/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Does online food shopping make you click?

Food basket with computer mouse

Did you realise that food shopping is growing faster than any other form of online shopping? Are you won over by the convenience of online groceries or are there still barriers holding you back?

Recent research by grocery analysts IGD says more than half of us would shop online for our groceries if there was no delivery charge.

That’s logical – why pay more for your shopping just to stay in your living room? And sometimes, the delivery charges can be a bit steep – although some supermarkets will deliver for free if you book a certain time or spend over a certain amount.

See before you buy

But is that really all there is to it? We know that some people don’t shop online because they prefer to see the food they’re buying – particularly fresh produce.

To be fair, your ‘shopper’ (the person who collects your order) isn’t psychic – they wouldn’t know that you want the leanest cut of meat or under-ripe bananas. Although there are developments with this too – Waitrose has a function where you can explain exactly what you want – not always a guarantee, but it helps.

So am I selling online food shopping? Yep, I’m a convert – maybe because I’m lazy or because supermarket shopping isn’t up there with clothes buying as a ‘pleasure’. The convenience factor has swings and roundabouts – you have to wait in for your delivery, but the slots are only a maximum of two hours. But it’s the lack of queues and the lack of, well, people that’s the real draw for me.

Silly supermarket substitutions

Online food shopping is not without its problems. Take substitutions – shopping online works fine if you don’t need something specific, and your substitution vaguely resembles what you ordered.

But we know that’s not always the case – we asked over 500 Which? members and one in five said they’d received an inappropriate substitution. Some – like lemon-scented kitchen cleaner in place of fresh lemons – were just plain ridiculous.

And if a product you need doesn’t turn up, what do you do? At least you know immediately if you’re in a supermarket, rather than banking on it to turn up. Maybe supermarkets should be offering services where you’re warned in advance by a text message? Every little helps, as a famous supermarket keeps saying.

Online grocery shopping looks set to grow

Food shopping is growing faster than any other form of online shopping. Morrisons predicts it will open online in 2012. And more than a quarter of food manufacturers told IGD that they’re considering their own online shops so you can buy directly from them.

I’m not sure how realistic that is – ordering your food from many different places would surely be more hassle – as our own trial of Amazon’s online grocery store proved. But if you buy loads from the same brand, there could be something in it, and it would give us shoppers more choice.

Clearly, the world and his wife in business circles thinks there’s something in online food shopping, so what can they do to convince those of you who are still put off? And if you’re a regular online food shopper what’s the appeal?


It is very definitely the delivery charge that stops me taking this up.
I’d love to be able to shop online but as I exist on a predominantly raw food diet during the week, my food costs are relatively low – and the delivery charges therein are comparatively huge (and therein promptly unfeasible)

I have no concerns (or very few – certainly insufficient to stop me using online shopping) about the quality – but in part because for Fresh Produce I would default to using Ocado (and I’ve already checked – despite my rural address, they do deliver in my area)


Pickle says:
22 March 2011

First, I MUST see the food before I buy – especially fruit and veg. – to make sure it is fresh and of a size I want. And check any alternatives on offer.
Secondly I want it to come home quickly – not having travelled around in a delivery van, when frozen food is likely to have defrosted by the time I get it.
So – the answer is go and get it myself!

Amazingly I have wholeheartedly embraced on line grocery shopping, which really is not stereotypical of what you;d expect from me with so many traditional (some would say old fashioned) ideals.

I don’t drive and I never have so shopping for me means carrying everything home in bags on a bus or on foot. I have no objection whatever to doing this and have done so all my life.

However, a number of factors have made this less pleasant than it used to be:
1) all my local greengrocers have closed down years ago – the last to shut up shop was in 2005, so I have to travel into the centre pf Sheffield to Sharp’s greengrocer or else rely on supermarket greengrocery.
2) my local Somerfield (now Co-Op) had a “re fit” about 4 years ago, at which point they took out the delicatessen and more than halved the space given to fresh fruit and veg, my main shopping item for weekly trips. They also took off sale virtually 100% of their organic lines. When the Co-Op took over they made no improvement in either of these areas but did take out half the tills and put in self service ones, which are useless to me as I have a signature card for all my accounts due to a sight impairment. This made the queues very long in the shop as no one else seems to like teh self service tills and most of the time they are out of order.
3) The best range of fruit and vegetables and the best range of organic foods, nearest to me, is now at Waitrose. Waitrose charge for delivery (Somerfield and the Co-Op do not) but Waitrose only charge if you shop in store. If you shop on line delivery is free.

