TORONTO -- A majority of Canadians say their grocery-buying habits won't return to normal when the pandemic ends, according to a new poll.

About half of surveyed adults under 55 said they would cook at home more, as did 40 per cent of those older than 55. About 22 per cent of respondents under 35 said they’d visit restaurants more often than they did before the crisis, and smaller numbers of the more than 1,500 respondents said they would order meal kits or groceries online more often and use food delivery apps regularly.

The results point to the shifting attitudes that Canadians have towards grocery stores, said Sylvain Charlebois of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, which conducted the new survey in partnership with Angus Reid.

About 64 per cent of respondents said they’re shopping in-store less frequently than before the pandemic.

“Canadians are realizing that grocery shopping is no longer fun, and they know it’s going to last a while,” he said on CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “For decades, grocers have tried to make you feel at home in a grocery store, but now you’re looking at a security guard, you have to line up, (follow) directions.”

Though many grocers have remained open as essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not business as usual. The new normal of lineups and limited capacities, temperature checks at the door and grocery store clerks in personal protective gear is causing major shifts in the food retail industry and perhaps driving people away from stores and onto the internet. The researchers at Dalhousie say that food delivery apps could generate “well over $2.5 billion by the end of 2020” because of the pandemic. In 2019, the figure was close to $1.5 billion.

“Online shopping for food has tripled since the beginning of COVID,” said Charlebois. “More people will find it not only convenient to buy online, but also will find it safe as well.”

In stores, Canadians have shifted their habits as the coronavirus pandemic continues. More than 80 per cent of respondents said they use hand sanitizer when they shop. More than 40 per cent said they bring their own bags. About 30 per cent said they wear a cloth face mask and more than one-quarter wear gloves in grocery stores.

About 42 per cent of respondents said they wipe the groceries down with disinfectant when they return home, though experts say there is little evidence to suggest this practice is necessary. In an interview with CNN, a scientist who studied how long the novel coronavirus can survive of surfaces said that he doesn’t bother wiping down groceries or takeout.

“I treat my hands as potentially contaminated while I’m handling the groceries and unpacking them and I make sure that I wash them fully when I'm done with that process,” said Jamie Lloyd-Smith


A total of 1,503 Canadians were surveyed in April 2020. The sample carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.