Canadian Food Trends 2013

With Insight from Dana McCauley, Teresa Spinelli, Jim Hole, Kevin Kossowan, Liane Faulder, Letizia Mattiacci and Phil Lempert

Canadian Food Trends 2013:

  1. The Right to Food and Food Security across the nation and within each locality  is a huge growing grassroots movement.
  2. The focus on buying local food within one’s locality continues to trend.
  3. Consumer grocery market prices will remain low as American markets move in to specific localities across the nation.
  4. Cooking at home is on the rise with young families.
  5. More men are involved in buying groceries and cooking at home.
  6. Urban gardening and foraging for wild foods continues to trend: no longer the 100 mile diet, but the 100 metre diet!
  7. Food writing and people writing and reading about food is on the rise.
  8. Social Networks are strongly influencing and affecting the food landscape for the consumer and producers; this is a fairly new trend that is dramatically on the rise.
  9. Rhubarb will be big, according to Liane!

2013 promises to be a very exciting year in the Canadian Food Scene. Securing a national and a local food supply has become a topic amongst all levels of government across our nation. The grassroots movement toward supporting ones local farmers and producers is probably the most significant grassroots movement in the past 50 years. More people are buying local and visiting out door markets across the nation. In Edmonton, there is a market every day of the week and many on the weekends throughout our city during the growing season which is a significant change from open air markets available three years ago. Consumer prices will remain low, for now, as American grocers move in. Cooking at home is on the rise and propelled from the younger generations interest in cooking real food. More men are shopping for food. And, cooking it at home! Urban gardening and foraging continues to trend in 2013. People are writing about food and reading food writing more than ever before. People are more engaged in working to regain and maintain their cultural food heritage and in understanding their local terrior. Within a locality, social networking has changed knowledge of food. Where to find it, buy it, eat it? It is all out there. And then there are the indulgent trends such as which foods will be the most popular this year. According to mega-stores, snack foods are their biggest seller, by far as Phil Lempert, an American Food Trend Guru chimes in.

The United Nations has developed a Right to Food policy for the first time in its history, initiated in 1996: “The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”  According to Food Secure Canada: the right to food is a fundamental human right. It is enshrined in a range of international legal instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. It is more specifically spelled out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Canada signed in 1976, and it is included in various other human rights instruments. Canada has a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food. Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food visited Canada this year from May 6-16th 2012 and expressed concerns about our government’s failure to address widespread hunger as we are such an affluent country. He also expressed his concern in our lack of a national food security policy.

The significant increase of consumer interest in buying local over the past three years has clearly influenced mega-store marketing and restaurant menus. Campaigns like “farm fresh” “from your local farmer”, and “buy local” are common. The appeal of such campaigns is clear. When more consumers seek out a personal relationship with the suppliers of their food, buying local will become a reality within each locality. This will happen only through consumers understanding the significance of buying local upon one’s local economy and local food producers. To gain understanding requires information. The combination of misleading marketing, significant green washing, confused political leadership and the economic pressures facing the average consumer create a climate of confusion for the consumer. Getting something as simple as GMO labeling on food is a huge obstacle in our country. Without the option for consumers to know what is in their food, where it comes from, or how it is made, clearly adds to this confusion. This trend is not going away, yet significant change often brought about by trends is not around this corner. Dana McCauley, a well-respected Canadian Food Trends and Innovation Expert from Toronto, reports that the trend toward local food is still strong in Toronto with restaurants proudly pointing out the origin of ingredients. Yet, she adds that “there is a huge amount of excitement about imported talent such as David Chang and Daniel Boloud, both encouraged to come to Toronto to bring their New York service and concepts. At Daniel (located in the new Four Season’s Hotel) the menu is rife with locally sourced items, yet the concept and the big name on the door are exactly as they are in NYC.” Compelling. When we in the west revere the Super Star chefs in Toronto and want them to meet our incredible, and virtually unknown chefs, here.

Dana offered up one of the most interesting trends in Canada that I would not have a clue about which is “that it has never been a better time to be a Canadian consumer. While ingredient prices soar through the roof, the grocery business will not be raising prices in keeping with the commodities markets. The entrance of Target into Canada and the growth of Adonis and Yummy markets into new provinces will keep grocery prices artificially low as the grocers fight over the Canadian consumers in a price war.”

