The online food boom is real—and it’s here to stay.
The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, in partnership with data insights firm Caddle, surveyed 7,290 Canadians in early November. The report, “The impact of COVID-19 on the food industry and e-commerce,” looks at what online food services Canadians are using and why.
The survey found that 63.8% of Canadians have ordered food online in some capacity over the last six months. A total of 31.3% have used curbside pickup or home-delivery services from grocery retailers in that time frame. That’s followed by food delivered directly from a restaurant (28.6%), a delivery app such as Uber Eats or Skip the Dishes (26.3%), meal kits from providers like Chef’s Plate and HelloFresh (12.8%), and farmers’ market items using local delivery services (4.1%).
The results indicate that Canadians’ online food-shopping habits will stick. Before the pandemic, 29.6% of Canadians said they ordered food online once a week. In the last six months, that went up to 45.4%. When asked if they intend to order food online at least once a week after the pandemic, nearly half (49.4%) said yes.
“There is a momentum and [the results] won’t come as a surprise for the grocery industry because we’re seeing more and more companies invest in this space,” says Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. “Most grocers in the Canadian marketplace are looking at the long game and the long game is clearly there. If you’re spending millions or billions on e-commerce, the demand is going to be there.”
Convenience is the most popular reason Canadians ordered food online (33.8%). This is followed by concern about the virus and their health (13.8%) and mandatory self-isolation (6.9%). When it comes to what they’re buying, the most popular items are fast food (33.1%), followed by fruits and vegetables (22%), dairy products (21.5%), and bakery (20.6%).
Respondents were also asked what they dislike most about ordering food online. The top five reasons are: I can’t see the food before I purchase it (17.9%), I am concerned about the quality of the food (14.6%), unconfirmed product substitutions (9.2%), I do not like other people touching my food (8.6%), and packaging that is not environmentally friendly (3.1%).