Here's why groceries are the biggest untapped e-commerce opportunity

At $US600 billion a year in sales, food and beverage is by far the largest retail category in the US by a wide margin. However, it’s also the category that has been the least disrupted by e-commerce; less than 1% of food and beverage sales currently occur online, according to BI Intelligence’s estimates.

But shopping habits are changing, and niche online grocery services that compete on convenience and selection are gaining traction. Meanwhile tech giants like Amazon are fronting the cost of expensive delivery infrastructure that has so far held back grocery e-commerce.

In an in-depth report, BI Intelligence looks at why the grocery business has proved so challenging to e-commerce companies — from consumer reluctance to complicated and expensive logistics — and what new strategies e-commerce startups and big-name tech companies are pursuing to push more grocery sales online. Between 2013 and 2018, online grocery sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.1%, reaching nearly $US18 billion by the end of the forecast period. For comparison, offline grocery sales will rise by 3.1% annually during the same period.

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Here are some of the key findings explored in the report:

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