Buying food online - how sensible is the trend?

Buying food online - how sensible is the trend?
Published on: Sep 5, 2019
Updated: Aug 19, 2022

Nowadays, customers can buy just about anything online. What would have been unthinkable in the past is now standard. Even buying groceries is now done over the Internet. But who buys food online and is the trend here to stay?

Who buys groceries online?

According to a study by Eurostat, approximately 22 percent of Germans bought groceries online in 2018. The online supermarket variant is particularly popular among 25 to 44-year-olds. This was the finding of a survey conducted by the German Federal Statistical Office in 2018. Big city dwellers and people following a special diet make the most use of this offer. Online, there is sometimes more choice than in the supermarket around the corner, as there is usually only limited space available for such products.

Buy food online: The advantages

Long lines at the checkout, full shopping bags and eternal wandering in the aisles of the supermarket, looking for the desired product. These are scenarios that many are familiar with. The online supermarket can provide a remedy here. The advantages of this shopping option are flexibility, convenience and time savings. According to a study by BVDW, 60 percent of respondents particularly appreciate being able to do their shopping at any time. For 55 percent, the biggest advantage is that they don't have to lug shopping bags weighing tons, and 50 percent rate the time savings as particularly beneficial. These advantages are already reason enough for some to do their weekly shopping from the sofa.

Image Flexible shopping time is the biggest advantage for customers with online supermarkets. (Source: BVDW/ Statista)

Buying groceries online: The disadvantages

Buying food online also has disadvantages, of course. These lie primarily in the fact that customers cannot view or inspect the food on site. According to a survey by BVDW, this is the biggest disadvantage for 63 percent. It is also important that the recipient is also at home when the package is delivered. Especially when fresh food is delivered, it usually needs to be refrigerated immediately. The fact that customers have to adjust to the time of delivery is seen as critical by 46 percent. High shipping costs are often added when ordering online, which is the third biggest disadvantage (43 percent) for customers. These three aspects are also the main disadvantages for potential customers when buying food online.

Image The fact that food cannot be checked is the biggest disadvantage for customers. (Source: BVDW/ Statista)

Providers of online supermarkets


Almost every supermarket chain now offers online ordering and thus combines stationary and online tradel. Rewe, Edeka and Co. have long since launched an online supermarket. But there are also providers who have developed special concepts. For example, customers can order so-called recipe boxes. To do this, the customer selects the recipe he wants to cook and the number of people on the website. The online retailer then sends him a box containing the ingredients needed for the recipe. With most of these providers, this variant is also possible in the form of subscription commerce. One example of this is HelloFresh. On the website, customers can choose between many different cooking boxes and use them either once or as a subscription. According to, the top-selling online stores in the food and beverage sector in Germany are HelloFresh, Amazon and Rewe.

Image At HelloFresh, customers can order food in the form of cooking boxes. (Source: HelloFresh)

This is what customers and retailers should watch out for


Unlike fashion and electrical goods, the 14-day right of withdrawal and return does not apply to online purchases of perishable, fresh or already expired food. In general, however, online retailers must observe the same things as stationary supermarkets. The products must be clearly labeled, must not harm health and must not deceive the consumer. Even with the online supermarket, offices regularly check hygiene, storage conditions and compliance with regulations. Nevertheless, there are a few things that customers and retailers should keep in mind when buying food online:

  • Costs: Shipping costs are often added when ordering online. Customers should therefore inform themselves in advance about additional costs.
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  • Transport route: With the online supermarket, short transports are important. This is particularly advisable for fresh goods. The shorter the route, the fresher the goods arrive at the customer.
  • Fresh goods: Especially with fresh food, caution is advised. With fish, cheese or meat, customers should think carefully about whether they want to buy them online.
  • Cold chain: Keeping the cold chain is often a challenge for retailers. Many of them now work with special means of transport. Nevertheless, customers should check the food upon receipt.
  • Data protection: Customers should make sure that the store acts DSGVO compliant. The data that customers provide when buying food is particularly interesting for health insurance companies and health care providers. Merchants should therefore treat customer data confidentially and delete them properly on a regular basis.
  • Seals of quality: If customers are unsure, test, quality and certification seals can help. They guarantee an officially monitored and properly registered online retailer.
  • Customer communication: Customer communication is also important. Merchants should proactively inform their customers during shipping. The customer should know about all shipping processes and delays. A personal approach thereby establishes proximity to the customer.
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Stationary retail still clearly dominates grocery shopping. However, the online supermarket definitely has potential that it has not yet exploited. If it improves on points such as individual delivery times or better product information, it can certainly compete with stationary retail. Online retailers in the food sector must place particular emphasis on the shopping experience. After all, customers want to be particularly well looked after when they buy groceries online. Personalized shipping communication is also important here. This is something retailers should not leave to the shipping service provider, but manage themselves. Customers want to be informed about where their order is and when it is expected to arrive. Especially if there is perishable food in the package, it is important for customers to be informed about the shipping processes so that they can be at home on the delivery date, if necessary, and receive the fresh food.


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