New Report Shares How Popular Hybrid Grocery Shopping Has Become

When it's time to pick up a new bunch of bananas, bag of rice, or roll of toilet paper, do you grab your keys and head to the closest grocery store, or do you crack open your laptop and log into Instacart or Amazon Fresh? If you're like many Americans, the unique circumstances of the pandemic may have shifted your shopping habits toward the latter over the past few years. According to the United States Census Bureau, retail e-commerce boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with online sales rising a whopping 43% in 2020 — from $571 billion in 2019 to more than $815 billion the following year.

Now that the intensity of the pandemic is leveling off and many people are returning to working outside the home, Morning Consult reports that they're also going back to in-person shopping, with 71% of U.S. adults surveyed responding that they'd feel comfortable picking up items in a mall. But the issue isn't exactly as clear cut as to whether Americans will continue to only shop for groceries online or completely transition back to in-store shopping. The Food Industry Association reports that a new phenomenon is taking shape called hybrid shopping. This is when consumers regularly buy food both online and in stores — not just one or the other.

Online food shopping has skyrocketed over the past decade

In a recently published press release, the Food Industry Association (FMI) shared key findings of a new report that comprehensively studies the habits of American shoppers. FMI, a trade group representing food retailers and their supply chain partners, released its "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2022," a six-part report analyzing how Americans shop in 2022. The section "Navigating a Hybrid World" reveals that though more Americans are grocery shopping online, they also continue to appreciate certain benefits of shopping in-store for food and are embracing what the report calls a "hybrid" approach.

According to the press release, in 2015, only 7% of shoppers surveyed said they ordered groceries online in the past month, while in 2022, half of those who shop for food online reported doing so every two weeks or more. Those surveyed who like to grocery shop online appreciate the budget control that a virtual shopping cart can offer, with 62% saying that shopping online saves them time and 40% reporting that online shopping is a better tool for discovering new products than in-person shopping.

Many shoppers prefer shopping for groceries in person

But the Food Industry Association report reflects that even those who like to grocery shop online find in-person shopping better in certain areas. According to the press release, that segment of respondents reported that 70% of their shopping is still done in person, with nearly half saying that they find better quality products when they shop in-store than they do online. The report concludes that even as online shopping is becoming more popular, in-person grocery trips will remain an important part of most Americans' habits.

"The recent wave of online shopping adoption and the growing variety of online methods may represent the most dramatic upheaval of the food shopping landscape we once knew," Leslie G. Sarasin, FMI's president and CEO, wrote in the release. "Still, despite shoppers' embrace of online grocery shopping, the in-person experience is here to stay. Food is deeply personal, and many shoppers still prefer shopping in person."