Food In Canada

Online food shopping increasing, but meat quality a concern for consumers

Kristy Nudds   

Research & Development Food Trends Meat &Poultry Fruit & Vegetables ecommerce

The 2018 U.S. Online Grocery Shopper Study  found about half of online shoppers plan to purchase grocery items more often in the coming year.  The study, performed by the Retail Feedback Group (RFG), also rated overall satisfaction when ordering food and grocery items online, with Amazon ranking the highest (4.70 on a five-point scale where five is highest), followed by Walmart (4.54) and Supermarkets/Food Stores (4.36). The research also captured generational differences with online shopping for food and groceries, finding Boomers are are the most satisfied (4.65), followed by Gen X (4.51) and Millennials (4.43).


Fresh Department Purchases
One of the striking findings when comparing current study findings to last year’s results was the increased purchasing levels of fresh food items based on online grocery shoppers indicating which supermarket type items they buy online. Year-over-year, significant increases were found in many of these departments.

Department Percent Purchasing Online Increase Year-Over-Year
Produce 42% +50%
Bakery 38% +36%
Meat 35% +40%
Prepared Food & Meals 33% +27%
Deli Meats & Cheeses 33% +50%
Seafood 19% +46%



Brian Numainville, RFG Principal said, “with an ever-increasing number of online grocery shopping options, consumers are clearly responding and purchasing a wide range of items. The willingness to purchase fresh items in higher frequencies than last year illustrates that providers are improving in their ability to overcome objections that historically have been limiters in these areas. While there is still room for growth, this finding provides encouraging news for retailers and others offering online food shopping services.”

Satisfaction with Elements of the Online Shopping Experience by Provider
Segmenting satisfaction scores on twelve touchpoints of the online shopping experience including ordering, fulfillment and people elements, by major provider, results in interesting findings, especially when comparing “highly satisfied” marks.

  • Amazon Shoppers: Amazon shoppers rated eight of the twelve elements of the online shopping experience significantly higher than Supermarket/Food Store shoppers and seven elements significantly higher than Walmart shoppers. Walmart and Amazon shopper ratings were not significantly different on five elements.
  • Walmart Shoppers: Walmart shoppers rated five elements significantly higher than Supermarket/Food Store shoppers.
  • Supermarket/Food Store Shoppers: These shoppers registered the lowest “highly satisfied” scores on nearly all elements measured versus Amazon and Walmart online grocery shoppers. There was relative parity with shoppers of the other providers on just two elements.
  • Instacart Shoppers: Of the 57 per cent of shoppers who indicated their order was fulfilled by delivery, approximately one third of those had deliveries that were handled by Instacart. Shoppers who had orders filled by Instacart rated all five ordering factors and most fulfillment factors higher than online shoppers across all Supermarket/Food Store shoppers. People factors were rated similarly.

Doug Madenberg, RFG Principal, stated, “Clearly Amazon, Walmart, and Instacart are taking advantage of both their experience in the space, and the capital they continually invest, in improving the online grocery ordering and fulfilment experience. Supermarkets and food stores operating eCommerce on their own, or through a third-party platform, should take note of Instacart’s scores and ensure their service provides an experience at the same or higher level.”  

Online versus In-Store Grocery Shopping
Online grocery shopping strengths, according to shoppers in the study, include making the most efficient use of their time and more convenience, as well as being more enjoyable and pleasantly surprising. In-store shopping strengths registered as providing products best meeting standards for quality and freshness, offering a better selection of products for shopper needs, making shoppers feel more valued as a customer and providing better customer service. Other areas measured scored about even for both types of shopping.

“It’s no surprise that online grocery shoppers find their experience more efficient and convenient.  But the fact that online shoppers find the experience both more enjoyable and more pleasantly surprising than an in-store visit should be a wake-up call for all brick-and-mortar retailers,” said Madenberg.

Special Topic: Meat
Shoppers who indicated anything lower than a five on the statement, “The items I received met my standards for quality and freshness” were asked to name the department(s) where quality fell short.  About a quarter (26 per cent) indicated meat.

About eight out of ten online shoppers (81 per cent) indicated that quality was the top factor they consider very important when purchasing meat online, followed by price (65 per cent) and proper handling/refrigeration during delivery (53 per cent). Among those who do not purchase meat online, the top reasons given were wanting to choose meat items themselves (63 per cent) or that meat items might not be refrigerated properly during delivery (55 per cent).

Grocery retailers and food distributors can obtain a free copy of the full report or request an interview / presentation of the results from the principals of Retail Feedback Group at The study is based on a nationally representative sample of 760 respondents who shopped online for food and groceries in the last 30 days.


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