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Digital grocery buyers have reached critical mass

The pandemic has been a boon for digital grocery adoption. In 2020, the number of digital grocery buyers increased by more than 39 million. While growth won’t be as significant in 2021, it will still be a landmark year, as digital grocery buyers will surpass 142 million, amounting to more than half the US population (51.5%) for the first time.

Looking ahead: Now that digital grocery buying has become mainstream, growth in the number of digital grocery buyers will slow significantly in the coming years. Between now and 2025, digital grocery buyers will increase by just under 17 million.

Digital grocery buyers are increasing their spending. In past years, much of digital grocery’s sales growth was fueled by the influx of new digital grocery buyers. But the number of new digital buyers will slow in the coming years while sales will continue to grow. As a result, more of the sales growth will come from existing digital grocery buyers, as the average annual spend per digital grocery buyer increases from $856.47 in 2021 to $1,524.84 in 2025.

Who’s Buying What?

Millennials living in urban areas are the most frequent digital shoppers.

  • More than 4 in 10 millennials (43%) shop for most of their groceries online or the same amount they do in stores, per a June 2021 survey from Morning Consult. One-third of Gen Z (33%) respondents said the same, followed by Gen X (24%) and Baby Boomers (18%).
  • More than 1 in 3 respondents living in urban communities (36%) shopped for most of their groceries online or the same amount as in store, outpacing those in suburban communities (25%) and rural communities (22%).

Nonperishable is the most popular online grocery category, but most buyers are also purchasing fresh and frozen foods. A March 2021 survey from ecommerce platform PowerReviews found that more than half of grocery shoppers had digitally purchased fresh (56%) and frozen foods (54%). However 70% of respondents had purchased nonperishable packaged foods, like cereal, canned food, and snacks.