Will Millennials lead a resurgence in home cooking?

Photo: RetailWire
Jan 05, 2017
Tom Ryan

Peapod has declared 2017 the “Year Of The Home Cook” with expectations the trend will be led by Millennials.

A survey commissioned by the e-grocer tied to New Year’s resolutions found 34 percent of Americans are planning to cook dinner at home more in 2017. Of those, Millennials were twice as likely as Boomers to make the resolution (49 percent to 24 percent).

The resolution may be wishful thinking given the overall decline over the last few decades in home cooking. A Washington Post article from 2015 attributed the downward trend to more women working, people having less time to cook, and big pushes behind prepared meals.

On the positive side for the trend, Millennials are said to have a penchant for doing things themselves and being more adventurous in trying foods, indicating they’ll take to home cooking.

“We see through secondary research that Millennials are cooking more,” added Anna Conroy, planning director for mcgarrybowen, the advertising agency, as part of Google’s “Cooking Trends Among Millennials: Welcome to the Digital Kitchen” report. “It isn’t a chore as much as an ability to create an experience.”

The top two reasons people cook at home — saving money and eating healthier — also play into Millennials’ interests.

On the other hand, Millennials are seen as more time-pressed than older generations. They already eat out and purchase prepared meals more, and they’re less likely to have learned to cook from their parents versus older generations.

A recent ReportLinker survey also found that the popularity of television cooking shows, recipe websites and celebrity chefs doesn’t appear to be translating into a fervor for home cooking among the general population.

Addressing many of the challenges to home cooking, Whole Foods listed “Mindful Meal Prep” among its top trends for 2017. Consumers are looking for shortcuts to save money, save time, reduce waste and eat healthier. Whole Foods wrote, “They’re coming up with new strategies to get dinner on the table — sometimes that means making some of the meal and buying the rest, or batch cooking at the beginning of the week or using a meal kit that cuts down on prep time.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Millennials take to cooking at home? Do you see prepared meals, meal kits, digital recipes or some other platform becoming bigger for grocers in convincing Millennials to eat at home?

"Easier access to fresh produce, meal kits and quick recipe instructions all support the trend toward increased at-home meals."
"What qualifies as “cooking” for a Millennial is not the same as generations past. Meal assembly, heat and eat, frozen dinners and meal kits..."
"I think TV cooking shows help, but meal kits are the real entry point because they often provide exotic recipes."

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18 Comments on "Will Millennials lead a resurgence in home cooking?"

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Kim Garretson
5 months 19 days ago

I am the father of two Millennials and in this survey of two, they both are cooking much more at home than they experienced growing up. Both plan to start using the new AllRecipes skill with Amazon Echo which talks them through preparing recipes from a database of 60,000 options.

Dave Nixon

Mine as well, Kim! They are testing out new tech like this.

Meaghan Brophy

Yes, Millennials will take to cooking at home. I think meal prep and large-batch cooking for the week will play a big role in the Millennial kitchen. In 2017 we’ll also see more people use cooking as a mindful and relaxing experience. In previous years, Millennials have favored the restaurant experience, and that will still be important for many. However home cooking will see an uptick as more and more Millennials move into their own apartment or house instead of living with their parents.

Ron Margulis

I sure hope so. The economic and cultural indicators suggest they will. Convenience is only part of the key for grocers. The value-adds like having recipes that provide enough for the evening meal and leftovers for the next day’s lunch are also important, as is storytelling (this recipe comes from someone’s great aunt in Sweden) and learnings (this is how you marinade a skirt steak).

Anecdotally, my college-age daughter took a genuine interest in watching me cook over the recent winter break. I take that as a good sign.

Tom Redd

Well we had all four kids of the evil Millennial age home for the holidays. All of them cook more than we ever thought they would. My wife ended up not having to cook as much as in the past. They all seem to want to cook new, spicy-as-heck dishes. Why? I estimate these are hipness trends. They still refer back to my wife’s recipe box which has more knowledge and great foods then an Echo link. Some retailers/analysts have been lucky enough to sample Cowboy Cookies at past NRF shows. Echo would be lost.

Gaining cooking skills is best learned from other humans and not the food kits that kids can subscribe to or via talking websites. Millennials are cooking more and in some cases must — their life at home is over and mom/dad have let them know it is time to go. I think we will have the digital cooks trend for a bit then see it become “stupid.” The meal kits will trend for a bit and then the Millennials will shift to back-to-basics and learn the skill without being dependent on a box of ingredients or Wi-Fi signal.

Lee Kent

The Millennials in my life love to get in the kitchen on the weekends and make odd, exotic things that involve having something ferment for days, then turn just the right color before cooking and, when posted on Facebook, get lots of wows from friends. Yes, I made that up because I never even know what they are talking about when they make this stuff. But to them, it is all about the experience and a little about eating healthy.

They all like to call themselves foodies too and they do keep up with the latest trends. But on a day to day basis? They pick up an easy-to-make meal kit, pop it in the oven, add some prepared dishes, you get the picture.

Grocers will do best by this group by staying up on the trendy food and exotic fun stuff and offering easy-to-understand instructions for preparation. Giving them ideas and history about the food, maybe. Today’s Millennial likes to think about cooking food in a fun context. The mundane day-to-day is just that — easy heat-and-go stuff for the rest of the week.

