Online grocery shopping has been around since the late 1990s, when retailers first started realizing the internet’s potential to revolutionize almost every industry.
However, only about 3 to 4% of grocery shopping in the U.S. was done online before COVID-19, according to research from Bain & Company. Fast forward to 2021, and the grocery delivery industry has drastically evolved due to the pandemic and emerging technology. In fact, a study by Coresight Research found that 60% of U.S. consumers are now buying their groceries online.
Although many shoppers will be returning to stores as pandemic restrictions lift and vaccinations bring peace of mind, the convenience of online grocery shopping is here to stay. According to online grocery specialist Mercatus’ 2021 Market Projections and Insight Report, online grocery sales are projected to account for 11% of total U.S. grocery sales in 2022, and 20.5% by 2026.
Curious what items have been topping consumers’ shopping lists? Check out DoorDash’s full Grocery Online Ordering Trends Report — and read on for a few of our top insights below.
The rise in online grocery spending
Prior to the pandemic, trends in online grocery shopping were already pointing upward in the U.S. According to a study by the Food Marketing Institute conducted by Nielsen, online grocery sales were projected to reach $100 billion and make up 20% of total grocery retail sales by 2025. However, COVID-19 drastically accelerated this trend, and at the height of the pandemic, online grocery sales increased to between 10% and 15% of total grocery sales.
Consumer buying habits have also evolved due to emerging technology and platforms, which bring convenience and efficiency to the forefront of shopper’s expectations. In the State of Consumer Behavior 2021 report by Raydient, convenience was the second most important consideration for 25.5% of shoppers. Online grocery shopping is expected to continue growing in popularity as people become increasingly adept with using technology in their daily lives. For example, 45% of Millennials and 44% of Gen Z shoppers in the United States reported only or primarily shopping for groceries online in 2019.
As more and more consumers opt to purchase groceries online, a few items are rising to the top of their shopping lists—and store owners can explore these grocery delivery trends in order to build an online store that appeals to shoppers’ growing appetites.
Online grocery spending post-pandemic
In July 2021, McKinsey & Company conducted a survey about COVID-19’s impact on online grocery shopping trends. After polling U.S. consumers, they projected that the following categories were most likely to remain popular among online shoppers post-pandemic: household care items, packaged food, beverages, healthcare items, frozen food, dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, and deli meats.
Meanwhile, Coresight Research’s U.S. Online Grocery Survey 2021 found that core perishables saw the biggest gains in online purchases from 2020 to 2021, with fresh fruits and vegetables being the bestseller, followed by fresh dairy, eggs, meat and seafood, frozen food, and bread and baked goods. Other grocery categories that saw increases in online sales were household cleaning and paper products, alcoholic beverages, pet care items, cold non-alcoholic beverages, hot beverages, and chilled prepared foods.
This same study found that household cleaning and paper products were the top category of online grocery purchases this year, followed by packaged non-fresh food, personal care items and diapers, fresh produce, frozen food, bread and baked goods, fresh dairy, eggs, meat and seafood, and pet care items. Coresight explains that in their past studies, consumers have been less inclined to buy fresh food online, but that this changed due to social distancing and COVID-19 precautions.
According to leading grocery retailer Kroger, store owners can also expect to see a boost in the purchasing of food and beverage products that feature functional benefits to support immune and cognitive health, digestion, energy levels, and stress management.
Online grocery trends from DoorDash
To take a closer look at what consumers are purchasing online, we put together a Grocery Trends Report that analyzes DoorDash data from June 2020 to October 2021. Here are a few of our most interesting findings:
Customers went bananas for produce. Bananas of all kinds — individually, in a bunch, organic, green, or yellow — blew all other competition away across the U.S. Considering the widespread banana bread trend in 2020, this comes as no surprise.
Homemade guac is having a moment. The runners up for the top produce item across the country are the fixings for fresh guacamole (as long as you like yours with tomatoes mixed in). With a touch of heat from Michigan’s jalapeños, a burst of lime from Texas and Utah, and bright cilantro from West Virginia, nine states ordered a high amount of avocados—and a staggering 25 states preferred to order roma tomatoes through delivery.
Everyone is staying hydrated. For drinks, bottled water was the most popular delivery item in all but six states.
Customers are saying cheers to online ordering. All alcohol types — including hard cider, liqueur, wine, and beer — saw more than 100% growth comparing orders from January to June 2020 to orders from January to June 2021.
With the average grocery shopping trip taking 40 minutes (according to the Time Use Institute), it’s no wonder that online grocery delivery is on the rise. But the move towards buying grocery items online isn’t just about convenience. People have also reported that online grocery shopping helps them reduce impulse purchases, and others say that buying grocery items online helps them reorder the same foods regularly.
Hungry for more online grocery trends? Download the full DoorDash Grocery Online Ordering Trends Report for plenty of fresh insights.