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Tim Hortons was ranked the No. 1 most trusted brand in Canada in the Gustavson Brand Trust Index.Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Canadians trust homegrown brands most, according to a new survey.

Tim Hortons, President's Choice and Shoppers Drug Mart topped the list in the new ranking released Tuesday by the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria. The school plans to release its Gustavson Brand Trust Index annually.

A sample of 3,125 Canadian consumers ranked a total of 249 brands in 22 industries. The brands were scored on 40 attributes, including quality, innovation, value, leadership and social responsibility – the most pertinent factors influencing consumer trust.

A recent survey by global PR firm Edelman found that Canadians are losing trust in institutions – particularly companies. The Gustavson Brand Trust Index was created in part as a response to this finding, said Saul Klein, dean of the business school.

"That's a key part of what we were looking at – why overall trust is going down, why some brands are performing poorly but others are doing well," Dr. Klein said. The idea is "to focus on the ones doing well to understand why."

The study found that consumers trust on two different levels: functional and emotional.

Functional trust comes from traditional metrics such as quality, reliability and consistency. "Functional trust is a minimum for consumers – if you're not delivering, we are not interested in you anyway," Dr. Klein said.

What's more interesting is emotional trust, he said.

"It's the emotional trust that differentiates brands, and it comes from a deeper alignment between what the brand is doing and what our own interests are."

Emotional trust rests on metrics such as workplace practices, environmental policies and community responsibility.

"Canadians want to use our consumer dollars to make choices that reinforce behaviours we agree with, and if we trust a company to do that, we are a lot more likely to recommend it."

Along with the national ranking, the survey also produced results by industry, region and demographic indicators. It found that women tend to trust brands more than men do (except when it comes to cars, beer and spirits); that older consumers trust the top brands more than younger consumers do; and that people trust brands in the financial, travel and utility industries least.

Age-based preferences were evident in awarding trust as well. While Tim Hortons was most highly trusted for all ages, consumers 18-35 ranked Google and Amazon second and third respectively, while those 35 and older picked Dairyland and President's Choice, and those 55 and older picked Canadian Tire.

Canadians also have a strong preference for local names.

"We like Canadian over international and regional over national," Dr. Klein said. For example, Quebeckers ranked drugstore chain Jean Coutu higher than Shoppers Drug Mart; British Columbia's Save-On-Foods beat out Wal-Mart in the Pacific region ranking of supermarkets; and both SaskTel (Saskatchewan) and Vidéotron (Quebec) scored higher in their respective regions' ranking than Telus, the national winner.

These preferences present an opportunity for companies to "break away from the pack, so that even if the overall category is rated poorly, you can still be highly trusted in your area," Dr. Klein said.

Top 10 most-trusted brands in Canada

1. Tim Hortons

2. President's Choice

3. Shoppers Drug Mart

4. Google

5. Canadian Tire

6. Kraft Foods

7. Campbell Soup Company

8. Heinz

9. Canada Post

10. Johnson & Johnson

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