10 for 10: Instacart’s Food Trend Hall of Fame￼
Today is Instacart’s 10th birthday! When we launched the app in 2012, we made online grocery shopping affordable and accessible to families across North America. And today, we’re proud that Instacart has become such a household hero for millions of people and families.
With the world’s largest grocery catalog at our fingertips, we’ve had a front row seat to the food trends and eye-popping stats that illustrate how people are eating, drinking and shopping over the past decade. From saving customers hundreds of millions of hours they would have otherwise spent grocery shopping, to delivering 859 million bananas, to witnessing the trends that both were short-lived fun and that changed how we shop forever, our data archives paint a vibrant picture. As we thought about how to mark our birthday, we asked ourselves, what were the standout moments, insights and trends from the past ten years that sum up a decade of online grocery delivery?
But before we dive into the digital aisles, we need to call out the most important insight of all. While we’ve built a one-stop shopping platform, none of this would exist without our incredible retailer partners. From our first few partners to the more than 750 and growing retail banners across more than 70,000 stores today, these are the partnerships that fuel the vast selection and choice that we can offer to customers. We’re proud to partner with retailers that represent more than 80% of the U.S. grocery industry.
We scoured nearly 3 billion grocery items from more than 750 retailers and discovered a veritable hall of fame of food trends – one for every year we’ve been around. Let us take you on a decade-long journey of online grocery delivery and the food trends that have influenced our palates and changed the way we eat:
- Still or sparkling? There’s only one answer. In the fall of 2016, things took a turn for sparkling water with the overwhelming rise in popularity of La Croix. The flavored sparkling water phenomenon was undoubtedly the biggest grocery trend to rock our carts and quench our thirst, becoming the choice beverage for millions of consumers. In fact, 1 out of 7 Instacart orders included flavored sparkling water in September 2016, and since then we haven’t turned back. Instacart currently delivers more than 3,000 SKUs of the bubbly goodness – a whopping 129x increase compared to the earliest sparkling water days in 2013.
- The ‘Tok’ of the town. When recipes go viral on TikTok and in our kitchens, their main ingredients almost immediately show up in grocery carts, and we have the receipts to prove it. Social media has become a major source for food inspiration, with trends like Baked Feta Pasta, Salmon Rice Bowl, and Nature’s Cereal experiencing some of the largest spikes in Instacart orders that included their main ingredients — all nearly doubling during peak trending moments. While some viral #FoodTok recipes may be a “flash in the pan,” it’s evident consumers are looking beyond classic cookbooks and turning to social media more than ever for meal inspiration.
- Produce precision. We’re all picky about our produce, and avocados are one of the most often commented on – with 5 million shopper instructions about avocados logged over the past decade. From the exceedingly polite “feel free to pick out what looks best to you!” to the detailed “please try to find almost ripe, but not yet ripe, but not yet soft,” to the decidedly millennial “ripe af, pls and thx,” customers and shoppers have together perfected the art of communicating and picking precisely the right fruits and veggies in the digital age. And it doesn’t stop with avocados – over the past decade, customers have left 60 million instructions for shoppers with what “perfect produce” means to them.
- Raise a can. The world of alcoholic bevvies was forever changed when hard seltzers burst into carts in 2018. Over the last six years, these beloved bubbly and refreshingly boozy drinks grew an unprecedented 164x in sales, with 55X more SKUs now available via Instacart compared to July 2016. With warmer months just around the corner, we’re predicting it’ll be another buzzy year for hard seltzers as people are looking for flavorful and drinkable beverages to accompany their summertime fun.
- Nutritious is delicious. Over the past couple of years, people have prioritized their health and wellness more than ever before. Online grocery shopping has helped many achieve their personal lifestyle goals by making it easier to plan ahead and make mindful and intentional choices about the foods they purchase. In fact, According to a recent Instacart survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted online by The Harris Poll, among those who have ordered groceries online, 81% say doing so helps them make healthier choices. Further, Instacart’s latest purchase data shows that a majority (90%) of orders from grocery stores contain items from perimeter aisles – also known as the areas within the store that typically stock healthier items including produce, proteins, dairy, and grains.
