Frustrated Canadian shoppers to launch grocery chain boycott

Canada's Food Price Report is forecasting that grocery inflation will slow dramatically in 2024. Richard Southern with how much extra you'll be paying for food in the new year.

By Srushti Gangdev and Hana Mae Nassar

If you’re feeling tired of the sticker shock you get at the grocery store these days, you’re not alone.

For some, it’s reached a tipping point, with a group of frustrated shoppers across Canada planning to launch a month-long boycott of Loblaw-owned stores in May.

Emily Johnson, who runs a subreddit called Loblaws is Out of Control, says members of the community have “taken the time to organize a movement,” with the goal of showing the grocery giant they’ve had enough.

“Inflation is this much, but the increase that I’ve seen in two weeks alone on chicken is this much, and there’s a lot of disconnect between that,” Johnson explained.

She tells CityNews the number of subscribers on her subreddit has grown by thousands in just the last couple of weeks.

‘Deals that aren’t really deals’

A post on the subreddit says members have “seen hundreds of ridiculously priced goods, dumb deals, rotten produce and more.”

“Somebody actually posted a flyer from 2019 and compared it to our prices today and we were just absolutely losing our minds about it. Cream cheese, back in 2019, was two-for-$5 and now each one is going for $5.49. You got sugar, back in 2019, going for two-for-$4, it’s $3.29 each now,” Johnson recalled.

“Stuff like that. A lot of people have been posting — especially in the past couple of weeks, too — deals that aren’t really deals.”

It’s through some of the online discussions that the idea for a boycott came to life, she adds.

“Our moderation team felt that it was kind of our role to organize this boycott and help get people involved further and spread the news from there,” she said.

“Loblaws is one of the most prolific grocers in Canada, and I think that a lot of people have displaced a lot of their anger and frustration with the current cost-of-living crisis onto grocers, like Loblaws.”

Johnson says it’s still unclear at this point how many people will take part in the boycott. However, she says there’s been a lot of support online for the movement, especially on the west and east coasts.

Loblaw owns stores like Loblaws, No Frills, and Real Canadian Superstore. The boycott is asking for the company to reduce prices by 15 per cent and for “member only pricing” to be removed.

Johnson says people are reporting paying “absurd amounts of money” on groceries right now.

“Myself, I work as a mental health and addictions worker with a very vulnerable population, most of whom are homeless, on the streets, on [disability], and between the cost of rent, between the cost of groceries, between the cost of gas or transit, they just can’t make ends meet, and we’re seeing a drastic increase in homelessness, a drastic increase in need and demand on food banks, not like anything we’ve ever seen before,” she added.

In February, Statistics Canada said grocery prices were up 3.4 per cent annually in January, down from 4.7 per cent the previous month.

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