Coronavirus has transformed online take-up in the grocery industry and evidence is growing that these elevated levels are likely to persist. 

UK online grocery penetration has doubled during the Covid-19 lockdown to around 13%, with the big supermarket groups all reporting sharply increased growth in their delivery services. 

On top of industry data showing the change in food buying patterns, analysts at UBS say their research indicates the higher level of online grocery use are “likely here to stay, though the dramatic growth will likely normalise”.

Over the past three months, the Swiss bank has been tracking consumer’s intentions in terms of spend and behaviour on a range of sectors and sub-sectors. 

Using these surveys, the analysts have been trying to gauge intentions of consumer spending in aggregate as well as channel preference both in the near term and as things begin to normalise and lockdown conditions are lifted.

The data shows 88% of those households shopping online say that their grocery spend online will remain the same or increase in the coming fortnight, 71% of those said they will shop online as often or more after the Covid-19 situation improves. 

What’s more, 41% of consumers now think the Covid-19 crisis is only going to improve in 2021 compared to 13% back in April.

Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO) and J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) are the best positioned of the grocers, the UBS analysts believe, reiterating their ‘buy’ recommendations for both FTSE 100 groups.

The UBS Evidence Lab research of grocery app download data shows both companies have the highest overall share, and while share of grocery shopping app downloads of the Big Four grocers have been falling back to pre-pandemic levels, the high ranks on the iPhone App Store in March/April suggest the pair now have a significant installed base. 

While grocery app downloads are normalising, there are “two exceptions that support our views on growing Online 2.0”, namely that Sainsbury’s SmartShop and ChopChop app downloads and those of Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO) Zoom both remain “consistently high”.