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Online food shopping is taking off

The fridge is empty, but the shops are shut, or you’ve no time to battle the supermarket queues? Online food shopping is often a brilliant answer for busy people, but also for people who aren’t mobile, through age, illness or disability. But only if they live in a locality which is supplied by one of the online supermarkets. It might not be the greatest shopping experience, but then again you don’t have to carry heavy shopping bags.

Online grocery shopping is still somewhat of a niche market in Germany for example and the UK. In the UK online grocery shopping accounts for only about 3.2% of all grocery shopping. But the market is growing. The German economics magazine "Der Handel" reports that around a third of consumers says they’ would be interested in shopping online and having their groceries delivered. More and more suppliers are entering the market, in Germany they tend to be regional and to be meeting with varying success.

You can buy food online in two ways:

You order in the online shop of one of the well-known supermarkets. In Germany that’s Real, Rewe, Globus or Edeka. In the UK most of the big bricks-and-mortar supermarkets, eg, Waitrose and Tesco, have an online shop. You can sometimes pick up your purchases yourself or have it delivered to your door at a time chosen by you.

You can buy from a purely online shop (eg, allyouneed.de, amorebio.de, gourmondo.de, or in the UK Orcado) and have your purchases delivered to your door or sent via a parcel service.

Read the small print

Before you roll out your virtual shopping trolley, it’s wise to read through the customer information and the terms and conditions of business. These can differ quite widely from store to store. Things to check are whether there’s a minimum order amount to qualify for free delivery, how you book your delivery slot and whether there are service charges, or extra charges for heavy deliveries. You might choose to pick up your shopping in-store, or alternatively have it delivered to your home. For home deliveries you can specify a time when you know you’ll be home to pop those frozen products straight in the freezer. If your shopping is coming by courier, you must expect to wait a couple of days.

In Germany, some online stores will not supply foods which need to be kept chilled or frozen; some stores charge extra to deliver this type of food. This will differ from country to country; in the UK for example it’s no problem. You also need to check how you’ll be able to pay, whether your debit or credit cards will be accepted and whether there’s an extra charge. Another thing most people want to know is how specific you can be about picking fresh fruit and vegetables. Can you specify, for example, big apples or small ones, ripe bananas or green ones. Once you’ve got all this information, the only way to really find out what the service of an on-line store is like is by testing it.

Source: Hedda Thielking, www.aid.de