Quebecers snub diets and compacts for port and luxury cars

Quebecers have always had a reputation for taking the time to enjoy the finer things in life, but until recently those finer things meant more wine and cheese than port and Cadillacs....

Quebecers have always had a reputation for taking the time to enjoy the finer things in life, but until recently those finer things meant more wine and cheese than port and Cadillacs.

Be it globalization or simply passing fad, intake of the fortified wine has shot up by a whopping 34% per year over the last couple of years, with consumption only increasing by 7% in the rest of Canada. Even more surprising, Quebec, traditionally Canada’s king of the compact, is yearning for some leg room, with consumption of luxury cars up 13% per year between 1998 and 2000, and only up 9% in the rest of Canada. Over the same period, sales of economy cars plunged 9% in Quebec, while decreasing only 3% elsewhere in the country.

Despite these differences, Que-becers still have more in common with the rest of the country than one may think. In fact, for about one-half to two-thirds of the products and habits the Print Measurement Bureau (PMB) measures, ‘There is a fairly good level of similarity’ in consumption between French-speaking Quebec and the rest of Canada, says François Vary, Quebec representative for PMB and an independent media consultant. ‘Where there are differences, they may be cultural or explainable by geographical, meteorological or other considerations.’

The areas where those differences stand out? Food, cars and finances. French-speaking Que-becers historically have eaten rich foods or foods high in sugar or fat. ‘We like the good life,’ Montreal-based Vary says simply.

For example, a higher percentage of French Quebecers say they consume whipping cream, Brie, snack cakes and wine than other Canadians. Vary points out Que-becers are also more concerned about quality and freshness and this ‘comes out in those going to public markets and fruit and vegetable stores.’ Shopping at public markets, he notes, is a fairly new urban trend.

In terms of financial matters and attitudes, Quebecers tend more towards saving than spending. They are cautious with their money, and a higher proportion describe themselves as risk-adverse investors, saying they typically consult an expert before making a financial decision.

A much larger percentage of French Quebecers own personal life insurance, although its average value tends to be significantly lower than that of other Cana-dians. When it comes to the higher RRSP contribution level for the rest of Canada, as compared to French Quebec, ‘Ontario and Toronto make up most of the bigger differences,’ says Vary. As well, he says, the average household income in Quebec is lower than the rest of Canada. ‘If you have more money, you invest more.’

Out on the road, Quebecers still dominate the Canadian scene for ownership of small and economy sedans and coupes, says Vary, while cycling is an area where French Quebec continues to hold ‘a fairly good edge.’

Looking to other lifestyle choices, downhill skiing is ‘well established’ in the province, and French Quebec homes are three times as likely to have a swimming pool than other Canadian households, a pattern Vary says is ‘constant.’