Amazon.com Inc.’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods is paying off in more ways than one: the e-commerce giant is seeing a surge in online grocery shopping for basic staples like canned beans and tomato paste.
Amazon appeared unprepared for the rapid pace of sales. Of the top 100 selling Whole Foods items online, only 7 percent remain in stock on Amazon’s website, according to One Click Retail.
Online grocery purchases have been slow to take hold because of consumers’ desire to handle fresh produce before buying it. Only 4.5 percent of shoppers frequently bought groceries online in 2016, said Kurt Jetta, CEO of TABS Analytics, a consumer products research firm.
Jetta said the consumer preference for brick-and-mortar grocery shopping is showing some signs of erosion. Online grocery purchases increased 13 percent this year and Amazon, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. saw gains of 10 percent to 15 percent in online grocery sales.
“Behaviors are shifting,” he said, “but retailers have a long, long, long way to go before they can get to the necessary critical mass to be profitable selling groceries online.”