Here’s what Gen Z, millennials like — and dislike — about in-store grocery shopping

Marianne Wilson
Marianne Wilson profile picture

While many younger consumers have purchased groceries online, it is not their preferred destination when it comes to food shopping.

That’s just one of the unexpected trends in grocery shopping habits revealed in a new survey from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. The study, which was authored by Diane Badame, indicated that online grocery shopping is not a primary grocery channel for the vast majority of Gen Z and millennial shoppers. 

Gen Z households spend an average of only $85 per month purchasing groceries online, which equates to 15% of the $550 they spend monthly on groceries, according to the study. Millennial households tend to do more grocery shopping online, spending an average of $157 per month. But this is only 26% of the $615 they spend monthly on groceries, according to the study. 

In-store retailers are preferred over online because they allow shoppers the control of choosing their own produce, cuts of meat, seafood, etc., the study found. This autonomy is such a meaningful factor to Gen Z and millennial shoppers that most respondents (71%) rated this as their favorite part of in-store grocery shopping, followed by the opportunity to discover new products (56%) and enjoying the overall experience that in-store retailers offer (41%).

As to what Gen Z and millennials dislike about in-store shopping, the crowds topped the list. Long checkouts and the journey of getting to the store – including commuting and parking – were drawbacks of shopping in-store. 

The most important factors for both generations when selecting a grocery store are low prices, high-quality fresh foods, and cleanliness. The least important factors are stores’ recycling/sustainability practices, selection of ethnic and cultural foods, and selection of all-natural and organic products.

Other findings from Marshall’s “Grocery Shopping Habits of Gen Z and Millennials” are below.

• Among all Gen Z and millennial grocery shoppers, a majority like grocery shopping or do not mind grocery shopping (61% Gen Z, 59% millennials). Only a few Gen Z (16%) and millennials (17%) think of grocery shopping as a chore. And, even fewer (10%) among both groups would prefer not to grocery shop 

• Seventy-two percent of Gen Z and millennials are not willing to spend more than 20 minutes to travel to their primary grocery store. 

• Both Gen Z and millennials say in-store grocery shopping is fun. The number one reason respondents are unlikely to shop for groceries online is because they enjoy shopping in-store.

• About one-half of Gen Z and millennials dislike online shopping’s high delivery fees and the inability to choose their own items, such as produce, meat, and seafood.

• Most respondents (62% Gen Z, 61% millennials) do not subscribe to any food delivery programs, such as Blue Apron.