Consumers spend less money on sweet and desserts when they do their food shopping online in comparison to in-store, according to a new study.
Online grocery shopping has experienced a boom in recent years, and to investigate how the shopping habits have changed as a result of this rise in popularity, investigators conducted a study involving 137 primary household shoppers in Maine and 5,573 total transactions from 2015-2017.
The team discovered that the participants spent more money, purchased more items and spent less on desserts and sweets - or candy - when they shopped online as opposed to in-store, with in-store shoppers spending an average of $2.50 (£1.80) more per transaction on sweet treats.
"When study participants were shopping online, they spent about 44 percent more per transaction, and they purchased a greater number and variety of items compared to when they shopped in-store," said lead author Laura Zatz, Department of Nutrition and Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "We also found that shopping online was associated with reduced spending per transaction on candy, cold or frozen desserts, and grain-based desserts like cookies and cake."
On the flipside, the researchers found no difference between online and in-store when it came to spending on sugary drinks and sweet and salty snacks, and suggested that these products may not as much of an impulse buy as originally thought.
In conclusion, Dr Zatz said, "With more people buying their groceries online, it will be really important to understand how that impacts the nutritional profile of the foods they purchase.
"Encouragingly, our results suggest that online grocery shopping is associated with reduced spending on several unhealthy items. However, we'll want to monitor shopping patterns to make sure sophisticated online marketing tactics, like personalized pop-up ads, don't override that."
The findings were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.