- Perks of being a cauliflower. Did cauliflower sign up to become pizza, rice, pasta, or mashed potatoes, among other things? Probably not, but one thing’s for sure — cauliflower’s adaptability has shown us just how creative we can get with our vegetables. Whether the keto diet fueled this cauliflower transformation or people simply could not get enough of their favorite carb alternatives, it’s safe to say this trend has become a delicious disrupter, with sales of products made with cauliflower growing by 194% since April 2013.
“Over the past ten years, we’ve seen a lot of food and beverage trends catch on with consumers. Some trends had a brief moment in the spotlight while others disrupted the way we eat, drink, or think about food. Ten years ago, we might have laughed at the thought of eating a pizza made from cauliflower, but today, we’re wondering what else we can create with the versatile veggie. The next ten years will surely bring new trendy food and beverage items and perhaps even a new outlook on how we think about food especially as it relates to health, sustainability and eating with ethos.” – Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s Trends Expert
- Unlike any ‘udder’ milk. Today, there’s a plant-based milk product to suit nearly every taste and dietary preference. In the early days of Instacart, we delivered just 5 types of plant-based milk – almond, coconut, flaxseed, rice and soy milk — and today we deliver nearly 20 different options. Sound unbelievable? Here’s today’s plant-based milk breakdown: almond, barley, black bean, cashew, chia, coconut, flaxseed, hazelnut, hemp, macadamia, oat, pea, pecan, pistachio, quinoa, rice, sesame, soy, and walnut. Today, oat milk is proving to be the most recent fan favorite, with the share of deliveries including oat milk increasing by over 3,000% over the past 4 years.
- ‘Meat’ in the middle. Similar to the rise of plant-based milk, we’ve seen new traction for other plant-based options including meat, with brands like Impossible™ Foods and Beyond Meat becoming widely available to consumers over the past few years. These newer plant-based meat options taste just like the real deal and have helped encourage many to adopt the popular ‘reducetarian’ approach to animal products. With more and more folks cutting back on their meat intake, plant-based meats have proven to be a viable alternative that’s here to stay. In fact, Instacart currently delivers more than 1,000 SKUs of plant-based meat, an 85x increase since April 2013.
- Bon A-PET-treat. Instacart’s not just for humans — our favorite furry family members also benefit from online grocery shopping! With so many more people welcoming a furry friend into their household over the past few years, we’ve seen a marked shift in how pet supplies like food, treats, grooming products, and cat litter are becoming mainstays in people’s carts. Since April 2013, we’ve seen sales of pet products grow by 3x.
- A hot 🌶️ take on condiments. While there are many condiments that can take a boring sandwich or a bland casserole to the next level, hot sauce reigns supreme for Americans. According to Instacart purchase data, hot sauce is the most popular condiment across the largest U.S. cities — we’ve had the privilege of delivering 1.1 million gallons of the spicy goodness since 2012. That’s enough hot sauce to fill nearly 47,000 kiddie pools! And Americans’ taste for more spice hasn’t slowed – since April 2013, we’ve seen the selection of hot sauce balloon 130x from 8 SKUs available via the Instacart platform to 1,000 SKUs. Which hot sauces take the top spot? Huy Fong, the makers of the famous “rooster sauce” Sriracha, is the top hot sauce in 31 states followed by Frank’s RedHot in 14 states.
As we reflect on the past decade and look ahead to the next 10, gratitude is at the center of it all. Over the past decade, customers and shoppers have said “thank you” to each other 433 million times as they’ve chatted about their grocery orders. And nothing could be more appropriate as we celebrate our 10th birthday as we say our own thank you to our customers, retailer and brand partners, shoppers, employees, and everyone else who has been a part of our journey to reimagine the future of grocery shopping. Thank you for the loyalty, partnership, hard work and fun – we can’t wait to see what the future brings!
Purchase Data Methodology
We adjust Instacart growth percentages by the overall growth of total deliveries. Doing so removes the influence of our platform growth so we can focus on the change in consumer behavior.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Instacart from March 15-17, 2022, among 2,054 adults ages 18+, among whom 1,123 have ordered groceries online. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact [email protected].
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