In May, during the early days of quarantine, CivicScience reported that most adults viewed the need to cook and bake more frequently at home as an enjoyable solution to the age old question, “What’s for dinner?” Spending additional time in the kitchen became a necessity as restaurants and cafes closed during coronavirus lockdowns, but people seemingly welcomed this new normal as a fun way to alleviate stress and learn new skills. For a while, it felt like everyone was either feeding a “kneady” sourdough starter or taking up viral cooking challenges.
However, months have since passed and as reopening restrictions continue to vary, Americans’ enthusiasm for their new kitchen habits – and the need to make all of their own meals – has waned. Baking is no longer on the rise and, according to DoorDash’s most recent Deep Dish report, many people are tired of cooking the majority of their meals at home, especially chicken. Boredom is setting in, leading to increased ordering of takeout and food deliveries, as well as meal-kit subscription purchases. Meal-kit maker Blue Apron reported a sizable profit increase in the first half of 2020, with plans to continue adding new customers and revenues into the third quarter.
With all of this in mind, CivicScience revisited just how home-culinarians’ feelings have changed after a few months into quarantine.
Favorability is Crumbling
There turns out to be more than a few grains of truth to the suggestion that favorability is declining. Fewer people are cooking and baking more often post-lockdown than had originally predicted they would. As reported in CivicScience’s previous study, 45% of Americans anticipated cooking / baking more often post-lockdown. By August, only 36% report actually cooking more now than they had during quarantine.
And while 31% of people said they had been cooking and baking more in May, only 22% of respondents reported truly cooking and baking more than usual by August, amounting to a 29% decrease overall.
Even people who enjoy cooking are only doing it 19% more often than usual.
Moreover, very few of these people – 6% – have converted to liking cooking / baking more now than they did prior to lockdowns. Four percent report actually liking it less than they used to.
Eating Habits Have Changed
It seems that, as Americans spend more time creating their own meals and shopping for ingredients, the quarantine kitchen has ushered in new lifestyle changes and healthier eating habits. Interest in meat-alternatives and vegan options has also grown. According to a recent CivicScience report, the adoption of plant-based meats ranks higher among consumer favorability since the beginning of lockdowns, with popularity extending to fast-food restaurants and casual dining.
Whether or not Americans are in fact eating healthier, half do report that their eating habits have changed to some degree in the last three months, with another 5% showing an intent to make changes.
Favorability to cooking and baking could be influencing these dietary changes — people who enjoy cooking have experienced the biggest shift in their eating habits (44%). Perhaps somewhat expectedly, 61% of folks who feel neutral about cooking are most likely to report that their eating habits have remained the same over the past three months.
Americans Are Taking It Outside
Another way folks are temporarily changing their culinary routines is by turning to outdoor methods of cooking. While not everyone likes it, 38% are at least doing it.
Even people who don’t like to cook do report enjoying some method of outdoor cooking.
And although these methods vary, grilling is still king.
Novel Recipes and Challenges
As many Americans continue to explore outdoor options, others are seeking out new recipes in order to beat languishing foodie fatigue. Twenty percent of home cooks and bakers report recently trying a new kitchen trend or technique, with 7% more showing some intent to mix it up.
Unsurprisingly, social media, food blogs, and online videos are popular outlets for those hoping to refresh their regular recipe rotation. More than one quarter of respondents who report having tried or intend to try new kitchen trends use Instagram, making the social platform a consumer-rich way for brands to reach prospects hungry for new cooking videos and recipe content.
With increasingly fewer takeout options available as restaurants remain closed – and some permanently shutter due to the financial fallout from COVID-19 – Americans looking to spice up their homemade quarantine fare will need to be creative in the months ahead. What’s more, schedules are bound to become tighter as school resumes and adults are recalled to reopened offices, leaving much less time for putting together experimental cuisines at home. CivicScience will continue to track how these changes impact Americans’ behavioral and purchasing choices. Stay tuned for a deep dive into the favorability of frozen meal kits and pre-made grocery store options.