LONDON: Amid dire warnings that Britain is waddling towards an obesity crisis, new research predicts that a growing number of consumers are set to abandon even the mild exertion of pushing a junk-food-laden trolley around a supermarket.

Researcher IGD forecasts that online grocery sales will hit £5 billion ($10.1bn; €7.1bn) by 2012. In addition, says its survey, 10% of shoppers are likely to remain on the couch and never venture into a supermarket, preferring to order their family-sized meals for one via the PC.

Currently just 2% of British grocery purchases are made online. The study estimates this will rise to marginally over 3% by 2012.

Comments IGD spokesman Gavin Rothwell: "Recent social and technological changes now mean that logging-on for the weekly shop is rapidly becoming routine for ever-greater numbers of Britons."

Retailers, however, believe growth in grocery shopping on the web will be even more robust, doubling within three years.

The UK's biggest supermarket chain, Tesco saw its online grocery sales climb by around 30% last year, around 5% of the company's entire British business.

It is planning to drive web shopping further with the opening of online-only stores. Ceo Sir Terry Leahy believes the move is an environmentally friendly one that cuts down on the number of individual supermarket trips by car.

Meanwhile, Jason Gissing, co-founder of Ocado, which manages online shopping for upscale supermarket chain Waitrose, says: "For a huge percentage of people grocery shopping is a pain - they are buying the same stuff every week.

"They can do that online and add something interesting from a local deli or bread shop."

IDG's survey reveals that more than 40% of shoppers said they would use specialist stores to buy at least part of their weekly food shop.

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff