A Reddit sub named ‘Loblaws is out of control’ is advocating a national boycott of all Loblaw’s grocery stores for the month of May, and dismissing them as an internet fringe group might be a mistake — the group has grown to 74,000 members and is being discussed at the highest levels. 

The r/loblawsisoutofcontrol subreddit describes itself as “devoted to highlighting the ridiculous cost of living in Canada right now,” and sarcastically thanks Galen Weston, Jr. of Loblaws and other CEOs of large Canadian chains for “continually raising grocery prices” in the name of profit and bonus cheques. 

Moderators accuse Big Grocery in Canada of effectively acting as a monopoly, with some voices calling for the Competition Bureau to break the companies up. 

A House of Commons petition from the group has been endorsed by NDP MP Matthew Green, and one of the chief organizers, Emily Johnson, recently met one-on-one with Loblaws CEO Per Bank to discuss their concerns directly. The attention highlights just how influential social media movements can be.

Over the last two years, grocery inflation has exceeded 11 per cent. Meanwhile, grocers like Loblaws, Sobeys, and Metro have posted record profits. Large executive bonuses over that period have also attracted anger. Loblaws reported on May 1 that their profits have grown almost 10 per cent since last year to $459 million.

Weston himself has responded directly to the subreddit, accusing its members of targeting his company unfairly. Weston and other critics have also sought to highlight voices on the subreddit that have called for illegal actions, including a ‘steal from Loblaws’ day, and calling on Reddit to shut the sub down.

Group moderators have condemned all such proposals and banned repeat offenders, but have continued to push for a boycott.  

As evidence, they point to issues such as the bread-price-fixing scandal of 2018, in which the Competition Bureau of Canada alleged grocers including Loblaw Companies Ltd., Walmart Canada Corp., Sobeys Inc., Metro Inc. and Giant Tiger Stores Ltd. illegally colluding to fix bread price increases over a 14-year period. 

Loblaws has admitted its role and received immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying against the others. The probe is still ongoing — in 2023, Canada Bread also admitted to its role and agreed to pay a $50 million fine. 

Two posts on the large (nearly 25,000 members) Facebook group MJ Talks! attracted hundreds of comments. Respondents tended to be divided along political lines, with some comments blaming the carbon tax and Trudeau for any price increases, and others encouraging the boycotting of all corporate grocers. 

One aspect of the movement has been an encouragement to shop local, supporting farmer’s markets and small producers. A website called AltGrocery.ca is crowd-sourcing lists of small grocers to shop at instead — The list is province-by-province and includes options in Moose Jaw, Weyburn, Craik, and other smaller centres, as well as Regina and Saskatoon. 

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