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Engineering food and our food choices

After a brief hiatus, my next series is highly inspired by the number of forwards I receive each day on what to eat and what to avoid. This got us reading and discussing a lot about various daily food choices and how has it evolved.

Even before we get to see the food choices, let’s delve into some background. As a newcomer, if at all there is one thing that I was surprised about, it was the number of grocery shops in short km ranges. Look at the following image for example:

As much as it indicates that the variety of options available to the general public, it also indicates the nature of competition in this business. The market is slowly shifting from traditional grocers to supermarkets. Costco was long considered to be a wholesale shop but in the recent years, Costco has transformed itself into a supermarket store.

walmart costco

Walmart Canada has 7% of the food retail market and Costco has 10%. With an increase in competition, we would naturally expect the prices to go down.

The next natural place to take a peek was the consumer price index data for BC.

Key observations from the above charts:

  • Preserved and processed fruits, vegetables, and meat have now got to a point where it is almost the same price as fresh commodities.
  • 2014 and 2015 saw a considerable increase in commodities prices.

Price normalization between fresh and processed food is the predominant reason for the growth of Walmart, Costco, and likes.

Keeping this point in mind, now let’s take a look at the data from dairy industry.

Following table shows the Canadian per capita dairy consumption details:

Gone are those days where we used to get raw milk boil them and consume. Pasteurized and homogenized milk are the only forms we get to see in stores. Delving more into the details of fluid milk consumption leads to this data:

The next common dairy product is yogurt. Let’s look at yogurt in comparison to milk.

Few reasons for yogurt’s popularity are:

  • A variety of yogurt products in retail stores!
  • The probiotic advantage claims
  • The idea of yogurt being a healthier option. Believe me, this is one of the most common reasons for a lot of sales!

Cheese is the next most popular dairy product.

Clearly, its pizzas everywhere! :)

These trend charts perfectly reflect the sales growth and decline percentages observed.

Blame the lactose intolerance, almond milk sales is now picking up in comparison with traditional milk:

This brings us to the question of, what are influnces the these consumption patterns:

To be really precise, the trends are influenced by:


These questions become the keywords in the food labels. Some examples:

Questions to ponder before the next post in the series:

  • Are we arriving at healthy food choices or are we eating with our eyes?
  • Is home cooking on a steep decline?
  • How important is it to know where our food comes from and what we eat?
  • Do we really care about having organic food?