The Spoon was borne out of The Smart Kitchen Summit, our annual conference about the future of the kitchen. But analysts seem unclear as to what exactly the future of the kitchen is. Are millennials and delivery killing off the kitchen? Or is the kitchen staying put and evolving into something different?
These questions kicked off in earnest last month when investment firm UBS came out with a report titled “Is the Kitchen Dead?”, which posited that by the year 2030, delivery could replace most meals cooked at home. The people burying the knife in the back of the kitchen? Millennials (obvi). Well, not just millennials. Robots, delivery apps and virtual kitchens would all play their part in killing off the kitchen.
And if you look around today, it’s not hard to reach that same conclusion. Services like UberEats are growing rapidly. And startups like Kitchen United are launching commercial kitchens so restaurants can meet the demand for delivery.
Bolstering these trends are generational shifts. Millennials spend less on groceries and more on eating out, and they can’t identify a garlic press or roast a chicken. So, once again, millennials are ruining everything.
Or are they? Especially when it comes to the kitchen?
Our own research conducted by The Spoon last year showed that 47 percent of millennials cook at home 5 or more times per week. And a new Datassential report shows that millennials over index when it comes to the types of cooking tools used (juicers, sous vide wands, Instant Pots, etc.). So millennials use the kitchen, they just do so differently than other generations.
And thinking differently about the kitchen is what new research from the NPD Groups suggests we do (hat tip to Food Dive). David Portalatin, Vice President, Industry Advisor at NPD published a blog post yesterday titled “The American Kitchen is Alive and Thriving.” In it, Portalatin says that while restaurant spending was up in the year ending May 2018, actual visits to restaurants (which includes delivery) was flat over the same time period. He also says that restaurant meal prices are going up faster than the cost of a home cooked meal.
Portalatin goes on to write:
“In our daily research of U.S. consumers’ eating behaviors, we consistently show that four out of five meals are prepared at home, and although the relationship of in-home prepared meals versus those sourced away-from-home has been stable for a few years, we still prepare more meals at home than we did a decade ago.”
Portalatin predicts that what will happen is we will blend meals we make at home with ready-to-eat items we buy from outside the home. It’s easy to see how something like grocery-store bought meal kits fits nicely into this scenario. You’re basically buying all the ingredients to make a meal at home, just without so much of the work.
Already, grocery retailers are setting themselves up for such a blended future. Kroger purchased meal kit company Home Chef, and Albertsons owns Plated, while Walmart and Amazon (via Whole Foods) offer their own branded meal kits. This isn’t to say that meal kits will dominate every dinner, but they offer a flexible and convenient option for consumers looking to eat a complete meal at home without having to do a ton of work.
You can even see this on the hardware side as appliances like the June oven, or Tovala or the forthcoming Suvie or Brava ovens look to take over most of the work in making a meal. Right now those devices are expensive, but they will get cheaper, which will cause their own evolutionary pushes in the kitchen.
So in the end, is the kitchen dead, dying, atrophying, or is it just fine, thank you very much? The answer none and all of the above. The kitchen as older generations have known it is dying, but that’s not just because of delivery, it’s also because we have a wave of newer, safer, and more robust cooking tools like Instant Pots and Tovalas that are changing how we cook.
Will it die off completely? Unlikely. Where would people stand during a cocktail party? I kid, but more seriously, until you can teleport 3D printed foods directly into your home, there will always be hungry people in houses looking for reach-in-the-pantry-or-microwave levels of instant gratification. Not to mention people who just plain like to cook.
But the role of the kitchen is something we consider every day here at The Spoon. In fact we are planning the full rundown for our upcoming Smart Kitchen Summit: North America in October. You should get your tickets to see what experts from across the food tech industry will have to say on the subject.