While it’s hard to see the bright side of things during the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic, one potential silver lining is the fact most consumers are cooking more at home. Research has shown that home cooking not only often can lead to healthier overall lifestyles, but it’s also a good life skill to teach kids.
And whether you’re taking a casual tour of social media or looking at data from any number of sources, signs today definitely point to more of us making our own food. A lot more of us.
But what specifically do the numbers say? First, that a lot of people are learning to make certain types of food for the first time.
Whether it’s something as simple as making rice…
Or something a little more complicated like making bread, interest has spiked to all time highs.
But it’s not just Google searches that are shifting, but actual purchase data of cooking equipment. According to NPD analyst Joe Derochowski, demand for gear to make food at home has jumped significantly.
According to tracking data from NPD for the week ending March 21st, purchases of bread makers were up 800% when compared to the same week a year ago. Electric rotisseries were up nearly 4 times the previous year, while pasta makers were pacing at 3 times their normal sales when compared to a year ago.
While people are learning the basics and scooping up housewares to help them prepare more food at home, they’re also looking for recipes that lets them pinch a penny or two. Chicory, a shoppable recipe app platform used by recipe publishers, has seen a spike in interest for low-cost “bowl food” like soups and stroganoff.
The table below shows a snapshot in time look at the top daily recipe views near the end of March:
What the table data tells us is that people are making comfort food that can stretch a buck, which is not all that surprising since many of us have been thrust into financial uncertainty in relatively short order.
While there are many differences between the great recession and today’s crisis, it is instructive to look at what happened then to get an idea of how behaviors changed during the downturn. Data from NPD shows those categories that saw an increase between February 2007 (pre-crisis) and February 2010 (post-crisis) were pasta dishes, bread and cereal.
In other words, not only did we look to make food that was affordable such as pasta and casseroles then, but we also consumed more carbs, which tend to be cheaper than protein-heavy foods.
And while we are once again cooking more food that will feed us more affordably, unlike the 2008 and 2009 time frame, early indicators show that recent behavior shifts might be driven in part by a desire for food self-sufficiency rather than just saving a buck. Data from Chicory shows in the chart below there’s was a massive spike in mid-March in interest in scratch cooking.
Naturally, part of the interest in making things like corn bread and cookies is due to most of us having more time on our hands, but I also have to wonder if the rapid growth in interest in things like making things like tortillas and basic bread is because some consumers worry they might have to make these staples at home for the foreseeable future.
How permanent these behavior shifts will be depend in large part on how the COVID-19 crisis resolves itself over the course of 2020-2021. My guess is the lingering effects of the Coronavirus crisis will be longer and deeper than that of the great recession and, ultimately, result in more permanent behavior changes than we saw from the last big downturn.