’s hottest economic sector is currently the public service, while private investments have stalled, largely due to higher interest rates.

The gap in GDP per capita between Canada and the United States has widened by 106% since 2015, and this trend shows no signs of reversing. In other words, despite our growing population, Canada is becoming poorer, not richer.

For those in the food business, this is certainly not good news. Statistics Canada’s reports on food and service sales confirm that consumers are dealing with less wealth while facing higher food and menu prices. As of January 2024, the average Canadian is spending $248 a month on food retail sales per capita, down from $258 in January 2023 and $282 in February 2017. These figures are all in real dollars, which makes the situation even worse.

Based on Canada’s Food Price Report 2024, an individual’s monthly expenditure for a healthy diet should be $339. Again, the current average monthly spending is $248. Until July 2021, Canadians were spending more on average than the desired budget to support a healthy diet. Since then, it has clearly been a challenge.

Canadians are either wasting less or finding alternative ways to source food outside conventional channels like grocery stores, such as dollar stores and non-traditional grocery discounters. Per capita food expenditures in our country have never been as low as they are now.

One might think that grocers are struggling with this situation, but they are readjusting their strategies and putting more pressure on suppliers with higher fees and lower prices. These are perfect conditions for a potential price war later this year, so don’t be surprised if it happens.

The data on food service provides a different perspective. On average, Canadians spent $169 at restaurants in January, which is about the same as last year and an increase from $149 in January 2018. However, these sums are in real dollars. The current retail/service split in Canada is that about 41% of all money spent on food is at restaurants, compared to a split closer to 54% in the United States, favouring food service. Considering the frugality of the market, it’s astonishing to see so much money being spent at restaurants, where you typically get less food for your money.

The days of uncertainty regarding the balance between working from home and working away from home are long gone. The food economy has, for all intents and purposes, normalized. Food inflation is causing Canadians to spend less at grocery stores, which may seem counterintuitive, but is what the data is telling us. Currently, about 18% of all retail dollars are devoted to food, compared to 21% in 2017.

Simply put, the cost of living is a problem for many Canadian households, and trading down is much easier with food. People may be “ordering in” more often to avoid tips and overpriced beverages, for example.

All of this is based on our trust in Statistics Canada, which may not be all that strong. However, Statistics Canada is merely an indicator, and Canadians have no other way to know what is really going on out there other than reading reports from the federal agency.

Regardless of how we interpret the data, the numbers are simply not encouraging. This is what happens when our population grows, but not our collective economic wealth.

Sylvain Charlebois is a professor and senior director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University and co-host of the Food Professor podcast.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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