While population growth was a factor, most of the increase occurred. Before the pandemic bankrupted thousands of establishments, the U.S. restaurant industry. UU.
It grew by 3 to 4 percent a year. Delivery sales increased approximately twice that rate (from 7 to 8 percent). While population growth was a factor, most of the increase came at the expense of the grocery sector, as millennials and Generation Z preferred the convenience of prepared meals. Ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant from an app on your phone may seem like a distinctly modern phenomenon.
However, food delivery has a history that goes back much further than the era of smartphones. A couple of members of Italian royalty in the 19th century are considered to have been the first pizza delivery customers. And in the 130 years since that fateful time, the history of food delivery has largely reflected broader historical trends. Wars, technological advances, and changing ways of working and working have played a role in determining how and when people order food to be delivered.
The last-mile food and grocery delivery industry is set to grow as the shift from physical outlets to online retail continues. Last-mile delivery is no longer just about transporting products from the warehouse to consumers, but about meeting customer demand and experience. Customer behavior and expectations have changed in recent years, testing the way last-mile delivery operators operate. Operators focus on creating lasting and attractive relationships with customers and on addressing their specific demands, such as contactless delivery and curbside pickup.
Delivery isn't just for the pizza place down the street anymore. Web-based services and apps can now put a variety of fresh foods, prepared foods and everything else on customers' doorsteps, changing our pre-existing understanding of access to food. Food now meets people where they are. Digital access to food could be a game-changer for people struggling with physical barriers to access food, including those living in uninvested areas historically defined as “food deserts” and people who face mobility issues or time limitations.
But, at the same time, there are few evaluations at the neighborhood level on the presence of digital food services and on whether those service maps align with the communities most in need. The results of this analysis affirm the enormous opportunity that digital food services have to feed more people, save time for consumers and open up new business opportunities within the food industry. However, large delivery zones alone will not address food insecurity. Issues such as affordability, digital connectivity and land use can restrict the benefits of these emerging services for the entire economy.
We explore the system-wide domino effects of these last-mile transformations in a complementary summary. As we discovered in previous research on measuring access to food, the geography of digital access to food across the country has been a black box. Nationwide statistics, such as online grocery market share, consumer surveys, and U.S. expansion.
UU. The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) SNAP online shopping pilot program during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests a certain level of ubiquity. However, digital access to food is determined, first and foremost, by the delivery zones of private companies, which are not publicly published. Models that assume the availability of delivery within a given mileage radius of supermarket chains known for selling food online are an insufficient approach.
Not all stores have the same delivery space, and these fingerprints are often communicated to consumers at the zip code level. In addition, as warehousing and logistics evolve, not all food delivery depends on the basic structure of food retail. The vast majority (93%) of the U.S. population has access to food through at least one of the four platforms.
Most people who have access to home delivery have extensive options; half of Americans live in places served by the four companies we analyzed and another 32% have access to three of the four companies we analyzed. While our supplementary report on the broader impacts of digital access to food explores issues and concerns related to market concentration, these delivery data show that there is competition in a large number of U.S. neighborhoods. In a nutshell, most Americans have options when it comes to buying groceries online.
Larger metropolitan areas have particularly strong digital access to food (Figure. In medium-sized metropolitan areas with populations of between 250,000 and 500,000 inhabitants, 96% of people have access to at least one delivery option and 24% have access to the four options analyzed. These numbers increase in larger metropolitan areas, and 99% of people living in very large metropolitan areas (those with a population of more than 1 million) have access to home food delivery. Especially in the most populated places, Americans have a variety of options for digital access to food; nearly three-quarters (74%) of the population in large metropolitan areas can choose between all four.
Among the 10 most populated metropolitan areas, between 99 and 100% of the population has access to at least one delivery option (Figure. In each of these areas, a plurality of the population has access to the four delivery options. By contrast, some midsize metropolitan areas, such as Duluth, Minnesota. Have coverage as low as 58%.
Only 37% of people living in rural areas have access to even one of four delivery services. To better understand the overlap between delivery data and food deserts, we used the USDA Food Access Research Atlas (formerly known as the Food Desert Locator) to identify 10,126 census districts across the country that face significant access challenges in the traditional food retail environment. This data set defined by the USDA includes low-income census districts where more than 100 housing units lack vehicle access and live more than half a mile from the nearest supermarket, or where many residents are more than 20 miles from the nearest supermarket. Together, these areas are home to 13.6% of the country's population, or approximately 44.3 million people.
