Surfing Supercedes Reading When Preparing to Cook

Oct 26, 2010
Bernice Hurst

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

Perhaps it isn’t all about
celebrities. According to market researchers Mintel, "over
half (52 percent) of Brits now say that they get recipe ideas from online websites
compared to the 46 percent who rely on cookbooks."

Talking specifically
about a recent upsurge in home baking, Mintel’s
senior food and drink analyst, Vivianne Ihekweazu, said, "While cookbooks
have traditionally been the main source of information for baking recipes,
consumers now have access to a wide range of sources when looking for inspiration
or a specific recipe … the importance of the internet for recipes has been
driven in part by TV cookery shows and the celebrity chef boom — recipes from
the programmes are often available online immediately. … Online recipes
are more personal, free of charge and consumers can just print off the recipes
they like."

Ms. Ihekweazu also pointed out their usefulness as "an
important tool for supermarkets, equipment and ingredients manufacturers."

the American equivalent study, Cooking Enthusiasts – U.S., Mintel
identified several reasons for a continuing enthusiasm for home cooking. Chief
amongst them were preferences "to monitor and improving their nutrition
and that of loved ones." The "emotional satisfaction" of cooking
for others and using cooking "as a way to express affection and cultural
traditions" was
also cited along with avoiding "the expense of dining out."

the British report focused on baking, the American version looks more widely
at when, why and how people cook. This includes both family meals and more
elaborate ones prepared for holidays and special occasions as well as recognition
that "serious
cooking enthusiasts, or gourmands, cook nearly three times more elaborate meals
per year than average."

As to reliance on the internet for inspiration,
slightly more (50 percent) use cookbooks for "recipes and instruction
on techniques" with
48 percent logging on, 42 percent calling on family members and 41 percent
trusting cooking shows.

Websites, however, appear to be "the recipe source
that young adults are most likely to consult" which Mintel said should
be noted by "marketers
seeking to create brand relationships with cooking enthusiasts," especially
into the future.

Discussion Questions: How is easy access to online recipes influencing
home cooking? How else can retailers capitalize on the popularity
of online recipes? Can retailers offer more to consumers who are increasing
their cooking repertoires?

[Author’s commentary] Several thoughts immediately
spring to mind here, which echo Mintel’s observations. First and foremost,
websites are free while cookbooks still cost money. Those expensive books
can, of course, be easily dirtied and damaged in the kitchen. Secondly, books
take time to produce whereas recipes can be posted online (and commented
on) instantly. It is also possible to interact with the person posting the
recipe and others who may have tried it. Those sites don’t necessarily
have to be celebrity-authored although they may be responsible, in part,
for the inspiration. Most of all, it may be that consumers want connections
and communities (aka social networks). This, in turn, can provide myriad
opportunities for retailers.

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8 Comments on "Surfing Supercedes Reading When Preparing to Cook"

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Charlie Moro
Charlie Moro
10 years 6 months ago

The timing of this question could not have been better. I just emailed to ask what my wife would like for dinner and she suggested a favorite of one of our frequent restaurants. It took a second to Bing the recipe and print up a shopping list. No digging through cookbooks…or even having to call Mom for direction. The accessibility of online recipes is GREAT!

Paula Rosenblum
10 years 6 months ago

I’m surprised there was no mention of synergies between cooking and food networks and their web sites. I have found myself very invested in “the Next Food Network Star” and “The Next Iron Chef.” I always watch the winners’ shows when they come on, at least for a while, and in some cases, I check out their recipes online.

We have an army of mini-Julia Childs that are putting for the perception (and maybe even the reality) that you can cook a good meal in a half hour, for four people.

So it’s another multi-channel experience impacting our day-to-day lives, in my view.

Kevin Graff
10 years 6 months ago

I for one would be lost without websites like, where not only do I find recipes, but more importantly consumer reviews of how good it actually is. Cook books are still relevant, but their influence must be shrinking.

I’m always a bit surprised that more retailers aren’t taking advantage of online recipes and cooking videos in their stores to inspire their customers to learn, experiment and ultimately buy more. There is a great independent market down the road from my office that effectively uses video in their stores to drive the sale of related items.

Anne Howe
10 years 6 months ago
In the American equivalent of the Mintel study, I’m especially drawn to the insights on why consumers choose to cook at home. Note the cost aspect ranks way lower than the emotional, nutritional and cultural cues. This is significant and many food marketers are not using these cues in their communications in a strong enough manner; opting for price messages as the primary lead. Nurturing, nutrition, and culture are the reasons I cook at home. I spend good money on high quality fresh and organic food. My old cookbooks just don’t cut it for innovative ways to prepare it to my taste. Using Google or Bing to find recipes is something I do almost every time I am scratch cooking. I do it to look at ideas for flavor and seasoning combinations. Sometimes I follow a specific recipe but many times I look at three or four, then adapt what I’ve learned to my own style. (Vigilant about cholesterol and sodium these days.) Even though my kids are grown, this kind of cooking and mealtime… Read more »
Ben Ball
10 years 6 months ago

As another dedicated online recipe searcher, I have to agree; this is definitely encouraging more experimentation in the American kitchen as well.

However, I do wonder this–what percentage of online recipe seekers are devoted to the “’s” of the world versus the number who simple Google “baked beans” to see what comes up? For me at least, half the fun is the mystery of what I’ll find that’s new and different.

Kai Clarke
10 years 6 months ago

This is really a no-brainer. Internet access is changing our life wherever information needs can be applied from the boardroom to the kitchen. Add to this large format connectivity (iPads) and it becomes even easier to use, read and apply the internet to our every day life. When considering the kitchen, we also have to give a tremendous amount of credit to the different food networks which have brought cooking into the living room and a part of our daily viewing lives. 5 years ago all of this was so different….

Cathy Hotka
10 years 6 months ago

The Internet provides a genuinely valuable way to use leftovers; just plug ‘chicken, sour cream, salsa’ into a search engine and watch the hits just keep on coming. Cooking sites will become increasingly savvy about how to persuade visitors to come back again and again.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 6 months ago

The Food Channel and have become our new recipe providers. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a cook of any degree. My wife is an excellent cook and one who will experiment with recipes she finds through the Food Channel and its portals. I am the lucky one here.


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