Therefore my shopping habit is now to do a once-a-month grocery shop on line and have it delivered and to go into town to Waitrose or Sharp’s (they are less than 2 minutes walk from each other) on a weekly basis for the fresh fruit and veg.

I’ve been doing this for about 3 years now and I have to say that Waitrose substitutions are always sensible and they never make any fuss if you send back a substitution., They also let you say on line what you will accept as a substitution (you can type whatever you like) so it’s easy to make sure that substitutes are at least somewhere near to what you ordered. This service is also great when, for example, I make my 500 or so charity Christmas Puddings each year as they can deliver 40-odd kilos of suet and dried fruit, etc., all for free, which otherwise I used to have to build up stocks of over several weeks.

So, to my surprise I admit, I have to say that I love on line grocery shopping, but I do absolutely agree with Pickle about fresh stuff and I would never ever buy that on line and Cat has a very valid point about delivery charges from many stores I know – I happen to be lucky with the Co-Op delivering free and Waitrose free if it’s online.


Sophie Gilbert says:
23 March 2011

I can see how having food delivered can ge a godsend for example for people with low or no physical mobility and for people with many young children to look after. For my part I can walk, I can carry, I have no-one but a husband and myself to look after (and he does the shopping too), so like Cat I avoid disporportionate delivery charges, and like Pickle I prefer to buy what I can see and take home without delay.

I hate shopping. I tend to go either realy early or late to avoid the rush. I woulld shop online, but judging by the iffy quality of veg and other fresh produce, I feel safer picking my own, lemons, or whatever. And like Cat adn Sophie say, I feel uncomfortable with paying extra to have stuff delivered.

I am fortunate that I can walk to the local shops for most of my immediate needs.

However, Asda does offer online shopping delivery in my area and also has some very good deals from time to time.

The nearest store is about 15 miles away, and petrol costs over £6 a gallon, so my car would have to do over 60mpg to make it cheaper to drive when delivery costs are as low as £3. Unfortunately it does nowhere near this, so delivery is the cheapest option for specific items.

I have, however, hit a ‘gotcha’ with their delivery service.
Although you can refuse substitutions (very sensible if you are for instance shopping for wine from a particular vineyard) there is nothing to refuse a part delivery.
I ordered 24 packs of 4 tins of Branston beans (the maximum allowed) – a really good ‘rollback’ deal at £1 for 4 tins – then padded the order out by £1 to £25 (minimum order) then padded again to £50 because I had a free delivery voucher for orders over £50.
When the order turned up it had the padding items (5 * 4 packs of beer + 1 bottle of sauce) but no baked beans, which at 24 * 4 packs was the bulk of the order.
I rejected the order after discussion with the driver, and found that there was no suitable option on his computer system. He said ‘damaged’ was the nearest option.

I have written to Asda to explain the problem, they have kindly reinstated the free delivery token and I have re-ordered.
My email is also being passed up the chain hopefully for more consideration.
I also put a note in the delivery instructions asking them to contact me if they could only make a part delivery to avoid me having to reject the order.

The new order has just turned up.
There were only 19 packs of beans (all they had at the time) and I had not been contacted, but I considered that there were enough to justify accepting the order.

However I would like to see two options available for online ordering.

(1) an option to request online that a part order is not delivered without first confirming that the missing items are not essential.

(2) An option to drop off the rest of a part order next time a delivery van is in the area without an extra delivery charge.

Asda already have a sensible icon when booking the delivery which shows when a van is expected to be in your area, thus allowing you to help them to be more efficient.

So for me online shopping is for specific non-perishable items on offer such as wine, beer and baked beans which can be bought in bulk and then stored long term.
I also bulk buy special offers from our local Lidl.

For perishable goods I shop locally so that I can see what I am buying.



Is Branstons beans REALLY better (?) than Heinz that the cheapest I cd
find anywhere was 37.5p a tin e415g subject to a minimum purchase of
Waitrose own has better texture but can’t beat Heinz on sauce.