Online grocery stores

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Online grocery stores are internet-based shopping sites where people can order refrigerated, frozen, and non-perishable groceries to be delivered to their residence. Online grocery stores often have a wide variety of products and create personal shopping lists and recurring orders to make grocery shopping faster.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased access to healthy food

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved food environment

  • Improved dietary choices

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether online grocery stores increase access to healthy food or improve the community food environment. Available evidence suggests that using online grocery stores may encourage healthier eating behaviors by reducing unhealthy impulse purchases and improving the home food environment1, 2. Online grocery stores may also increase healthy food access in urban areas3. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Interviews suggest that consumers appreciate the convenience of online grocery shopping, but remain concerned about receiving inferior quality groceries4. After an initial online grocery order, individuals’ orders typically increase, especially for products that have been purchased before5

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Many online grocery stores are available nationally including Amazon Grocery, Fresh Direct, MySupermarket, Local Harvest, ShopFoodEx, GoBio!, Walmart Grocery, Safeway, and USGrocer6, 7. Some areas have developed local online food purchasing options such as the Homegrown Local Food Co-op in Orlando, Florida, an online farmers’ market that sells healthy foods for home delivery or pick-up8.

Online food hubs can also function as online grocery stores, connecting consumers and businesses with local farmers and producers who fill online orders for local produce. One example is Market Mobile in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which provides locally produced food to approximately 50,000 families each week9.


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1 Gorin 2007 - Gorin AA, Raynor HA, Niemeier HM, Wing RR. Home grocery delivery improves the household food environments of behavioral weight loss participants: Results of an 8-week pilot study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2007;4(58):1–6.

2 Huyghe 2017 - Huyghe E, Verstraeten J, Geuens M, Van Kerckhove A. Clicks as a healthy alternative to bricks: How online grocery shopping reduces vice purchases. Journal of Marketing Research. 2017;54(1):61-74.

3 Appelhans 2013 - Appelhans BM, Lynch EB, Martin MA, et al. Feasibility and acceptability of internet grocery service in an urban food desert, Chicago, 2011-2012. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2013;10(8):E67.

4 Ramus 2005 - Ramus K, Nielsen NA. Online grocery retailing: What do consumers think? Internet Research. 2005;15(3):335–52.

5 Wang 2015a - Wang RJ-H, Malthouse EC, Krishnamurthi L. On the go: How mobile shopping affects customer purchase behavior. Journal of Retailing. 2015;91(2):217-234.

6 - Boswell W. Get your groceries online: The top eight websites.

7 - The power to buy. The power to save.

8 Homegrown Coop - Homegrown Local Food Co-op: Orlando, FL.

9 CDC-HFR 2014 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Healthier food retail (HFR): An action guide for public health practitioners. 2014.