Online Food Sales in the UK

UK Food Sales: eCommerce Share Still Above Pre-Covid Levels

The corona pandemic brought along an unprecedented eCommerce boom. While other segments suffered after the pandemic heights, the food market remained strong. Online channels continue to be increasingly important in UK food retail.

Article by Lucia Laurer | September 26, 2023

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant changes to the landscape of global retail markets, helping eCommerce to soar to new heights between the years 2019 and 2021. During this period, revenues generated from eCommerce in the UK increased above the pre-Covid average, with an especially impressive growth of 22.6% year-on-year in 2020, reaching a total of US$149.1 billion, according to Statista Market Insights. The hype leveled off in 2022, reflecting the overall economic instabilities brought about by Russia’s war in Ukraine and subsequent supply chain issues and high inflation. Overall eCommerce revenues in the UK dropped by -11% to US$132.7 billion in 2022. While this dip may have raised questions about the sustainability of eCommerce's meteoric rise, the food segment in the UK eCommerce market showed to be resistant, shining with rising eCommerce revenues through 2022.

The Surging eCommerce Food Market

Before the pandemic, the UK eCommerce market for food was relatively immature. Yet it experienced unprecedented growth during the pandemic, outpacing the overall eCommerce market and all other eCommerce segments in terms of growth. In 2020, online revenues from food sales increased by an astonishing 60% year-on-year. The second fastest-growing eCommerce segment in the UK – beverages – reached a year-on-year growth of only 38%. What also sets the food market apart is its resilience: It did not collapse in 2022 but instead continued to grow, increasing its revenues by another 2%.

Data from the UK Office for National Statistics shows that the eCommerce food segment did not only grow revenue-wise, but its importance in overall food retail grew as well:

Share of Food Retail Sales Made Online in the United Kingdom, January 2018 - June 2023

Online Share of UK Food Sales – With 8.5% Still Above pre-Covid Levels

The data reveals a significant upward trend in the share of online sales in overall food retail, especially during the height of the pandemic between mid-2020 and mid-2021. During this period, online sales accounted for over 11% of total food retail sales, demonstrating the increasing reliance on online platforms for grocery shopping. The online share in overall food retail sales had more than doubled between pre-pandemic April 2018 and February 2021. While there was a slight decline after February 2021, the eCommerce share in UK food sales remained more than three percentage points above pre-COVID levels. This indicates a lasting impact on consumer behavior, as many have continued to embrace the convenience and safety of online food shopping.

The Future of Online Food Sales in the UK

Looking ahead, it is evident that the growth of online food sales in the UK is far from over. The sustained online share, even after the peak of the pandemic, highlights a fundamental shift in how consumers perceive and use online grocery shopping. Up until 2027, Statista Market Insights estimates revenue growth in the UK online food market to be constantly above the overall eCommerce market average. The analysts expect the UK online food market to generate revenues of US$17.6 billion by 2027. Retailers and eCommerce platforms are likely to continue investing in enhancing the online food shopping experience, making it more accessible and convenient for consumers.