Consumer packaged companies in the US, including food manufacturers, are "under-estimating" the potential of the online channel and are no ready to exploit the growth of the sector, research from Deloitte has claimed.

Analysts at Deloitte surveyed shoppers, as well as executives and senior managers in the consumer packaged goods industry, about their expectations for the growth of the online channel.

Executives expect online CPG sales to increase 35% in the next 12 months and by 76% in the next three years. However, consumers say their online purchases will jump by almost two-thirds in the next year - and more than double in the next three.

"Increasingly, consumers desire the convenience of the online channel to purchase their groceries," said Pat Conroy, vice chairman and consumer products sector leader at Deloitte. "Although consumers are changing their behaviour, CPG companies are not as prepared as the data suggests they should be to take full advantage of this growing opportunity. The importance of e-commerce to CPG companies has not, in most cases, translated into a fully-developed strategy for capitalising on this channel."

Deloitte also claimed there was a "disconnect" between the belief of executives surveyed that saw online as a "strategic" opportunity - and the "readiness of their companies to execute".

The study said 92% of executives agreed e-commerce was a "strategic sales channel" but only 43% thought their company had a "clear, well-understood digital commerce strategy".

Conroy added: "To successfully capitalise on the e-commerce channel, there are a number of critical steps CPG companies can take. Executives first need to establish a clear and well-understood digital commerce strategy. They should collaborate with retailers and social media platforms, and build a single view of the consumer. In tandem with that approach, they need to foster and build a talent base within their organization that includes digital commerce skill-sets."

The US online grocery sector has developed more slowly than in markets in Europe like the UK and France.

However, retailers including Ahold are building their online operations, while specialists like New York-based FreshDirect have secured a foothold in local markets.

The Deloitte study included twenty minute web-based surveys of 43 CPG industry executives and senior managers.

Further, the Deloitte study included twenty minute web-based surveys of 2,040 adults, aged between 21 and 70 years old.