To compare the delivery data included in zip codes, we translated the ZIP Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA) into census districts using the Census Bureau's ZCTA relationship files. Our analysis revealed that 90% of people living in these low-income, low-access areas have at least one option for digital access to food, and 44% of residents have access to the four options analyzed. Digital access to food is likely to be a particularly viable option in metropolitan areas, which have even stronger delivery coverage in their food deserts. There is at least one digital option for accessing food for the 96% of the population that lives in food deserts in medium-sized metropolitan areas.
Population participation reaches 99% in very large metropolitan areas. In addition, digital access to metropolitan food can also offer consumers options for residents of the food desert with digital connectivity. For example, in very large metropolitan areas, 79% of people living in food deserts live within the delivery zone of the four companies analyzed. However, even with delivery services available in most food deserts, emerging technology is far from being a universal solution.
Of the 10,126 low-income and low-access zones defined by the USDA, 759 do not have digital access options to food and those areas are home to more than 2.9 million people. More than 84 percent of these areas without birth coverage are in rural and micropolitan areas, and the remaining 119 in metropolitan areas. We also discovered that another 652 areas have varied availability, meaning that part, but not all, of the population lives within a delivery zip code. Based on our methodology, we estimate that nearly 4.5 million residents of traditionally defined food deserts lack access to delivery options.
The Seattle metropolitan area is emblematic of these national patterns. Known for its innovation-focused industries and, in general, for its high level of education, it's not surprising that the center of the Pacific Northwest has remarkably high delivery coverage overall, as 99.7% of the total population lives in places with at least one delivery option. This general coverage benefits the region's 55 traditionally defined food deserts, each of which has at least one delivery option. And in all but 15 of these desert food areas, more than 90% of the population has access to the four delivery options analysed.
The net result is that delivery services can bring food to 320,000 residents of traditionally defined food deserts in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area. Just as living within a certain geographical proximity to a grocery store doesn't mean that someone has perfect access to food in the traditional food system, not everyone who lives in a delivery area has perfect digital access to food. That is especially the case for the approximately 17 million American households that did not have mobile or domestic broadband service before the pandemic began. While not adopting broadband can be due to many fundamental causes, such as breaches in physical infrastructure, high prices, lack of computing devices, or a deficit in digital skills, the end result is a direct barrier to buying food online.
In general, digital food delivery services are more common in American neighborhoods than broadband subscriptions. In all districts, the population served by at least one delivery zone is 93%, but only 86% of households have broadband subscriptions. This still allows the vast majority of brochures to include a combination of multiple food delivery options and high rates of broadband adoption; these are the places most likely to have seamless digital access to food. However, the combination of digital and broadband food gaps creates two types of neighborhoods with few resources and low broadband adoption.
The most extreme are places with low delivery coverage and low broadband adoption, which are usually neighborhoods with a lower population density. In these locations, expanding distances between housing units increases the cost per mile of delivering broadband and food. However, because the food service map is relatively stronger, the most typical case of lack of resources are neighborhoods with food options but with low broadband adoption. These are neighborhoods with a high potential for digital solutions for access to food if broadband adoption rates increase.
When analyzing the potential of digital strategies for access to food to close gaps in the traditional food retail environment, neighborhoods with little physical access, low broadband adoption and high pre-existing delivery coverage stand out. Cross-sectoral strategies to increase broadband adoption and access to food could have the greatest impact on these communities. Figure 8 shows the distribution of broadband adoption rates between low-income and low-access areas (i.e.,. Professionals should consider prioritizing the 7,421 areas (orange) with broadband adoption lower than the national rate for specific cross-sectoral pilot programs.
The following maps provide a view of the digital access to food environment in the country's 384 metropolitan areas by combining indicators of traditional access gaps (food deserts) with measures of household broadband adoption rates and delivery coverage. Broadband adoption and digital access to food in metropolitan areas Select a metropolitan area from the drop-down menu below and use the slider to show digital access to food. Food insecurity is a persistent obstacle to universal public health and economic prosperity. The data in this summary affirms the enormous potential offered by digital food services to address this barrier.
More than 90% of the national population can now access digital food delivery, with access rates nearly universal in the largest metropolitan areas. However, new physical technologies and digital services alone will not solve food insecurity. Local, state and federal leaders, together with their industry partners, must consider how to reform complementary public policies to ensure that the digital food system is accessible to all, provides the kind of high-quality food options that people need and want, and builds a stronger food economy for workers and business owners. This requires addressing the prerequisites for access to digital delivery, such as the adoption of broadband and the ownership of digital devices, as well as the emerging environmental, economic and social impacts of this new system.