And that’s my 2 cents.

Zel Bianco

The answer is yes. I have two of my own, one that is married and the other in a serious relationship and they both are great cooks. I wish I could say the same for myself. Millennials are foodies. Yes, they are out a lot and I have no idea how they do it — especially in such expensive cities like NY and D.C., but they love to cook at home as well. They are adventurous and jump online for new things to try and are not afraid of experimenting with their own twists on a theme.

In fact, it is my daughter’s birthday today and what is one of the things she wanted? A pressure cooker so that in her time-pressed crazy days, she could come home to something that will be delicious and most likely much healthier and certainly less expensive than eating out. Restaurants and bars need not worry. Millennials will still show up but they will also led the charge to expertly prepared home cooked meals and that is a very good thing.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Healthier eating at a more affordable cost is the driver for home food preparation across all demographics. When the social dimension of home meals and “tomorrow’s lunch” are added to a busy life it is all the more appealing as an option. Easier access to fresh produce, meal kits and quick recipe instructions all support the trend toward increased at-home meals.

Liz Crawford

We need to redefine cooking.

What qualifies as “cooking” for a Millennial is not the same as generations past. Meal assembly, heat and eat, frozen dinners and meal kits all qualify as home cooking. Will there be a “resurgence”? That depends on the economy. If the stock market continues to rise and unemployment remains low, restaurant takeaway will surge. If the economy dips down, eating at home (and any form of home “cooking”) will surge.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.

if Millennials do anything at home it will more resemble meal assembly than cooking in the traditional sense. Although today no one appears to “cook” in the traditional meaning of food planning, preparation and cooking. Instead, I think this group will use a combination of prepared meals and meal kits (depending on their financial resources) to make the claim that they cooked tonight’s meal.

My research on Millennials indicated that two of the top three reasons for eating at a restaurant in the past month were to have a break from cooking (#2 reason) and that there was no time to prepare food/eat (#3 reason). If food marketers can address these two issues by creating options to do these jobs then the Peapod declaration may become reality.

Gene Detroyer

So I asked my wife, a dietitian in private practice, this question. She didn’t read the article but could have written it.

  1. They are more interested in healthy foods;
  2. They have much broader tastes for different dishes;
  3. They are environmentally oriented;
  4. They believe big food companies sell poison;
  5. They enjoy the accomplishment of preparing the meal.

And they were more likely to learn cooking from their grandmothers than their mothers. They say their mothers don’t know how to cook.

Lesley Everett

Absolutely, Millennials seem to love to cook and create something. I have one and he not only cooks but likes to experiment with new recipes online. Digital recipes from grocery retailers that engage Millennials on a regular and consistent basis, with the tips and content they seek, I believe will be the most effective.

William Hogben

Meal kits are a gateway drug — at least they were for me and my fiancé. It starts out as an easy way to cook, but it occupies a middle ground between convenience and control — less convenient than prepared food and less control than straightforward cooking. Having never been much of a cook myself I found they increased my confidence and interest in cooking and transitioned me back to regular grocery shopping — and I expect a similar progression for others. As a category it’s stuck halfway between the two extremes of ordering in and cooking so I don’t think it will capture anybody long-term.

James Tenser

I think you are on to something here, William. Meal-kit services like Blue Apron and Purple Carrot provide pre-measured ingredient quantities and very complete how-to advice, including videos. For a novice home cook, it’s a pretty good way to get your feet wet without poisoning yourself. Once you master some technique, it becomes apparent that you can buy ingredients a la carte (at the store) more economically and make extra quantities that reheat beautifully the next day.

Ralph Jacobson

The growing trend of “Foodies” among this age group continues to drive the folks to eat out of the home, however, there is indeed opportunity for CPG and food retailers to entice them with fast, yet compelling options to eat in the home. I feel the sky is the limit here, as opposed to the bland concoctions of home meal replacement offerings of the past.

Dave Nixon

They will bring a resurgence to home cooking, but not in the traditional way. They are driven by more healthy alternatives to restaurant options, and also for organic and locally sourced reasons. Couple that with their need for convenience and ease of preparation, home cooking will look a whole lot different in the next few years. Grocery and kitchen product companies will have to adapt the shopping and cooking experience to accommodate this subtle shift. I think soon George Foreman is going to sell a lot more grills!

John Karolefski

Yes, Millennials will take to cooking at home. I based this on personal experience and not polls and surveys (I think we have learned how unreliable they really are). I am the father of two, and both cook. I know other Millennial men who are married and cook. I think TV cooking shows help, but meal kits are the real entry point because they often provide exotic recipes.

Christopher P. Ramey

Cooking is a fad sure to fade as an individuals time is squeezed. Time is finite; particularly as you get older when life gets complicated and noisier.

"Easier access to fresh produce, meal kits and quick recipe instructions all support the trend toward increased at-home meals."
"What qualifies as “cooking” for a Millennial is not the same as generations past. Meal assembly, heat and eat, frozen dinners and meal kits..."
"I think TV cooking shows help, but meal kits are the real entry point because they often provide exotic recipes."

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