Online food shopping habits in Hungary

Monday, March 21, 2016

Authors: Barbara Bódi, Lajos Bognár, Gyula Kasza, Dávid Szakos

 

1. Summary

In recent years, the market segment of internet commerce has been developing intensively in Europe [6], although in Hungary, the growth rate had been lagging behind the European average for many years. A major part of the Hungarian population has only begun to show interest in the possibility of purchasing products and services online in the past five years, however, the trend is now clear in Hungary as well. While in 2012, only 35% of Hungarian internet users conducted online shopping transactions, by 2015 this ratio had increased to 47% [1]. The change in consumer habits is most clearly indicated by the fact that the percentage of regular internet users did not significantly change over the same period, it was 69% in 2012, and 72% in 2015 [3]. By comparing the two data sets it can be concluded that the increase in willingness to shop online showed a relative growth of exceptional proportions in Hungary, when compared to other EU member states. At the same time, according to the analysis of Eurostat, in 2015, food was put in the virtual shopping basket of Hungarians in only 10% of online purchases, which is far below the EU average (18%) [1]. When evaluating the results, we have to take into consideration that, in Hungary, only a very small number of webshops have foods in their portfolio, and online shops offering foods (as well) often cover only a small geographical area. Most certainly, the market share of online food purchases is expected to grow in the future, especially because of its convenient nature. According to the forecasts, the so-called consumer individualization will also grow at the same time, which could strengthen the segment of special foods (local, handcrafted and functional foods) [4].

 

2. Introduction

In connection with the expected increase in sales, the risk to society increases as well. According to current knowledge, an increasing number of infringements is expected to occur, especially in the case of foods having higher unique value and promising health ben­efits, such as dietary supplements, special purpose foods and nutritionally enriched products. Although it is explicitly prohibited by food law – Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council – in reality there are many products on the mar­ket to which healing powers are attributed by the dis­tributor or manufacturer. Regarding these products, the international experience is that compositional errors are common, and the products often contain substances not approved for human consumption or active ingredi­ents that can only be used in medicines [2], [5]. Because of all the above, special attention is paid by the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH) as well to this prod­uct category and, therefore, 345 dietary supplement samples were tested in the last two years.

In light of the expected increase, it would be import­ant to develop a monitoring system that provides a more complete range of security, because the current regulatory system was developed basically to monitor brick-and-mortar businesses. The challenge lies mainly in the fact that an online store can be set up in a mat­ter of a few hours, while it is extremely difficult to veri­fy who the real owner or operator of a given webshop is and whether they have one or more similar stores. This is especially true in the case of online stores that are registered abroad. Therefore, in many cases, it is almost impossible to monitor compliance with require­ments regarding traceability. In addition to the origin of the products, additional questions are raised about the professionalism of food storage and transportation, as well as their hygienic adequacy.

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