Food online: thankfully it is late

food online
Michele Caprini
12 Jun 2019

Online food is negatively affected by delivery. It is now an old tale regarding the habits of consumer where fresh products do not abide by the laws of mass consumption and people only buy what they can see and touch.

The Italian Market

Given these consumer habits, online food appears to be suffering a negative trend; yet, this is not the case since it has been the growth of Italian online food to drive (a weak) growth of Italian distribution.

According to Marco Colombro, IRI manager, “Until March 2019 online food in Italy was worth around 450 million Euro. Despite the fact it represents little less than 0.8% of the whole distribution value, it drove forth the stagnating large consumption sector. Growth over 35% is drastic for sectors common to minor variations.”

Europe and the United States

Nonetheless, there is a substantial delay compared to other Western markets. Online food, compared to total distribution, represents 1.3% in Germany, 4.7% in France and 6.7% in Great Britain.

In the United States the Food & Beverage industry boasts the largest e-commerce growth. According to eMarketer, one of the most important international market research companies, the F&B industry was worth $18b USD in 2018. In 2019 it should reach $22b USD, followed by a predicted $22b USD in 2022. Despite the different consumer trends compared to our local market, these numbers are of clear significance.

In four years, the total e-commerce F&B value is predicted to double. However, fast growth breads an inevitable fall, arguably seen by the decrease in sales going from 24.2% in 2018 to an estimated 19.4% in 2022.

Common Law

Even in this market, consumers are still highly selective about their purchasing in key areas, such a fresh or frozen produce. More than half of American consumers have bought packaged snacks such as crisps, biscuits or sweets; and more than a third bought dry/oven products such as cereal, flour and pasta. Products such as fruit and vegetable, eggs and dairy, meat, poultry and seafood were bought by less than a fourth of consumers.

Remaining on board

If this type of e-commerce remains a marginal activity in Italy, then a digital presence is no longer an option but a necessity. The current growth rates indicate that no retailer can exempt themselves from this, unless they also wish to exempt themselves from a fruitful market in the future.

In the medium run, the proportion of online food sales compared to total distribution could double. New technologies to facilitate ordering and delivery will be the decisive factors.