Affordability of homes is an immediate priority. Food delivery brings value to many consumers, but rising prices will only make delivery even more out of reach for many food-insecure households. Broadband has similar cost barriers, as price is often cited as the main reason why households don't subscribe to fixed or wireless services. Policymakers and professionals should be willing to experiment with price subsidies, such as the SNAP online shopping pilot program and the new Affordable Broadband Connectivity Program, to see how the two interrelate to extend digital access to food to those most in need.
Digital skills and access to devices are similar concerns. For decades, researchers and advocates of digital equity have clearly communicated how a lack of digital skills or barriers to purchasing devices can keep many people disconnected from the Internet and its opportunities. These results suggest that the same skill and equipment deficits that are evident in lower rates of broadband adoption in many traditionally defined food deserts could become an obstacle to people and communities being healthier. Policy makers in broadband and nutrition spaces should work together to address these gaps.
Extensive, low-density developmental patterns are also an important consideration. Digital food systems work within the built environment established in a given community, and since the density of food suppliers and consumers is higher in larger metropolitan areas, it's no surprise that those neighborhoods currently have the greatest number of delivery options. This creates structural advantages for residents of those densely built places, while potentially limiting the adoption of digital services for residents of isolated or low-density places. The relationship between population density and digital services could also have knock-on effects on the miles traveled in vehicles, both for people and for the delivery people who serve them.
Finally, professionals and researchers must continue to study how the digital food economy is affecting regional business environments. Food services, restaurants and retail are huge employers across the country (13.8 million workers in total), and many more work in the agricultural, processing, wholesale and transportation components of the industry. Food is also an area open to entrepreneurship, in particular to the retail sector. As digital services continue to increase their share of total retail food sales, it is imperative to track the evolution of the overall industrial ecosystem.
Elements such as opportunities for small businesses within digital platforms, access to financial capital, and the conditions and opportunities of the workforce should be monitored. These are just a subset of the main problems that arise when industrial and technological transformation at this scale takes place in a fundamental economic sector, such as food. We explore many of these conditions within the digital food system in greater detail in a supplementary summary. The rise of this new component of the food system promises to address food insecurity on the scale that the United States needs, but digital innovations alone won't solve many long-standing problems.
It's time for regulators, local professionals, and industry leaders to develop strategies that harness digital services to build a healthier future for all. Not only should delivery times be tight (no one wants to sit around all day waiting for food to arrive), but orders must arrive on time. Automating order fulfillment, from the collection and storage of food in the warehouse or place of dispatch, to the driver, can significantly reduce the costs related to fulfilling orders and, subsequently, shipping rates. The platform offers a quick option for retailers looking to add online grocery delivery solutions to their list of services.
Other technology that allows you to skip the line are meal kits or the use of a grocery delivery service, which makes it much easier to order regular food. Barring these changes, pay-per-delivery is likely to continue to decline in real terms as platforms become more efficient and facilitate more total deliveries per hour. Integrating the right technology will provide much-needed transparency and accuracy, and will increase satisfaction with a company's grocery delivery services. Scheduled grocery delivery: While the average grocery delivery service used to be the next day or later, more and more chains are looking to offer same-day delivery service to better compete with major grocery stores.
More and more grocery stores are offering shoppers a branded grocery delivery app where they can not only buy food, but also compare the shipping rate for each service at checkout, track their order, save their shopping list, and even communicate directly with supermarket staff. The tremendous growth of digital food services, ranging from grocery pickup and delivery to meal kits and delivery to restaurants, is redefining the way Americans get their food. Deliverers must complete a certain number of deliveries per hour for the economy to be favorable to them. Rappi, based in Bogotá (Colombia), is an example of a multivertical delivery application that combines food delivery with other procedures (through services such as RappiFavor or RappiCash), while Uber Eats and DoorDash have begun to explore the possibility of stacking orders as part of their food offerings.
Their enormous infrastructure and delivery networks give them a clear advantage as a grocery delivery service by having an internal fleet already configured and ready to send customers wherever they are. Many grocery stores are also starting to offer prepared foods, such as salads and sandwiches, which blurs the line between a restaurant and a grocery delivery service. Its success is due to its exceptional service and selection, along with the ability to offer attractive prices and competitive grocery delivery services. Mobility and e-commerce companies are considering last-mile food and grocery delivery services as a future growth path and are trying to incorporate any last-mile service into their portfolios.