The country’s biggest grocery chains say they have heard from the Federal Government on high prices and say they are about to do something about them.
François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry met with the leaders of Canada’s five largest grocery chains as well as domestic and international food processors, and he called on the industry to take immediate action to stabilize food prices. Price stabilization requires the full engagement of the entire supply chain, and the Minister is encouraged that grocers and manufacturers agreed to work with the government and to find solutions that are in the best interest of Canadians. Today Minister Champagne provided an update on this work.
Champagne said that Loblaw, Metro, Empire, Walmart and Costco have agreed to begin rolling out actions that will result in lower grocery prices for Canadians
First, the Minister reported that initial commitments have been secured from the top five major grocery chains. The grocers are following through on their engagement to support efforts aimed at stabilizing food prices and to propose concrete actions by Thanksgiving. Each grocer has already identified an initial series of actions that will be implemented in the coming days and weeks. Canadians can expect to see actions such as aggressive discounts across a basket of key food products that represent the most important purchases for most households, price freezes, and price-matching campaigns. If we don’t see results, we will take additional action to restore the food price stability that Canadians expect.
Second, the government will immediately, and significantly, strengthen support for consumer advocacy. We are enhancing the capacity of the Office of Consumer Affairs by establishing the Grocery Task Force, a dedicated team with a focus on the retail sector. Its priorities will be to monitor, on a monthly basis, the grocers’ commitments and actions taken by other key players in the food industry, including manufacturers, as well as investigate and uncover practices that hurt consumers, such as “shrinkflation” and “dequaliflation.” We are also increasing the investment in the Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations.
Third, the government will continue its engagement with the food industry and will accelerate work to establish a Grocery Code of Conduct that will support fairness and transparency across the industry. The Grocery Code of Conduct will contribute to improving the strength and resilience of Canada’s supply chain. The industry-led process has the power to make meaningful improvements across the whole of the grocery supply chain. The government looks forward to the implementation of the code and to the results it will produce.
Fourth, the government will improve the availability and accessibility of data on food prices and the cost breakdown throughout the Canadian agri-food supply chain. Building on existing data collection efforts to enhance transparency, improve accessibility and advance analysis, government and industry will launch a food price data hub to better share existing data and new research on the price of food in Canada. This data will be provided through a partnership involving Statistics Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and key partners in the food system.
Furthermore, on September 21, 2023, the Government of Canada announced the introduction of targeted legislative amendments to the Competition Act meant to address affordability, including in the grocery sector. The government continues to review the input gathered through broad public consultation with Canadians and stakeholders and to assess how to further strengthen our competition framework. Through this comprehensive review, the government is committed to creating a fair and dynamic marketplace that will allow Canada’s economy to innovate and grow, while helping to make life more affordable and increase consumer choice for Canadians.
Minister Champagne set an expectation that all industry actors are responsible for bringing relief to Canadians, while ensuring that actions taken to stabilize food prices will not negatively impact food producers and workers and not involve anti-competitive behavior. The Minister stressed the need for a wide-ranging approach, and he looks forward to continuing to work with Canada’s largest grocery chains, food processors and other industry actors—both domestic and foreign—in the coming weeks to stabilize food prices in Canada.