The younger generation have grown up lunching on “one of these and one of these and one of these” purchased as convenient nutritional snacks from the local mega-market for their school lunch and eating “unwrap and zap” meals for dinner. They are interested in learning to cook real food. There is a revival in the school systems where home economics classes, for years deemed not essential, have huge increases in enrolment. Students and young people want to cook. They are concerned about eating a healthy nutritious diet and having control of their food intake. Young parents are concerned about feeding their children convenience and processed foods. There is a “back to basics” movement on the food scene like never before. One of our local food heroes, Teresa Spinelli was particularly moved by Paolo di Croce’s comment at the Slow Food “Roots, Shoots, and Garden Boots” gala in Edmonton, last May: “…avoid buying lettuce in a bag; we could actually wash and cut our own lettuce.  Small changes will make a big difference.  Food is meant to be celebrated!” And the younger generation gets this. It is cheaper to wash your own lettuce. Consumers are asking, “How much are we really paying for this convenience?” Still, others consider creating family memories through cooking together at home: saves money and can be fun!

Though men have long been associated in the food industry as chefs, there is a dramatic rise in men taking an interest in the family food supply. More men are shopping than ever before, says Phil Lempert, “The Supermarket Guru”, an American food icon in the grocery trending industry. Have you noticed? They are cooking! They are taking a strong leadership role within their families and this is a significant trend that will actually create change in their children’s relationship with food. (See my interview with Phil Lempert, below, in video format.)

Urban gardening and foraging for wild foods continues to trend through our nation. Jim Hole, a strong local leader in our food supply system in Alberta, has been working within the agriculture business his entire life. His newest project is to promote a “Horti-Culinary” experience (his self-coined phrase) that will educate, inspire and spotlight our Northern Alberta locality and the outstanding food culture we have developing here. “We will model what can be done. The 100 mile diet is old news. We are talking about the 100 meter diet here. We want to teach people how to grow their own food and to learn about where their food comes from.” Jim notes that people are more engaged now that ever before in where their food comes from. I will add that nothing moves a person more than taste. A tasting experience will tell you immediately which food is better. It will taste better. Yes, it is that simple. Jim talks about micro-greens and aquaponics and is working at developing both systems at The Hole’s Enjoy Centre to reshape people’s thinking about how simple it is to have high quality food nearby. Liane Faulder, our own esteemed Edmonton Journal food writer, and local blogger, adds, “The grow-your-own food movement will gain ground, with local urban homesteader Kevin Kossowan and Chef Chad Moss creating Shovel and Fork, their new business which aims to teach locals about raising and preparing their own food through courses in chicken rearing, beekeeping and  big game butchery.” Responsible and sustainable foraging is huge. We are Canadians, after all. Kevin Kossowan, a young father of three and a local food hero, as Liane mentioned, chimes in: “My head’s buried in urban agriculture, home butchery, cider making – things of that nature – and it seems it’s less and less a fringe ‘thing’ and getting more and more uptake by motivated folks.” Kevin continues: “There seem to be a lot of really cool people doing wild food things across the country, especially in Quebec and Ontario with Forbes Wild Foods which I suppose ties into the international trend that NOMA secured around exploring wild foods as the hyper-local-seasonal niche.” Certainly, there are wild foraged foods for sale at our open air markets like never before. In our Edmonton locality, people are actively lobbying to raise chickens and bees in their back yards. This is not an issue in many cities, but where there is change, there is more support for change.

Food writing is huge. Food blogging is huge. Technology has provided a social network around food that continues to flourish, since 2006 when the first food blogs reared their heads. Chefs are rock stars. Butchers are rock stars. Some food writers are rock stars. Who would have thought? There is something intrinsic about reading a story about a food related memory. It inspires motivation within one’s own home kitchen. It inspires sharing and the opportunity is there. Need a recipe? Need help making something? Need advice with an ingredient? It is all on line or in a video. At one’s fingertips are the answers when one “needs to know” and when one “needs to know” is when learning and change occur. That changes the cultural landscape and the proof is in the pudding, so to speak: the pudding is in the photo on that webpage that many are actually cooking at home, menu planning and budgeting all within the public eye. This is the first year of the first ever Canadian Food Blogging conference hosted by Food Bloggers of Canada. That speaks about the change over time of food writing in our country.

Facebook, Twitter, and the vast array of other social networking sites have reformatted our personal access to knowledge and changed the way we live. Where to eat? Check out Chowhound. Where are the food trucks today? Check out Twitter. You get the idea. People are held much more accountable due to the feedback that gets posted “out there”. And people rely on that feedback. Think “Trip Advisor”. This is no longer a trend. It is a change. It has happened, and will continue to affect and influence all aspects of our lives, including our food. What is new is that real relationships are being developed with like-minded individuals through this network. Think “meet-ups” or “tweet-ups”.  In Rome last fall I was tweeting about my experience and a gal in Rome sent me a Facebook message. We met the next day for coffee and she gave me an unforgettable tour of the Testaccio Market as well as Volpetti’s! She spoke English and Italian. It was an unforgettable and wonderful day and we continue to share through our social networks. That is one of many relationships I have personally developed in this way. This dynamic does affect how our producers spend their time as it is now important to invest a significant amount of time keeping up within this cyber social network as well as getting on with the business of farming, selling, cooking, producing and creating really good food.

