Covid-19: Why And How Baking Is Trending
Covid-19 has the whole world baking. Empty flour aisles attest to that and the stats back it up. We studied UK, US and worldwide recipe search interest over the past 30 days* and interest in baking, in particular, exploded as lockdowns were introduced. There are several reasons for this.
1. No yeast
Yeast is a hot commodity right now and although stock seems to be regularising, it was all but unavailable over the past month. Worldwide Google search interest for 'baker's yeast' climbed by 300 percent as consumers sought alternative sources for the leavening agent, while in the UK and US it increased by 700 percent and 250 percent respectively. The big interest over the past 30 days, however, has been in yeast-free breads. In the UK alone, search interest in 'bread recipe without yeast' jumped by a staggering 550 percent. A scarcity of yeast and the influence of Instagram meant that people in search of both home-made bread and a project to fill their coronavirus-induced free time turned to sourdough in their droves. UK search interest in 'sourdough starter recipe' increased by 400 percent, while interest in the same topic jumped by 35 percent in the US.
The commitment required to make sourdough from scratch is not for everyone and search interest in alternative leavening agents also soared over the past 30 days. This was a particular trend in the UK, where search interest in 'soda bread recipe' increased by 400 percent. Sodium bicarbonate (+250%) and baking powder (+200%) also got in on the act, although the former could be explained in part by an increase in at-home science experiments. In the US flatbreads were on the menu, with interest in 'flour tortilla recipe' up by 200 percent.
2. Preventing food waste
With all that home-made bread stacking up in homes around the world, food waste (and bread fatigue) is almost inevitable. In the US, people have been finding uses for stale bread ranging from French toast (+60%) to easy bread puddings (+150%). Worldwide, search interest in French toast increased by 80 percent. It is also likely that people with significantly more time on their hands thanks to Covid-19 are taking the opportunity to try out more leisurely breakfast options.
Disruption to the way people shop for groceries because of Covid-19 has us searching for ways to use up fresh ingredients before they go bad and nothing has illustrated this more than the banana bread boom. In the past 30 days alone, UK search interest in 'banana bread' and 'banana bread recipe' rose by 200 percent, while interest in 'banana muffin recipe' jumped by 300 percent. This trend was replicated in the US, where 'banana bread' (+190%) and 'banana bread recipe' (+180%) were also trending. Worldwide, banana bread interest was lower but still significant, increasing by 130 percent in the past 30 days. We are already seeing signs of banana bread fatigue, however. 'Leftover banana recipes' was a breakout Google search topic in the UK yesterday as people search for new ways to use up their glut of overripe bananas.
3. Entertaining the kids
Covid-19 has closed schools and parents are desperately searching for activities that are both educational and fun, so it is no surprise that simple baking recipes have been trending over the past 30 days. (There's only so many bicarbonate of soda volcanos one person can handle!) Search interest in 'easy cookie recipes' climbed by 150 percent in the US, while in the UK interest in 'easy baking recipes for kids' was up by a staggering 500 percent. Scones (+120%), shortbread (+110%) and chocolate brownies (+70%) have also been trending in the UK, while search interest in scones was up 70 percent worldwide.
4. Project baking
Commuting times have been reduced to zero and opportunities to leave the house are few and far between. People have been filling their evenings with online quizzes, jigsaw puzzles and captivating Netflix documentaries, but project baking is also high on the agenda. We already know that sourdough is trending, but interest in other time-consuming bakes has soared over the past 30 days. Worldwide interest in croissants (+190%) and brioche (+150%) has increased as people take the time to learn a new skill and reduce trips to the local bakery. Cinnamon rolls are also on the agenda for many, with search interest increasing by 110 percent in the UK, 120 percent in the US and 110 percent worldwide. (I can imagine worse uses for the limited supply of yeast!) Finally, search interest in 'challah recipe' jumped by 250 percent in the US over the past 30 days. This could also account for the increased interest in French toast as Americans turn the leftovers into breakfast.
With Covid-19 lockdowns set to continue for weeks and widespread disruption expected for months, this baking boom is not going anywhere fast. Reliable recipe content will continue to play a vital part in keeping people fed and entertained. For food brands eager to strike a balance between promotion and adding value at a difficult time for consumers, keeping abreast of what is trending in baking over the coming months is a smart play. Even more important is creating a dynamic marketing strategy that is guided by this evolving information. Reliable recipe content adds genuine value, particularly when people are stuck at home, and this will be remembered when restrictions are lifted. Sales are as important as ever but brand awareness created now will pay dividends into the future.
*Figures calculated over a 30-day period March '20 - April '20.