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Canadian Bacon Lovers: A Rasher of Insights

by Peter Miron | Sep 27, 2016

As summer’s days drew shorter and the weather started to slowly turn cooler, we took a moment to reflect upon the joy that is brought to our lives by one peculiar love: bacon. The key ingredient to the Sunday morning breakfast fry-up, the middleman bridging the lettuce and the tomato, the corset of the filet mignon—bacon has some surprising geographic and lifestyle inclinations. Let’s devour these tidbits in tantalizing detail.

Bacon is Big Bucks

Canadians are expected to spend $715 ​​million on bacon in 2016 and that doesn’t even include the bacon consumed as part of restaurant meals and snacks (looking at you Mr. McBreakfast Sandwich). That amount means $22.62 worth of bacon is being purchased every second. The average retail price for bacon is $13.46 per kilogram (or $6.11 per pound) according to Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Data. As a rule-of-thumb, each pound of bacon consists of 12 “regular” slices (let’s not get stingy here). Altogether, this means Canadians are enjoying 44.4 slices of bacon per second or, on average, Canadian households consume $49 worth, or 3.66 kg, or 97 strips of bacon a year. By comparison, our national bacon expenditure in aggregate dollars is $715 million—only a little bit less than purchases of tickets to sporting events ($798 million) and newspapers ($760 million) and slightly higher than textbooks ($696 million) and dishwashers ($654 million).

Pigs Beware in Calgary and Edmonton

While the average Canadian household spends $49 per year on bacon, the households of Calgary and Edmonton come in well above this, spending an average of $72 and $71 per year respectively (see Table 1). And just in case the pigs thought they could find safety on The Rock, the households of St. John’s consume $68 worth of bacon per year. If seeking amnesty, a savvy pig might consider Boulevard Saint-Laurent in Montréal or even Laval. The average household consumption in Montréal is only $27 (though the bacon budget is higher in anglophone areas and neighbourhoods near McGill).

Bacon By City

Bacon Map

While the data in Table 1 and Figure 1 focus on urban markets, you’ll find the biggest bacon backers in areas outside the major cities. Despite accounting for 36.8 percent of Canadian households, exurban and rural households account for 43.1 percent of Canadian bacon consumption, at an average expenditure of $58 per household per year.

Of the census subdivisions (CSDs—essentially equivalent to municipalities) with more than 5,000 households, certain places tend to sizzle. For example, Alberta’s Red Deer and its satellite communities of Lacombe, Red Deer County and Sylvan Lake all appear among the top 10 CSDs for average bacon consumption. But compared to Yellowknife and Whitehorse, with bacon expenditures at $183 and $136 respectively, only Red Deer County forks out more. Of course, groceries in Yellowknife and Whitehorse are naturally a little bit pricier, but that only means the bacon is more dear. On the other end of the spectrum, the 10 CSDs with the lowest bacon expenditures can all be found in la belle province with the very lowest bacon consumption being the home of Canada’s twentieth prime minister: Shawinigan, spending a scandalous $16 per year.

State of the Bacon Nation

Bacon, while loved by many, is not appreciated equally by all. But by examining bacon through the lens of the PRZIM5 segmentation system and data on the share of bacon purchases vis a vis overall grocery bills, a savoury portrait of bacon lovers begins to emerge. They tend to reside in more exurban and rural locales outside of Quebec. In PRIZM5 segments Country Acres (middle-aged and older rural couples and families), Heartland Retirees (rural, older and mature lower-middle-income couples), Traditional Town Living (middle-aged and older middle-income homeowners) and Wide Open Spaces (established, middle-income farmers and blue-collar workers), households spend almost a full one percent of their grocery budget on bacon. While urban and suburban households consume an average amount of bacon, the allure seems to be somewhat lost on certain cultural and, of course, religious groups; indeed, there is no Chinese word for bacon, although preserving and salting pork bellies supposedly began in China around 1500 B.C.. That being said, most Canadians can’t resist bacon’s charms. Even in Beau Monde, (established, middle-income Quebec city dwellers), with the lowest bacon index in Canada, residents still devote 0.3 percent of their grocery bills to bacon.

Bacon Profile

The Intersection of Bacon and Pets

Beyond its geographic skew, bacon presents some interesting correlations. It may come as no surprise that buying bacon has a high correlation with purchases of cake and other flour-based mixes (think pancake mixes), wieners (including breakfast sausages and hot dogs), unsweetened rolls and buns (what doesn’t double as a bacon cheeseburger bun?), margarine (but not butter, don’t want to go overboard with the cholesterol, am I right?) and chocolate bars (you can use your imagination on that one). Negative correlations include tomatoes (except for BLTs), fish and seafood (excluding bacon-wrapped prawns), vegetables (with the exception of lettuce, again a member of the BLT trinity) and fancy cheese (who needs Gruyere when bacon smells so much better?).

Some of the stranger bacon connections include high correlations with veterinarian and other pet services (Kitty ate too much bacon?), satellite television (the Bacon Channel?), purchases of trucks and sport utility vehicles (the Bacon Edition?) and charitable contributions to religious organizations (Our Lady of Perpetual Bacon?). On the flip side, bacon has a negative correlation with private school (the headmaster ate my bacon), public transit (bacon-to-go is perhaps too aromatic) and driving lessons (I got nothing for that).

Last Bits

So, the next time you are tempted by a sale on Japanese heritage pig smoked bacon, take heart, you are not alone. While Canadian bacon lovers range from the ravenous to the “meh” (or “bof”), just remember, in the time it took you to read this article, we collectively consumed 10,000 strips of bacon. Are you feeling jealous or hungry?

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Peter Miron is Vice President of Economic Data at Environics Analytics and the principal architect of EA’s financial data suite.