Orders mandating sheltering-in-place and social distancing has caused people to examine new ways of putting food on their table. Instead of shopping for goods in person, consumers have shifted to online purchasing practices. According to research gathered by grocery e-commerce strategy company Brick Meets Click, more than one-third of American households purchased food online in March, representing a nearly 200 percent leap from last August’s numbers – and more than 25 percent were first-time online grocery shoppers. The growth continued in April with the Adobe Digital Economic Index revealing a 110 percent increase that month in America’s online grocery shopping.
Walmart, the largest retailer of groceries in the United States, saw a 460 percent jump in daily downloads of its grocery app between January and April, while Whole Foods experienced such a dramatic spike in demand that they temporarily had to limit online sales. Consumers are also utilizing shopping and delivery companies for their grocery shopping needs. Apptopia research found daily app downloads for Shipt rose 124 percent from February to mid-March while Instacart had a 218 percent increase during the same period.
Business has blossomed too for subscription services that deliver food boxes to your door on a regular schedule, as well as eliminating the often frustrating experience of booking a store delivery time slot. Downloads of the Peapod app climbed 472 percent between February and April, while Thrive Market added more than 100,000 members since the start of the pandemic. Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods, subscription box purveyors of so-called “ugly produce,” have both added workers to handle the increased demand they have experienced.
Consumers have noticed the triple convenience that meal kits can offer them. Customers save time by having prepared meals delivered to them. Food subscription boxes and kits allow you to minimize human interaction and eliminate the online grocery ordering process. Blue Apron is forecasting a $28 million boost in revenue between 2020’s first and second quarters. Competitors HelloFresh and Home Chef have seen similar gains: the former has improved its U.S. customer base by 88 percent in the first quarter this year versus last year, while the latter predicts a 60 percent growth in business this year.
According to a recent food industry survey, while over half of Americans say they are cooking more now than pre-pandemic, people still are ordering meals from restaurants – they just are “eating out” less. The research firm Second Measure found that spending on delivery services, like GrubHub, Postmates, UberEats and DoorDash has risen 70 percent from March 2019 to March 2020. These companies also have adapted to public health concerns by implementing programs like at-door drop-off and contact-free delivery.
Looking for ways to hold onto their clientele, many restaurants have gotten more inventive by broadening their own takeaway services, particularly with family-style meals. This trend not only involves chains, like California Pizza Kitchen, Panera and Denny’s but upscale restaurants as well. Washington D.C.’s acclaimed Rose’s Luxury has added eat-at-home meal kits, while Little Rock’s Table 28 offers several weekly gourmet multi-course family-style take-out meals.
Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the Food and Drug Administration have reported any evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging; however, they do recommend washing hands frequently and following the four key general food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.