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The Way Young Europeans and North Americans Are Shopping For Food is Not The Same

Food is a passion for young consumers in both Western Europe and North America. But how they’re shopping for it isn’t the same…


TL;DR

  • Young consumers in both Western Europe and North America consider themselves foodies, and the majority are doing some cooking at home
  • Young Europeans favor grocery stores and supermarkets more than North Americans, who are spending more time in the aisles of big box stores
  • Online grocery shopping is more popular (and preferred) in North America

YPulse recently published our Food Shopping & Trends and Cooking & Diets reports, exploring young consumers’ relationship to food in both Western Europe and North America. And in both regions, one thing is for sure: among these gens, food is a big deal. Around three in five young consumers in both regions consider themselves foodies while the majority are doing some cooking—and enjoying it. Meanwhile, young Europeans and North Americans are both focused on eating healthier this year, and consider price above all else when choosing what to buy at the grocery store.

But as similar as their feelings about food may be, that doesn’t mean there aren’t differences in each region’s specific food culture. After all, North America is known around the world for its fast food chains (which, by the way, young Europeans are big fans of) while Western Europe (and Italy, France, and Spain, in particular) is known for having a slower, more rustic food culture. And these differences a parallelled in how they shop for food, too. Is it even possible to imagine Italy or France without conjuring images of mom and pop produce shops and local fishmongers? 

Of course, the reality isn’t quite so picturesque. But when we compare how young Europeans and North Americans are shopping for food today, it’s clear that some differences do remain, starting with where they’re shopping:

Big box stores aren’t as big of a thing in Western Europe

For both Western Europeans and North Americans, grocery stores and supermarkets are the top places they’re shopping. But unsurprisingly, the majority of North Americans are also shopping in big box stores and over a third are going to wholesale markets. Western Europeans, on the other hand, are +9pts more likely to be frequenting grocery stores and supermarkets than their peers across the Atlantic, and are far less likely to be shopping at both big box and wholesale stores. Young Europeans are also slightly more likely to be shopping at farmer’s markets, confirming the image of small, local grocers populating these Western European countries. Indeed, unlike in North America, many European cities are still stocked with a variety of smaller grocery stores, whether local or chains. Meanwhile, big box stores and “hypermarkets” are less common, owing to space constraints and Europe’s less car-reliant culture.

But there are signs that young Europeans’ relationship to big box groceries stores is changing, at least in some regions. In fact, in France, 51% of young consumers are shopping at big box stores while in Germany just 11% are. Meanwhile, both French and German consumers are the top farmer’s market goers: 24% in both regions say they shop at farmer’s markets in a typical month. YPulse recently explored young European’s top retail brands, and the list is full of German grocery chains (Edeka, REWE, and Lidl all make the list) while France’s top hypermarket chain, E.Leclerc, also made the list, indicating where their loyalties lie. 

Meanwhile, while nearly the same amount of young Europeans and North Americans say they’re shopping for groceries online in a typical month, their online shopping habits aren’t quite the same either:

Young Europeans are shopping for groceries online less than North Americans

The pandemic normalized shopping for groceries online, and led to a boom in convenient delivery apps. In fact, apps such as Germany’s Gorilla’s and the U.K.’s Dija, that promise to deliver groceries in 10 minutes, have invaded Europe in the past two years, and have become near-instant unicorns—and they’ve altered the way European consumers have shopped for decades. Even as IRL grocery stores have opened back up and the pandemic has died down, the services are continuing to expand and young Europeans are continuing to frequent them. But that said, young Europeans are still less likely to be shopping for groceries online than young consumers in North America: 72% of North Americans have shopped for groceries online compared to 64% of young Europeans.

Delivery apps were already fairly integrated into North America’s shopping habits before the pandemic, however, giving online grocery shopping a headstart in the region. But North Americans also just prefer it to in-store shopping:

North Americans are more likely to prefer online shopping than young Europeans

For young Europeans, online grocery shopping is more about convenience—and, during the pandemic, necessity—than it is about partiality. While young North Americans who shop for groceries online are split 50/50 about how they prefer to shop, twice as many young Europeans say they prefer in-store shopping to online. But, that said, 20% of 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe say they’re interested in trying it compared to 13% of North Americans. As online shopping continues to be the norm—and as fast delivery apps continue to take over Europe—it’s possible that more young Europeans will adopt the practice, too.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Food Shopping & Trends behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.