Liane Faulder’s column on food trends ran today in the Edmonton Journal. A must read. When I spoke with her earlier this month, she offered, “We’ll be seeing even more of a move away from meat-eating, and towards the use of vegetables, grains and pulses, and not just in side dishes.  Ancient grains, in particular, are on the radar because so many people have gluten allergies, and there is renewed interest in gluten-free products such as amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa. Robust vegetables such as beets, kale and chard will be growing in popularity on restaurant menus as chefs experiment with ways to make food exciting without animal fat Spanish flavours, featuring herbs and spices from Mexico, Cuba and Latin America, are on the rise. Food trucks will continue to morph into restaurants, and vice versa. Barbecue is hot in our city, with two opening in recent weeks.” Liane adds, “Watch for a spate of cookbooks on pressure cookers. Home baking is also set to take off, inspired by the release of new cookbooks by celebrity chefs including Thomas Keller (Bouchon Bakery) and Christina Tosi (Momofuku Milk Bar). Rhubarb will be very, very big in sweets.”

And how far off are we as a nation from what is happening internationally? Through our travels, we have met a vast variety of wonderful like minded people. Letizia Mattiacci is the co-owner of Alla Madonna del Piatto, and a local food hero in her own area of Assisi, Italy. She offers: “Organic is up, up and up. We see organic shops opening even in small villages like Santa Maria degli Angeli at the foothill of Assisi. People seem to appreciate more and more that food not only has to taste good, it has to be healthy” People in Italy, where food is the foundation of their culture are concerned about food quality. Letizia says that “big food industries only want to produce cheap food of very low quality for high profit. Even if Proposition 37 did not go through, people have begun to understand the effect of GMO, pink slime, modified corn syrup and all the dark things that are done to our food.” Letizia has also noted a significant transition within her clientele, “Last year I mentioned that food intolerance is rampant. When I did cooking classes five years ago, I had no problem offering a menu that everybody would eat. Now, it’s a slalom to avoid things people cannot eat. What’s going on? There’s too little questioning of the reasons about this huge phenomenon.”

Determining Canadian Food Trends 2013 in consumer purchasing, food supply and at home eating habits is an inherent aspect of my everyday life in my cozy little chair in Edmonton. For the past two years I have reached out to a vast variety of people in the food sector seeking their perception of trends from each of their personal views. This year, I reached out to fewer people. I hope you will all chime in with your comments so that a discussion will ensue, as it should be, within a food blog!

To a healthy and prosperous and deliciously edible 2013!

My interview with Phil Lempert follows.

Post illustration by Myldwin Pierre

Food Trends Post 2012

Food Trends Post 2011


    • Valerie Lugonja says

      HI, Aimee!
      It is on my calendar and I am definitely planning on coming to Canada’s First Food Blogging conference! However, my parents have been quite ill this fall, so – if all goes well, I will be there.
      It will be great to meet you! Thank you so much for your comment!

  1. says

    SO many exciting things happening, Valerie! :-) Even though I’m not in Canada anymore, this still makes me very happy. :-) And you’ve inspired me to look at Australia with new eyes to see what is happening in OUR food scene. :-) XO

  2. says

    Hi Valerie, what a great post on “Canadian Food Trends 2013” which tabulated a variety of comments from different sources! However, I found out that the report is mainly focused on Canadian food culture and its movements. One thing we may totally forget: consumer education. Like in an ideal wealthy economic system, the balance between supply and demand is paramount. If this is a true statement, we need to promote and work on consumer education in our food culture and the objective making the general public to fall in love with food. To my opinion, it should start at our school system to shape our future palates! From grade 1 to 12, credit earned food classes including farm field trips will be added as regular school curriculum. Added an option of summer farming school to groom the future farmers will be credited forward to the high school diploma. In the end, we need to develop a demand on a food culture that is supporting local, eating seasonal, reflecting the terrior and representing its community. If the “demand” is fostered, it will make the “supply” much less effort. Ultimately, “trends” will become “lifestyle”!

    • Valerie Lugonja says

      Wonderful to hear from you and so appreciate such a thoughtful and heartfelt contribution to this discussion!. You are singing my song! As a newly retired educator of 30 years with Edmonton Public Schools I am keenly aware of the need for educating our students about the food they eat. Sadly, I don’t see this as a trend. I see student interest beginning to trend, but until parents, educators, and other local decision makers get into the game, nothing is going to happen – much. What we need to do, and what I see trending, can be a totally different ball game, but want you to know, I am definitely on your team. Education is paramount in all I do with my volunteer time in the food activist world. Great to know we can work together at this.
      Here’s to a vibrant 2013 with maybe a new “trend” to write about in 2014!

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