Canadians seem to have a love affair with using coupons for grocery shopping.
As food prices soar, a new survey by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab in Halifax has found, somewhat surprisingly, that while Canadians like the idea of using coupons to save themselves some money, they don’t really rave about the practice from the idea.
Six months ago, 45 percent of Canadians had never used coupons. According to the March 2022 Agri-Food Survey, 15 percent have changed their minds and started using them in the face of rising food prices. And of those who have already used coupons, only 11 percent have started using them more frequently.
“The couponing culture in Canada is largely underdeveloped,” says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab. “That’s basically what the survey says.”
“In (US) it’s pretty common for someone to walk out of the grocery store with products they didn’t pay for. And in some cases, they even get credit because the value of the coupons exceeds the value of the grocery product itself.”
Canadians, who have food inflation at 7.4 percent, compared to the States’ 8.6 percent, don’t fare as well.
The problem, according to Canadian shoppers, is the restrictions — many of which don’t exist in the US — placed on coupons in that country. As a result, 45 percent of Canadians don’t think the savings from most grocery store coupons are worth the effort.
Stacking coupons – using more than one coupon on a product – is extremely rare in Canada. Vouchers often cannot be used for items that have already been discounted. And many coupons are limited to specific dates.
“I think people actually see the use of coupons as a problem,” Charlebois said.
“It seems like a lot of work for little reward, and you really have to work at it to reap the benefits.”
The Agri-Food study also found that while volume discounts appear to be popular in Canada, the process raises some ethical red flags among shoppers.
73 percent of Canadians try to take advantage of volume discounts — the practice of lowering an item’s unit price when a buyer buys more units. But 54 percent think the practice is unfair to smaller households and single people. And 47 percent think volume discounts lead to more food waste.
Charlebois said pressure on grocers to offer consumers easy ways to save will only increase as food prices are expected to rise even further in the coming year.
“I think it’s time the food industry started thinking about how to advertise their products in a very different way,” he said.
A total of 1,501 Canadians from across the country were surveyed in March 2022 for the Agri-Food Survey, conducted in partnership with Angus Reid. The margin of error on the poll is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 out of 20.
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