Mining the resurgence of scratch cooking
The kitchen is mounting a serious popularity comeback as consumers increasingly opt for meals at home over meals cooked somewhere else. While digital grocery buying is on the rise, the net outcome of what’s purchased, regardless of shopping channel, ends up sooner or later in a sauté pan on a cooktop.
Yes, it’s true in our online, connected world – in five to seven years, and maybe sooner – 70 percent of consumers will be purchasing food and beverage products online. That ladders up to more than $100 billion in transactions by 2022, according to Nielsen Digital Imperatives report.
- Of note: we’ve already arrived at the end of borders, boundaries and lanes in channel shopping behaviors. Omni-channel shopping is simply a reflection of the increased comfort level with buying fresh and perishable foods online – the last remaining barrier to crumble in favor of e-commerce growth. What lies ahead is the demand for fluid, seamless shopping experiences as needs and preferences move from mobile ordering to in-store exploration, from delivery to squeezing your own tomatoes – all inter-changeably.
Whether brick and mortar food retail is optimally positioned for this reality is unclear. What is crystal clear, however, is a shift in supermarket business models from selling e-commerce friendly boxes, cans and bags off shelves at velocity, to answering preferences for navigating the perimeter fresh grocery departments. This is where consumers increasingly labor to solve real-time meal and menu needs using ingredients they expect to cook. Shop at 5 pm and eat acquired food at 7pm.
Adventures in culinary experience – at home
According to The Hartman Group’s “Transformation of the American Meal” report, seven out of 10 consumers currently eat scratch prepared meals at home. “Americans tend to agree that the best meal – the healthiest, tastiest and most emotionally satisfying is a freshly cooked homemade meal,” reports Hartman.
This makes absolute sense:
- Fresh, real foods are seen as healthier and higher quality. These items involve cooking.
- People want more control over ingredient quality, preparations and portion sizes; this includes seasoning and sweetening decisions.
- The emergence of meal kits also helps simplify the menu decision and the cooking process with partially prepped ingredients.
- Popularity of cooking shows and food websites/blogs, reveals the growing fascination with creativity and learning in food preparation and skills development.
Cooking is back with a vengeance. Scratch cooking behaviors will vary in intensity and commitment from heat-to-eat prepared meals to creating an entire menu from whole foods. Somewhere in the popular middle are meal recipes that combine fresh food ingredients with some packaged or pre-made items such as pasta, stocks and baked goods.
However you slice it or dice it, this is a bona-fied banquet of opportunities for food and beverage companies wanting to forge deeper relationships with consumers. How? By helping enable their passions in the kitchen.
While food choices and possibilities are more abundant than ever before, time and energy continue to grow scarce. With time scarcity is the increased need for guidance, ideas and support in various forms that help consumers achieve their culinary passions (if not their day-to-day meal preparation needs) with minimal frustration.
The friction for consumers grows in tandem with increased shopping trip frequency for smaller, meal-focused baskets. People don’t really know what they’re having for dinner, the most considered and mentally taxing meal of the day, before it’s just about time to sit down at the dinner table. What’s emerged is just-in-time food shopping aimed at creating a menu. Food retailers need to solve the meal trip phenomenon with more convenient in-store experiences (grab and go kits). Navigating a 60,000 square foot store for five to seven items will increasingly drive food shoppers online for easier click and collect or shortened delivery windows.
We know that brand building in the consumer-control era begins first with empathy for shopper needs and interests. If a food or beverage brand wants to forge a deeper relationship, it will be founded on becoming more meaningful and valuable. It’s clear the opportunity here is to help solve these recurring ‘what’s for dinner’ challenges.
The cornucopia of food brand marketing solutions:
- Meal ideas, menus and shopping lists
- Assistance with recipes, preparation steps and enhancing cooking skills
- Creating or enabling in-store culinary events and tasting experiences
- Building social channel communities of like-minded home cooks sharing ideas, experiences, hacks and recipes
- Creating culinary clubs and educational experiences to inspire new food adventures and experimentation
- Marrying kitchen tools with the food to enhance reliable, optimal outcomes –especially in baking where precision is essential
- Considering culinary lifestyle marketing strategies that surround the consumer in their areas of interest and passion from health and wellness to global taste exploration
Message and content creation opportunities here are virtually boundless. The opportunity to be relevant and valuable is compelling. But to be sure, this is one of those moments when brand voice and authenticity will ultimately separate the winners from the posers.
If your organization lacks a fundamental passion for food and culinary experience, it’s doubly hard to bring relevance and proper context to marketing communication. Consumers are amply able to identify the genuine from the artificial.
If your organization breathes the love of food and food experience, it will manifest in the quality of communication that drives brand value and engagement levels. Consumers will reward food brands that align with their needs by opting in to user communities.
It is, indeed, the Golden Era of food marketing.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, the healthy living agency. Emergent provides integrated brand strategy, communications and insight solutions to national food, beverage, home and lifestyle companies. Emergent’s unique and proprietary transformation and growth focus helps organizations navigate, engage and leverage consumers’ desire for higher quality, healthier product or service experiences that mirror their desire for higher quality lifestyles. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.