Stuck at home during COVID-19 pandemic America gets cooking

Americans ordered to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are being forced to find new ways to fulfill their daily responsibilities and occupy their free time. A new study released today offers a glimpse at how the coronavirus crisis is impacting adult American consumers’ food preferences and behaviors, as well as the potential for these new habits to result in lasting change.

For this study, 1,005 American adults were surveyed online and asked to compare their cooking and eating habits now vs. prior to COVID-19, and share resulting changes in their cooking confidence and enjoyment, ingredients, recipe usage, food waste, and more.

Top findings include:

With Home Cooking and Baking on the Rise, Confidence in the Kitchen and the Joy in Cooking Soar

The study confirms statistically that Americans are cooking and baking more now, with over half of consumers reporting they are cooking more (54%), and almost as many baking more (46%). While use of mail-ordered prepared meals and meal kits (22%) and ordering takeout and delivery (30%) are also increasing among some consumers, this is being offset by decreases in these behaviors by others (38% and 28%, respectively). A total of three-quarters (75%) of all American adults who are cooking more report that they are more confident in the kitchen (50%) or learning more about cooking and starting to build more confidence (26%). Not merely a chore, a total of 73% are enjoying it more (35%) or as much as they did before (38%).

Americans Become More Adventurous and Creative in the Kitchen

Many of those surveyed have discovered new ingredients (38%) and new brands (45%) and are rediscovering ingredients they have not used in a long time (24%). Meanwhile, the consumers who claimed to be cooking more often are embracing these new habits even more enthusiastically (44%, 50% and 28%, respectively). Creativity abounds, with roughly one-third (34%) of all adults searching for more recipes and meal prepping (31%). Top recipes consumers are searching for are simple, practical meal solutions (61%) and ways to use up current ingredients (60%), although almost half of consumers are also looking for ways to cook healthier (47%) and inspiration to try new foods (45%). More than one-third (35%) of recipe users are searching for a cooking project and inspiration to learn new techniques.

Households Are Wasting Less Food with Help From Recipes Designed to Use Ingredients On Hand

The study found that 57% of Americans are wasting less food than before the coronavirus crisis, with 60% of all adults polled reporting that they are looking for recipes to use the ingredients they have on hand in their pantry or refrigerator. And where are they finding these recipes? Top sources include websites (66%), social media (58%), and family and friends (52%), with Facebook leading the pack as the preferred social platform for recipes, for all but Gen Z.

A Tale of Two Waistlines? Americans Split on Eating Healthier and Eating More Indulgent and Comfort Foods

Almost identical numbers of Americans are reporting that they are eating healthier foods (39%) as those turning more to indulgent and comfort foods (40%). Alcohol beverage consumption remains relatively the same, with equal portions of consumers drinking more wine/beer/spirits (29%) as drinking less (25%), and the majority holding steady (46%) drinking the same amount as they were before the coronavirus crisis. Those drinking more profile to 25-34 (33%) and in higher-income households (38% in HH with an income of $100K). Meanwhile snacking throughout the day is at an all-time high, especially in households with children, with half (50%) reporting they are snacking more than before.

The New Normal: Cooking Practices Impacted Long Term

Importantly, among the Americans who are cooking more, more than half (51%) reported that they will continue to do so when the coronavirus crisis comes to an end. Top motivators include: cooking at home more often saves money (58%), cooking helps them to eat healthier (52%), trying new recipes (50%), and they find cooking relaxing (50%).

The study results confirm that when the going gets tough, the Americans, who were long regarded as consummate optimists, find a way to prevail and in this case, they are choosing to redirect their energy and creativity to the kitchen, not only finding joy in the process of cooking, but also in the benefits that come from it.