Demand for local food growing in Alberta

  Demand for local food growing in Alberta
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 by Mimi Lee
More than ever, Alberta consumers are purchasing locally-grown and locally-prepared foods.

According to a recent study conducted by R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF), food sales at farmers’ markets, farm retail and restaurants serving local food in Alberta exceeded $1.5 billion in 2016.

The average household spent $2,341 at the local food market channels mentioned above, which is one-quarter of the average Albertan’s household food expenditure for 2016.

Since 2004, AF has conducted several studies to gauge how much money is spent on local food sold through various direct-to-consumer market channels in Alberta. The goal of the studies is to help local producers identify areas of growth, and capitalize on purchasers’ increased interest.

The 2016 study was specifically designed to assess the demand for local food* available through farmers’ markets, farm retail outlets and restaurants.

For the study, a 22 minute telephone survey was conducted on a random selection of households across Alberta. In all, 1,200 completed surveys were obtained, 400 from each of three defined regions: Calgary census metropolitan area (CMA), Edmonton CMA and Other Alberta area.


Albertans’ awareness of farmers’ markets continues to increase, with the greatest increase, (11 per cent), occurring between 2012 and 2016.

Overall, awareness of farm retail also grew, with more respondents reporting that they “know a lot” in 2016 (15 per cent) as compared to any other year.

Market Size

In 2016, an estimated 1.29 million households purchased from farmers’ markets, 586,000 households purchased from farm retail, and 383,000 households purchased from Alberta restaurants serving locally-grown or made ingredients.

Based on future estimated household spending, the projected rate of growth in the next 12 months is 3 per cent for farmers’ markets and 8 per cent for farm retail. This translates into 1.33 million households in Alberta that will be purchasing from farmers’ markets, and 631,000 households purchasing from farm retail.

*For the purpose of the study, local food is defined as “food grown or made within Alberta.”

· 23% of households chose restaurants because they use Alberta food ingredients

· 36% of households purchased at a farm retail

· 78% of households purchased at a farmers’ market

Market Value

Visitation is up across the farmers’ market and farm retail channels, with a higher proportion of households purchasing 14 or more times as compared to 2012. Further, households are spending more annually at farmers’ markets and farm retail.

The estimated market value for the 2016 year is $924.5 million for farmers’ markets and $303.7 million for farm retail.

Among the markets explored, farmers’ markets continue to be the most highly used local market channel. The majority (78 per cent) of respondents had made at least one purchase at a farmers’ market in 2016, up from 72 per cent of respondents in 2012.

Although fewer people used the farm retail channel, overall it saw the greatest increase in utilization across the four years; a nine per cent increase since 2012.

The CSA/box channel showed a three per cent gain, and restaurants serving local foods or ingredients was up one percentage point.

The complete study is available on the Explore Local website. In addition, our website contains many other interesting studies and useful resources to help you grow your business and increase your market share. Click here to browse the entire library.

Why Albertans Buy Local Food

· Food Safety

· Support Family Farms

· Freshness

· Quality

· Taste

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This information published to the web on November 29, 2017.