Online grocery shopping opportunities are expanding rapidly in the U.S., with companies such as Amazon, Google, eBay, and others offering same-day delivery service to consumers. An analysis of the trend by Business Insider this year predicts that these online sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21.1 percent between 2013 and 2018, with the total sales reaching nearly $18 billion by the end of that period.
According to the report, about 25 percent of consumers between the ages of 18 and 36 say they would pay more for their groceries if they are delivered the same day as the order is placed, which compares with only 9 percent of baby boomers who say they would pay a premium for using a delivery service. Disadvantages associated with buying groceries online, according to Business Insider, are the cost and complexity of the logistics with providing that service, shipping fees, and the quality and freshness of orders. Even with those disadvantages and higher cost to consumers, the report predicts that the services could change the way people shop for food.
Among those venturing into rapid delivery of groceries is Instacart, which has partnered with Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, Petco, and others. Instacart uses a network of more than 4,000 personal shoppers who make purchases at grocery stores and then deliver the food in one hour in several metropolitan areas.
Hilary Thesmar, PhD, RD, vice president of food safety programs at Food Marketing Institute (FMI), says that her organization has heard no complaints about the quality of food being delivered directly to customers. “Companies are doing a very good job. They stay in business by making their customers happy by providing a high quality product.”
The delivery service is responsible for maintaining the quality of the food, whether the food is delivered by the grocer or by a third-party company, Dr. Thesmar says. “Regulations about maintaining the cold chain are same. The cold chain has to be maintained until it gets to the consumer,” she says. “Consumers can tell if their food is spoiling more quickly or if their produce doesn’t last quite as long. We would see spoilage of food a little faster if the cold chain is not maintained properly,” Dr. Thesmar says.
FMI has available for download its Produce Safety Best Practices Guide for Retailers. According to Dr. Thesmar, FMI developed the document with its supply chain partners to help reduce risk of foodborne illness through development and implementation of best practices for handling produce.