Food retailers must adjust to changing diversity

TORONTO — The Canadian population has more than doubled in the last 60 years with most growth happening in the West and coming mainly from newcomers.

“If we didn’t have immigration, we’d start to stagnate,” said Joshua Levi, director of business development with Environics Analytics.

He said Canada is one of the few G8 countries showing growth.

In Alberta, growth rates are more than double the Canadian average, while the East is below average.

During a presentation at the SIAL international food and trade show, he said understanding such data and what’s behind the growth can help decide where to open a store, sell products or offer services in the coming years.

The majority live in Canada’s largest cities with most growth coming in cities such as Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton, although smaller western cities are also growing.

Canadians are also aging and living longer lives, said Levi, citing a more youthful profile for the Prairies than for Quebec and the Maritimes. The North has the largest concentrations of young children.

“There are a few more seniors than children. This is the first year where this is the case in Canada,” said Levi.

As well, he said neighbourhoods are changing. Younger generations are often choosing downtown settings and baby boomers and retirees are in the suburbs.

“If you want to get ahead of the curve, you need to understand this.”

Levi stressed the need to offer different products within the same ethnic profile, noting vast food differences for a black Jamaican and black Ethiopian consumer.

Separate meat counters offering halal at one and omitting beef at another were suggested, along with store shelves offering a wide range of rice for different ethnic groups.

“Recognize diversity within diversity,” he said.

Europeans once accounted for most of the immigration, but today the fastest growing immigrant population hails from the Philipines. Indian and Iranian immigration continue to grow, while there are fewer Chinese.

Needs will change as younger generations and immigrant women gain more education than their parents’ generation, which will increase incomes in the family.

Aging boomers may shop at different times of the week in retirement, when mobility could be-come a problem. Home delivery options may present new opportunities for retailers.

Two-career millennial families with small children will reach for prepared, ready-to-eat and heat-up meals at the end of a workday.

Baby boomers account for the lion’s share of the population, but millennials are growing in number.

“Millennials are important,” Levi said. “If you’re not marketing to them, you better start.”

They shop differently and are digitally savvy, so marketers need to address their quest for more information about food purchases.

“Technology drives a lot of their decisions,” said Levi.

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