How Food Shopping May Change After COVID-19

Online grocery orders are likely to become more mainstream.

March 23, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—As lifestyle and behavior shifts dramatically in the midst of coronavirus, more and more consumers are shopping for groceries online, and there’s evidence that this large movement toward using delivery drivers and apps may extend well beyond the public health crisis.

Apptopia reports that app downloads for Instacart, Walmart’s grocery app and Shipt have increased 218%, 160% and 124% respectively compared with a year prior. Just 4% of U.S. grocery sales came online last year, reports CNN and Nielsen.

"We are seeing a larger percentage of customers over the age of 60 that are coming online," said JJ Fleeman, chief e-commerce officer for Ahold Delhaize, which owns brands like Stop & Shop, Food Lion and the online delivery service Peapod. “We’re seeing a lot of new customers coming into the channel.”

And they might just stay online, given the overall convenience and ease-of-use. CNN shares that “coronavirus may hasten the adoption of online delivery and pickup, touching off long-term challenges for smaller chains earlier than expected,” according to Kelly Bania, analyst for BMO Capital Markets, in a research report.

A survey by Gordon Haskett Research Advisors found that nearly one-third of consumers purchased groceries for online pickup or delivery in the past week—and 41% of those were doing it for the first time.

Although many grocers have adopted technology or experimented with new formats in recent years, they are working hard to keep up with the overall demand right now as they are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak. Grocers are shifting hours, limiting items and hiring more workers to keep up.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.