COVID-19 drives surge in online grocery sales

10 Apr 2020

Confinement and supermarket shortages have driven more shoppers to purchase online with NYC-based tech firm Chicory reporting increases in online orders that surpass U.S. holidays, including Halloween and Fourth of July.

In addition to an overall increase in Americans shopping online for their groceries, Chicory reported that the average order rate among top ingredients has increased 123% between January and March as compared to the same time period last year. The top five ingredients seeing increases are pasta with 699% growth, canned crushed tomatoes with 316% growth, evaporated milk with 287% growth, tomato sauce with 269% growth and canned green chilis with 245% growth.

COVID-19 drives surge in online grocery sales

Other top ingredients include canned beans, dried fruit, fresh dairy milk, chicken, eggs, cauliflower, and white rice. Online sales of eggplant and cucumbers decreased by 13% and 35% respectively.

The data was pulled from online orders placed from recipes that featured the company’s “Get Ingredients” button and eCommerce ads for brands

While Chicory data comes from its network, which includes brands like General Mills and stores supermarkets like Wakefern, retailers are also reporting surges in online grocery sales.

Last year, only 4% of U.S. grocery sales came from online orders, according to Nielsen data. In the first quarter of this year alone, CNN Business reported that “online grocery shopping is exploding” with 41% of those purchasing online being first-time buyers.

Part of this growth comes directly from retailers’ own built-in online ordering systems, but third-party apps have also seen staggering growth. Between February and March, daily downloads of Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt apps have seen surges of 218%, 160% and 124% respectively, according to TechCrunch.

These steep increases to online ordering mimic trends for Halloween and surpass online ordering volumes for the Fourth of July. The increase in online orders does not rise to the order of magnitude seen for the Super Bowl, Christmas or Thanksgiving. Still, retailers are struggling to keep pace.

CNN Business reported that Ahold Delhaize has added web servers to accommodate increased demand. Other retailers like Walmart, Albertsons, Meijer and Hy-Vee are turning toward technology and automation within warehouses as well as increasing staff and adjusting schedules to keep from being overwhelmed by the demand for products.

Consumers may or may not continue to rely on online grocery ordering once the pandemic has subsided. However, these trends may indicate the hastening of adoption of online ordering on a mass scale.

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