Purchasing Food Online: The New Normal For US Shoppers?

July 4, 2016
Jannie Cahill
Written By
Jannie Cahill

According to a Harris Poll of nearly 2,000 US consumers, 31% purchased food online in the first half of 2016.

The poll reports that online food shopping was most prevalent among:

  • Millennials (36%)
  • College graduates (35%)
  • Parents (37%)
  • Those in an urban setting (38%)

In terms of what makes a product fit for online purchasing, US shoppers said there were  two main considerations: something that’s non-perishable or has a long shelf life (49%), or a product that’s difficult to find in stores (48%). About 4 in 10 also said something easy to ship was a key driver (39%), while 3 in 10 each said a product they don’t need right away (32%) or something they like to stock up on (31%).

Snacks were the most commonly purchased food products shopped online, with 20% of U.S. consumers saying they’d bought them online, followed by non-alcoholic beverages (17%), dry packaged goods (16%), fresh fruit and vegetables (16%), meat and seafood (15%), dairy products (15%), condiments/dressings (14%), confectionary products (14%), canned goods (14%), frozen foods (12%) and baking products (12%).

With purchasing food online fast becoming the new normal, food manufacturers increasingly need to know the differences in what people buy online vs in-store, as well as how people buy online vs in-store, according to Kathy Sternberg of The Harris Poll.

According to research from Morgan Stanley, US online grocery penetration is expected to increase from 8% to 26% for fresh foods and 16% to 28% for packaged foods in 2016.

Projected Growth in US Online Grocery Penetration, 2015-2016

grocerySource: AlphaWise, Morgan Stanley; Survey question: Please indicate which of the following categories you have bought online in the past 12 months. Then, indicate which categories you bought in store in the past 12 months that you now expect to buy online in the next 12 months.

The investment bank estimates that the total US online grocery market could grow by $26 billion in 2016, to more than $42 billion, with greater potential for urban markets, non-perishable products, and pick-up-at-store offerings.

As Amazon continues to roll out its Fresh delivery service (recently launching in Boston) as well as venturing into private label consumables, and with brick-and-mortar retailers like Walmart and Kroger rapidly expanding their online grocery offerings, 2016 could well be the digital tipping point for US grocery shopping.

Visit our Grocery microsite for further eCommerce insights, or sign up to our weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest CPG eCommerce trends.

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