Comparing Online and In-Store Grocery Purchases

Laura Y. Zatz, Alyssa J. Moran, Rebecca L. Franckle, Jason P. Block, Tao Hou, Dan Blue, Julie C. Greene, Steven Gortmaker, Sara N. Bleich, Michele Polacsek, Anne N. Thorndike, Eric B. Rimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe the grocery shopping patterns of people who shopped both online and in-store and evaluate whether shoppers purchased fewer unhealthy, impulse-sensitive items online. Design: Secondary analysis of 44 weeks of grocery transaction data collected for fruit and vegetable incentive trials in 2 Maine supermarkets. Participants: A total of 137 primary household shoppers who shopped at least once in-store and online (curbside pickup) for 5,573 total transactions Main Outcome Measures and Analysis: Paired t tests and descriptive analyses compared online and in-store transactions with respect to frequency, total spending, number of items purchased, and spending on 10 food groups and 34 subgroups. Mixed-effects regression models estimated differences in online vs in-store spending on 5 unhealthy, impulse-sensitive subgroups. Results: When shopping online, participants spent 44% more per transaction ($113.58 vs $78.88, P < 0.001) and purchased more items (38.3 vs 26.6 items/transaction, P < 0.001). Compared with in-store, shopping online was associated with reduced spending per transaction on candy (−$0.65, P < 0.001), cold or frozen desserts (−$0.52, P < 0.001), and grain-based desserts (−$1.29, P < 0.001). Conclusions and Implications: Online shopping was associated with lower spending on certain unhealthy, impulse-sensitive foods. Grocery-based healthy eating initiatives might leverage online ordering platforms to increase their reach and effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-479
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • consumer behavior
  • food
  • food preferences
  • grocery
  • internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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