FreshDirect, which delivers groceries directly to customers along the East Coast (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia), has analyzed past and future online orders to spot trends in consumer purchasing habits early on, said Scott Crawford, chief merchandising officer, FreshDirect.
“As a leading online grocer, we have a unique and unmatched ability to understand the ever-changing buying habits of our customers,” said Crawford.
“The rapid increase in demand for online grocery and the boom in home cooking are squarely aligned with what our team of food experts have been seeing firsthand, both early last year and later accelerated by the pandemic.”
Online fresh food orders become the norm
A general growing comfort in ordering fresh produce online prevailed in 2020 and will hold steady in 2021, according to FreshDirect.
“As consumers still needed to buy regular fruit and vegetable grocery list items, demand for online fresh food skyrocketed,” said the online retailer, noting a 37% increase in fresh produce purchases online.
“FreshDirect witnessed an uptick in fresh food purchases and, given FreshDirect’s short, localized supply chain allowing for the freshest produce, customers have ordered perishable items online and are expected to continue to do so in 2021.”
Fresh seafood, premium cuts of meat
Demand for restaurant-quality food spiked in 2020 as the restaurant industry has experienced waves of lockdown measures.
As a results, consumers are recreating their favorite restaurant dishes – such as roasted salmon, scallops, and New York strip – at home.
According to FreshDirect, 2021 will bring increased interest in premium seafood and a greater variation in the types of seafood being cooked at home. FreshDirect has experienced a 70+% increased in seafood sales (and units) in 2020 compared to 2019.
Retailers who can demonstrate the freshness (i.e. when and where it was caught) of their seafood products will benefit the most from this trend, said the online retailer, which guarantees its seafood is delivered to consumers in less than 10 hours from the time it is packed.
On the other side of the home cooking menu, demand for premium cuts of meat is expected to remain strong in 2021. FreshDirect, which offers 250 cuts of meat to customers, experienced a 63% rise in meat sales last year vs. 2019.
“This trend is expected to hold steady after the pandemic as people realize they can make a top-quality filet mignon or New York strip at home."
Kitchen creativity and prepared meals
“With more time on their hands due to quarantine, consumers are experimenting more in the kitchen. As they get more creative with their cooking, items such as pre-cut fruits and vegetables, meal kits and exotic spices are flying off the online shelves,” said FreshDirect.
At the same time, kitchen and cooking fatigue has set in for many consumers who are increasingly looking for easy-to-prep fresh prepared meal options from Thai-style chicken to vegetable curry, according to the company, which has experienced a 178% uptick for its prepared pasta entrees.
Suburban online grocery demand
The biggest consumer trend by far, however, has been the adoption of online grocery services and that demand is expected to continue in 2021, noted FreshDirect.
The highest growth area for FreshDirect – whose operations, including its 400,000-square-foot automated fulfillment center and campus, are in New York City – has been in the surrounding suburbs, it said.
“FreshDirect’s retention has grown, indicating that many of these new customers have tried the service for the first time and have not looked back. FreshDirect expects to see additional suburban growth and a surge in online grocery ordering well into 2021,” noted the company.
These consumers are also expecting the same access to convenient and fast delivery, said FreshDirect who will be launching a microfulfillment center in the Washington D.C. metro area in the coming month to provide more customers with its same-day and Express 2-hour delivery services.