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FMI Foundation Exec Sees U.S. Shifting Back To ‘Cooking Culture’


Webinar explored habits at home during pandemic

by Mary Margaret Stewart, staff writer

To David Fikes, executive director of the FMI Foundation, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a transformational effect on U.S. kitchens, with more people using their time to cook.

“Some would say that it has reversed the trend of America from being an eating culture back to us being a cooking culture,” Fikes said during a recent webinar, “Cooking Well & Eating Well.”

FMI – The Food Industry Association and The Hartman Group led the webinar, which was based on “Home Cooking in America 2020,” a special report from the partners based on their “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2020” report.

In addition to Fikes, the “Cooking Well & Eating Well” panel of experts included: Steve Markenson, director of research at FMI; David Feit, VP of strategic insights for The Hartman Group; and Krystal Register, director of health and well-being at FMI.

The webinar touched on five key topics, based on the companies’ findings: motivations; competing motivations; barriers; impacts from COVID-19; and inspirations and opportunities.

The “Home Cooking in America 2020” report found that 40 percent of adult Americans say they have been cooking more during the pandemic.

Yet, the findings show that COVID amplified both the challenges and the pleasures of eating and cooking. To that end, consumers often are ambivalent about cooking, with respondents reporting that cooking can be enjoyable or fun on some days and a chore or obligation on others.

“We find that even for those who like [cooking] or love [cooking], that’s not necessarily whole-hearted,” David Feit said.

However, he added that cooking as part of a household chore doesn’t necessarily mean it’s considered a negative thing. “Even when it is labor, it might be labor that people actually find enriching – part of providing care and love to others.”

Regardless of attitudes toward cooking, Feit said most households have at least one person who does it regularly. And the data shows that adults who live and cook together cook more frequently.

“Half of the frequent cooks say they often or always cook with a partner. So this suggests that cooking together actually supports frequent cooking,” Feit said. “When cooks get help, they cook more often.”

In addition, the report found that consumers have no problems finding ideas and inspiration for cooking at home – it’s managing and preparing meals that’s the challenge. And there’s a clear tension between the need to plan and the desire for variety.

As Fikes put it, “When the moment arrives, what we have planned to cook that evening may just not excite the taste buds.”

Feit added that American cooks “like to occupy this world of planned spontaneity,” planning to not always cook.

Pleasure is a big component of cooking well, according to the report, showing that convenience and enjoyment are the strongest drivers of whether to cook or outsource. And quality of taste and cravings to satisfy enjoyment usually involve outsourcing or dining out.

Cooking well has been proven to be the primary path to eating well, with Register saying that there are hidden calories when eating out that can be avoided with home cooking or meal prepping.

“Cooking has ultimately become a strategy for managing budget constraints, time constraints, lending to a focus on health and well-being…[and] being more mindful about connections to the environment and community wellness, too,” Register said.

“First, we shop well. Consumers really want it all when they shop – transparency, high quality, low prices, variety and choice,” she said. “And then second, after shopping well, this is where we cook well.”

To read the full report from FMI and The Hartman Group, visit www.fmi.org.

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