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Canada’s grocery business doesn’t have enough competition — and shoppers are paying the price, report finds

Canada's grocery business is controlled by large players and needs government assistance to encourage new entrants to bring down prices, a report from Canada's Competition Bureau says.

Report is the results of months-long probe by competition watchdog

A woman in a coat shops for oranges in a supermarket in St. John's. Behind her, a cheese display is shown.

Canada's grocery business is controlled by large players and needs government assistance to encourage new entrants to bring down prices, a report from Canada's Competition Bureau says.

The report, published Tuesday, is the result of a probe that Canada's top competition watchdog launched last year, when concern over food prices hit a fever pitch.

The bureau spent months examining many aspects of Canada's grocery business, which is dominated by three domestic giants — Loblaws, Metro and Sobey's owner Empire — along with foreign players like Walmart and Costco.

In the report, the bureau found that the industry is not as competitive as it could be, and consumers are paying the price for it.

"Canada needs solutions to help bring grocery prices in check," the bureau said. "More competition is a key part of the answer."

To that end, the bureau recommended four broad policies aimed at spurring competition in the sector.

They are:

  • To establish a Grocery Innovation Strategy aimed at supporting the creation of new types of grocery businesses, specifically ones that only sell online.
  • Policies from all levels of government to encourage new independent and international players to set up shop in Canada.
  • Introducing legislation to mandate harmonized unit pricing requirements, which will make it easier for consumers to comparison-shop for deals.
  • Limit property controls, which currently restrict how real estate can be used by competing grocers, making it difficult, or even impossible, for new stores to open.

"Change will take time," the bureau said. "These solutions will not bring Canadians' grocery bills down immediately. But by acting now, governments at all levels can take steps toward creating a more competitive grocery industry in Canada."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pete Evans

Senior Business Writer

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for CBCNews.ca. Prior to coming to the CBC, his work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, and Canadian Business Magazine. Twitter: @p_evans Email: pete.evans@cbc.ca

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