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Lack of Trust in Cold Chain Hurts Online Grocery Sales

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Survey says shoppers are leery of frozen products arriving thawed, or refrigerated items losing their chill, affecting online grocery sales. Is it costing you money?

A significant percentage of consumers don’t trust retailers’ online shopping programs to deliver frozen and refrigerated foods in good condition. That may be costing you money.

An exclusive survey by Suzy ( FR Buyer suggests that retailers and brands may be losing sales because online shoppers worry that perishables don’t receive adequate temperature protection after leaving the store.


The survey, run in late November by New York-based research firm Suzy, analyzed responses from 1,000 consumers who answered questions about their online grocery shopping habits. The survey was completed in 19 hours, and the responses were revealing.

The 44% of consumers who do not shop for groceries online said they don’t trust frozen or refrigerated items to arrive in good shape. And there may be good reason for that; of those who do shop online, 23% say that frozen foods arrive thawed more than 20% of the time.

These did not appear to be key “make or break” factors when it comes to buying online, but it seems reasonable that these perceived problems could cut into sales of perishables. Let’s go through some of the data to see where these factors fit into the overall buying behavior of consumers studied by Suzy.

Some 54% of respondents said they had shopped online for groceries at least once during the previous three months. Another 44% said they had not done so, and 3% could not recall. Of those who had made online grocery purchases, men reported doing so more often than women (59% vs. 50%).

Online grocery shopping proved most popular among respondents aged 35-54, with 62% of this group stating that they order groceries online. 54% of female shoppers and 46% of male shoppers agreed that online shopping is more convenient.

Suzy also asked online grocery purchasers whether they preferred delivery or pick-up in-store. Here, 38% opted for delivery, 24% chose pick-up and the remaining 38% said they used both types of service.

Respondents who use both types of service made up 42% of the total. Within this group, 34% preferred pick-up and 24% opted for delivery.

So what were the key motivators and drawbacks for shoppers who do online grocery shopping? Here are the percentages of respondents agreeing with the statements below:

—49% It is more convenient.

—48% It is safer (COVID).

—38% It is more expensive.

—32% Product substitutions made are not satisfactory more than 20% of the time.

—23% I worry that someone will steal groceries delivered to my door.

—23% Frozen foods arrive thawed more than 20% of the time.


Now let’s look at the answers provided by respondents who do not shop online:

—63% It is important to me to select my own meat and produce.

—56% I prefer to shop in stores.

—44% I don’t trust delivery of frozen or refrigerated items to arrive in good shape when online. shopping.

—35% Buying online is more expensive than shopping on your own.


Suzy is a real-time market research platform which works with 200+ consumer and retailer brands and has a panel of more than one million consumers. It helps organizations make decisions faster than traditional market research, with the ability to target and re-target consumers in real time to get actionable insights in minutes.

In my initial conversation with the company, I set forth a quickly thought-up survey on vegetarian food labeling, and had hundreds of responses in about 15 minutes. Blown away, I chatted with the team at length and they agreed to a more formal survey, which I report on above.

Suzy’s recent case histories include work with a major frozen breakfast brand, which had been asked by a retailer to provide insights on shopper perception as to the best location within the freezer aisle for a new private label line. Within five hours, Suzy provided consumer data for use by the retailer, which estimated the benefit of the research at $3.5 million.


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Warren Thayer

Warren Thayer

Warren is the Editorial Director & Managing Partner for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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