6 key issues researchers predict will shape the food industry in 2018

From food prices to the use of antibiotics in meat; those are just two of the six issues a University of Guelph report predicts will shape the food industry in 2018. Take a look at what other trends researchers predict will affect the food industry in the coming year.

Issues range from minimum wage increase to the rise in alternative proteins

From food prices to the use of antibiotics in meat; those are just two of the six issues a University of Guelph report predicts will shape the food industry in 2018. (Philippe Wojazer/REUTERS)

Canadians will be paying more at the grocery store next year as the price of food is expected to go up in 2018, according to the Canada's Food Price Report.

The report, by researchers at Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph, estimates food prices will rise one to three percent in 2018. 

But that's just one of six big food trends at the centre of a new report from the University of Guelph. For the first time, researchers at the university are projecting six issues expected to shape the food industry over the next year in its Food Focus 2018 report.

Alternative proteins

The report highlights that alternative proteins — like plant based proteins, insects or meat grown in a lab — are on the rise as 43 per cent of Canadian are looking to shift away from traditional meat products.

"Vegetarianism and veganism is still a relatively small  proportion of the market ... but almost 50 per cent of us said we are going to diversify the proteins in our diet and eat different things," Michael von Massow, a professor in the department of food, agricultural and resource economics at U of G and one of the authors of the report.

The rise of alternative proteins can be attributed to people being more aware of the health and environmental impacts of eating red meat, he said. 

Minimum wage

The increase in minimum wage next year will significantly impact the food industry, from farm labour to restaurants, said Von Massow.

"I saw a report yesterday of a long standing restaurant in Toronto closing its doors saying they just can't afford to continue with hire minimum wage rates," he told CBC's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris.

He adds that some restaurants may raise prices or rethink their tipping model and fast-food restaurants may add more electronic ordering kiosks.

Grocery stores will also feel the hike next year, said Von Massow. 

"We are already hearing some of these grocery companies closing unprofitable stores and that's largely due to minimum wage hike."

Choice and micro-markets

More choices and micro-markets for food is also predicted to impact the food industry.

"We are seeing more and more choice in grocery stores, not because we want more choice, but because different individuals want different things," von Massow said, adding markets are working on responding to the demand of niche products.

Food prices

An increase in food prices means families will be paying an average of $12,000 a year for food, according to the recent Food Price Report.

"For an average family of four, we are expecting that food bill for that family will increase to about $348," Sylvain Charlebois, co-author of the report told CBC's The Morning Edition host Craig Norris. 

Charlebois adds weather events is one of the main factors reason behind the fluctuation in food prices.

Restaurants

Canadians spend $80 billion a year dining out, a market that is also expected to grow in 2018.

"Restaurants are becoming more important in our food choices," said von Massow. "In Canada we are about 35 to 40 per cent of our food dollars spent outside the home."

However, the average restaurant bill will go up as food prices at restaurants are expected to rise between four and six per cent next year, according to the Food Prices Report.

Antibiotic use in meat

Antibiotics in meat production is another issue von Massow expects will get attention in 2018, as Canadians have become more aware of animal welfare in the food industry.

The report says that antibiotics in meat is a more complex topic than animal welfare and there needs to be a balance in human health, consumer preference and animal health.