Fresh Food

Are Consumers Finally Comfortable With Digital Produce?

Chicory reports unprecedented sales of lettuce, herbs and more
Online Fresh Food Sales Soar
Photograph: Shutterstock

The unprecedented usage of digital grocery services during COVID-19 has propelled a surge in online sales of fresh, finds Chicory, a New York City-based tech firm and digital shoppable recipe marketing platform for CPG and grocery brands. While prior to the pandemic many consumers were reticent to relinquish control over choosing fresh products in-store, a new report by Chicory reports that three of the four fastest-growing categories to outperform add-to-carts by over 50% in 2021 compared to 2019 were in the fresh space.

Chicory’s signature “Get Ingredients” button can be found on over 1,500 recipe websites, including Taste of Home, Delish, and thousands of influencer food blogs. The company recently tracked the two-year add-to-cart growth of dozens of food categories using the shoppable recipes and contextual media in its network of more than 5.4 million recipes. 

Leveraging its extensive recipe network, Chicory found that add-to-carts of lettuce (boxed and bundled butterhead, iceberg, oak, romaine and other varieties) grew by 85.85% from the first quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2021.

“It’s the fastest growing produce category in Chicory’s network and demonstrates that shoppers are getting more and more comfortable with having grocery store workers pick out their produce for them,” said the company in a statement, adding that the reaction may also be the result of increased popularity of national salad chains, many of which were closed during the pandemic but have since reopened with price increases.

Add-to-carts of fresh herbs grew by 51.43% from the first quarter 2019 to the first quarter 2021, further demonstrating that shoppers are more comfortable getting whichever produce item is picked out for them, Chicory said. “It may also reflect the fact that the shift to at-home dining will remain a continued trend as consumers keep experimenting with home cooking,” the company noted.

Meat (chicken, beef and pork) add-to-carts grew by 60.19% from first-quarter 2019 to first-quarter 2021, finds Chicory. Historically a slow-growing food category for digital grocery, increased add-to-carts indicate that shoppers are becoming more comfortable receiving whichever item is chosen for them, noted Chicory.

The fourth fastest growth category in online grocery—frozen—grew by more than 67% from first quarter 2019 to first quarter 2021. Pizza, pot pies, appetizers and other frozen foods were the big winners, said Chicory, which further noted that new refrigeration technologies for delivery and curbside pickup made frozen foods are one of the fastest-growing food categories in digital grocery.

And while the U.S. is likely past the height of the pandemic, many consumers are still spending more time eating at home than before, causing an increase in convenient frozen food consumption.  

“It’s no surprise that three of the four fastest-growing food categories for online grocery ordering are fresh foods,” said Yuni Sameshima, CEO and co-founder of Chicory. “Historically, shoppers have resisted ordering these items online due to personal preference on size, shape, weight and other factors. But across the board, we’re seeing an increasing level of comfort with online ordering for three key fresh food categories, lettuce, meat and fresh herbs, and expect them to grow even further this year.”

Chicory partners with CPG brands such as Campbell’s and grocery retailers like Wakefern to serve relevant ads to consumers in the moments when they’re planning their grocery purchases. As a pioneer of shoppable recipes, Chicory creates the digital tools to take grocery shoppers from inspiration to checkout in a few clicks, the company said.



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