How The Smart Kitchen Can Help Reduce Food Waste
Society has never been more informed about the environmental issues facing our planet. Issues such as global warming, marine pollution and food waste have gained mainstream attention. Pre-Covid, sales of reusable coffee cups soared and the EPA in Ireland reported a 15% decrease in organic waste in the general waste bin over the past ten years. Not just that, but students from around the world gathered to protest climate change. The pandemic has shifted our focus a little and there has been an inevitable increase in the use of single-use products, but when we're cooking more often and shopping less frequently, you would think that food waste would be in decline. Initially, this did happen in the U.K. according to research by Wrap. By summer 2020 it had increased by 30% compared with the early stages of lockdown in March. People could eat out more frequently, but social distancing concerns meant that many were still staying home, so why did this increase happen?
Not new but still not normal
'The new normal' has become a part of our vocabulary over the past year, but by summer 2020, the situation was neither new nor normal. People were sick of cooking day in, day out. They were more confident in bringing out-of-home food into their houses. More restaurants jumped on board with takeout. Even if you weren't willing to leave your house to feed yourself, you could recreate that restaurant experience at home. Add in cooking fatigue (55% of Americans say cooking during COVID-19 has left them feeling fatigued) and an increased desire to treat ourselves, and the weekly meal plan quickly goes out the window. The result is forgotten vegetables and other fresh foods that inevitably end up as food waste.
How can the smart kitchen solve food waste now and post-pandemic?
Pre-pandemic, 52% of consumers said that deciding what to have for dinner is the most difficult part and 30% said that pleasing the family at dinnertime is a challenge. The difficulty people experience when sourcing fresh recipe inspiration didn't magically disappear once the pandemic began. If anything, it's worse. 79% of Americans search for and refer to recipes at the same rate or more than they did pre-pandemic and yet people are cooking the same meals over and over again.
As smart home adoption increases, appliance manufacturers are beginning to position themselves as a reliable source of recipe inspiration to help consumers overcome the challenges the discovery phase can present. In their quest to make mealtimes as simple as possible for consumers, companies like Samsung are helping to solve the bigger issue of food waste. Their Family Hub refrigerator enables home cooks to keep track of what they have in the fridge, including expiry dates, and to search for recipes based on ingredients that need to be used up. This is a smart move. While flavour is the main factor for home cooks when choosing what to cook, the convenience and cost-saving aspects of personalised recipe suggestions that make use of leftover ingredients seem like an attractive prospect. Screens have become such an integral part of the smart kitchen with more and more mainstream appliance brands integrating them into fridges, ovens and hoods. Since environmental issues are at the forefront of our minds and home cooking will continue to trend, it's not too much of a stretch to expect that smart appliance manufacturers will continue to invest in predictive technologies that help consumers eat well while reducing food waste.
Helping novice home cooks avoid cooking disasters
When the pandemic began and restaurants shut down, many people were faced with a question. How do I feed myself when I don't know how to cook? There is no data on how many cooking disasters were caused by a lack of cooking experience at the beginning of the pandemic, but we do know that 75% of Americans say their confidence has increased in the kitchen. As confidence grows, people's appetite for trying more complicated recipes and cooking techniques increases. For those who are less experienced in the kitchen, this could be a recipe for disaster that ends in food waste.
Precision cooking technologies and guided recipes can eliminate this issue. This could mean cooking presets that are a core part of smart kitchen products from the likes of June and Anova and that promise precise, consistent results whether you're cooking a tender, flaky pan-fried piece of fish or roasting a crispy, moist roast chicken. By promising perfect results, these companies are not only encouraging nervous cooks to take charge of the way they eat but also giving more experienced cooks the confidence to try more complicated dishes without worrying about potentially sending an expensive piece of meat from the pan to the organic waste bin. Guided recipes that connect to smart kitchen appliances and walk home cooks through a step by step process from prep work to the kitchen table are also a powerful feature in the smart kitchen.
Getting the whole family involved
The variety of recipes available on smart kitchen appliances means that the chances of cooking something you don't like are slim. This is particularly important if you are feeding picky eaters and end up with mountains of food waste as a result. Placing recipes at the centre of the smart kitchen encourages the entire family to get involved in choosing what they'd like to eat (kids love screens!), reducing the chances of food going to waste and making things a little easier for the 55% of people who are already suffering from cooking fatigue. When paired with personalisation strategies, smart appliance users are guaranteed to find a recipe that uses up those pesky leftovers, keeps the entire family happy and full and importantly during a pandemic, reduces the need to make a supermarket run. Not all recipes are created equal though. Companies such as Drop understand the importance of creating a great user experience, which is why they offer reliable, tried-and-tested content to their users via Recipe Guru. More reliable recipes mean more delicious results and less chance of food waste.
We're hugely in favour of a more collaborative approach within and between the smart kitchen and grocery industry (66% of people say the inspiration stage is influential when deciding what to buy) and feel that creating a seamless smart kitchen experience for consumers relies on collaboration between brands. This is doubly important when it comes to food waste. If the inspiration, shopping and cooking phases are tied together seamlessly, it's only going to be more convenient for the consumer to create the sort of food they want to eat while reducing costs, keeping food waste to a minimum and ultimately creating a happier planet.