THE on-demand food delivery industry demonstrated its potential after its services were called upon extensively during the pandemic, with usage now expected to surge from a low base in 2019, Maybank Kim Eng said in a report.

“With the ban on dine-in services, more food merchants are signing up with delivery platforms such as GrabFood, Foodpanda and Deliveroo,” it said.

Food e-commerce is also expected to help small food and beverage companies ride out periods when their customers cannot dine in restaurants, it added.

In an e-mail to BusinessWorld in response to queries, Maybank Kim Eng analyst Lee Ju Ye said the pandemic offers lessons for businesses and will drive investment in e-commerce channels.

“The Philippines still faces limitations with regard to technology adoption, last-mile delivery capability and online payment systems,” she said.

Ms. Lee has noted that big companies have started to boost their online presence, citing Jollibee Food Corp., which has teamed up with food aggregators Foodpanda Group and Grab Philippines, as well as Robinsons Supermarket Corp. which has partnered with Metromart.

Shailesh Baidwan, president of digital payments firm PayMaya Philippines, Inc. told BusinessWorld earlier that the company has taken note of a rise in digital transactions for retail outlets like groceries, bricks-and-mortar restaurants, smaller online food specialty stores, and fresh and frozen product suppliers which have started accepting orders online.

Maybank Kim Eng said the Philippines has among the lowest e-commerce penetration rates in the region at about 4%, which is similar to Indonesia’s. The corresponding rates for the rest of the region are 4.4% for Thailand, 4.7% for Malaysia, 9% for Singapore, 13% for China and 30% for South Korea.

Ms. Lee said there is still “much room” for growth in Philippine e-commerce even when social distancing measures are removed.

“There would be many consumers who shifted to the online platform for the first time and as they grow accustomed to shopping online during the lockdown period, they may continue to do so when the lockdown ends,” Ms. Lee said. — Luz Wendy T. Noble