NPD Group

NPD Group

February 01, 2006 09:00 ET

NPD Group: Canadians Embrace Eating in Moderation

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 1, 2006) - Canada's aging population and improved food labelling practices have started a trend away from fad diets and toward a more balanced and healthy eating pattern. According to the 2005 Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC) report from NPD Group, the most comprehensive survey on eating trends in Canada, Canadians continue to make the odd indulgence, but not at the expense of more nutritious foods that claim healthy benefits.

"The convergence of aging, nutritional transparency in relation to labelling and the role of women at work and at home have influenced our eating trends for the better," said Marion Chan, Director, Food and Beverage, NPD Group.

The trend towards more convenient and nutritious food choices in Canada is best exemplified by the increasing influence of food labels on consumer purchasing habits. For example, 35 per cent of snack food eating occasions had a label claim such as low fat or low sugar.

"Food manufacturers have taken note of the shifting trend and have started to put a greater emphasis on labelling, packaging and promotion, particularly to women that are the primary shoppers and prepare most meals," said Chan.

Aging and Eating Patterns

With age comes a greater attention to health, so it's not surprising to see that Canada's aging population is impacting eating trends. In 2005, 61 per cent of households 45 years old and over indicated that they frequently check food labels to determine a product's nutritional value.

When asked what ingredients they tend to avoid, 65 per cent said saturated fats, 63 per cent said MSG, 62 per cent said cholesterol and 58 per cent identified salt. Canadians over 45 are also much more likely to follow the Canadian Food Guide with 42 per cent claiming it as a nutritional guide in 2005. This compares to 33 per cent for the rest of the population.

Canadian Working women and the need for simplicity

Another important eating trend identified in the 2005 EPIC report is the growing impact of women in the workforce on food manufacturing and choices. In a country where 70 per cent of dinners are eaten at home, women continue to be responsible for balancing work schedules with meal preparation.

In 2005, 65 per cent of Canadian women were in the work force. Nevertheless, in 80 per cent of households, women are the primary grocery shopper and in 81 per cent of households, they are responsible for meal preparation.

Given the increasingly complex balance between work and household responsibilities, meal preparation and menus have started to change. According to EPIC, 53 per cent of Canadian dinners included at least one prepared or semi prepared food item, such as pre-seasoned frozen chicken. The average Canadian also consumed 163 dinners that included at least one prepared or semi prepared food, up from 144 in 1999.

The need for meal simplicity is also affecting the number of items on Canadian dinner plates. While Canadians 45 and older cling to the traditional three-dish meal, Canadians under 35 are moving towards the one-dish per meal category.

"Simplicity in meal preparation is having a direct impact on what, when and how much we eat, but it is ultimately a balance between convenience, taste and nutrition that consumers want," says Chan. "As this trend continues, manufacturers and retailers who develop and successfully market nutritious, tasty and easy to prepare meals for Canadian families will do well."

About EPIC

Eating Patterns in Canada 2005 is the most definitive source on Canadians' eating and drinking habits.

Food manufacturers use EPIC to help understand the long-term trends and insights of the food industry, allowing them to position their companies proactively and advise their consumers on new product ideas and manufacturing plans. Foodservice organizations use EPIC to help meet the latest consumer demands when looking to attract new audiences, increase revenue or even to choose the hottest menu items.

Further information about EPIC 2005 is available at

About The NPD Group, Inc.

Since 1967 The NPD Group has provided reliable and comprehensive sales and marketing information for a wide range of industries. Today more than 1,300 manufacturers and retailers rely on NPD to help them better understand their customers, product categories, distribution channels and competition.

Eating Patterns in Canada Methodology

Eating Patterns in Canada is based on three different diary services maintained by NPD Group Canada. The first, National Eating Trends (NET), is the only continuous consumption study and the only information source that examines the entire food and beverage sourcing, preparation and consumption experience. NET captures all in-home, carried-from-home and away-from-home meal occasions. The NET annual sample consists of 1,300 households reflective of the Canadian population. Each week a group of 25 households begin recording all the foods and beverages consumed by all members of their household. Each household maintains a daily "eating diary" for one week.

The second part of NET is the National Eating Trends Nutrition Survey. This is completed by the same households that completed the NET diaries. The nutrition survey is completed at a later date, so as not to bias the NET results. This survey adds an attitudinal component to the NET database and puts the NET data into a more meaningful context by shedding light on the attitudinal drivers behind consumption behaviour. The households are asked questions about their concerns relating to topics such as nutrition, health and exercise and who is responsible for preparing meals.

The second diary service is CREST (Consumer Report on Eating Share Trends). CREST collects information from a representative sample of households that maintain a diary of their daily eating habits, but only for those foods and beverages purchased at a commercial restaurant. The sample for CREST is 4,000 households per quarter. The 'homemaker' is instructed to record all restaurants visited and all foods and beverages purchased at commercial eating establishments by all household members during a two-week period each quarter.

The third diary service is SnackTrack. SnackTrack monitors the consumption and sourcing of snack foods by individuals. It captures details about each snacking occasion, such as where the snack was consumed, how much was eaten, where it was eaten, at what channel the snack was purchased and more. The sample consists of 3,000 individuals on an annual basis. Each panelist fills out the diary for a one-week period and the diary is sent back to NPD at the end of the week. New panelists start the diary every day to ensure there are no gaps in data collection. SnackTrack data is collected 12 months, 365 days a year.

Other sources:

The Canadian Economic Observer is published by Statistics Canada on a monthly basis. This document provides economic indicators that are useful in understanding the "state of the nation." Economic factors play a big role in influencing Canadian consumption behaviour.

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