Not new, not normal: how can brands solve a problem like cooking fatigue?
Collins Dictionary Word of 2020 list was dominated by Covid-19, with 'lockdown, 'key worker' and 'social distancing' all making the cut. Missing was 'cooking fatigue' which, in the latter part of 2020 in particular, became a regular part of our vocabulary in Recipe Guru and a significant issue for many consumers. Cooking fatigue isn't new. Pre-pandemic, we've all experienced it at some point. In 2020, as many of us cooked from scratch three times a day, seven days a week, cooking fatigue transformed from an occasional issue to a daily ordeal. Even if you knew what you were having for dinner and had purchased the ingredients, the idea of following through with that plan was not always appealing. 44% of people surveyed said cooking fatigue was their biggest cooking challenge, with 37% citing sourcing fresh recipe inspiration as the biggest issue. With Covid-19 still causing localised lockdowns globally and fewer out-of-home eating opportunities available to consumers, home cooking will remain a necessity in 2021 during a time that is neither new nor normal. With necessity comes cooking fatigue, so how can brands solve this ongoing issue for consumers?
Give quick recipe content pride of place on your website
For 52% of people, deciding what to cook is the hardest part. Taking the hassle out of the inspiration stage will make the preparation and cooking stages more palatable. When consumers land on your recipe home page in search of quick recipe inspiration, is it immediately obvious that they can easily find what they're looking for?
'Top 10' not only suggests quality but also lets the consumer know that the content editors have done the hard work of curating recipe content to make the meal planning process more efficient. '...quick winter dinner ideas' lets consumers know that the recipes are seasonally-appropriate, specific to dinner and most importantly, quick to make.
Food Network takes a different approach. Rather than directing consumers towards relevant recipes with keywords such as 'quick and easy', Food Network includes prep and cook time and difficulty information beneath the recipes on its home page, enabling consumers who have been experiencing cooking fatigue to zone in on the recipe that will get dinner on the table quickest.
Often the thought of cooking dinner when you don't want to is worse than the process itself, so solving cooking fatigue for consumers begins when they land on a brand's website in search of recipe content. If a consumer can quickly come up with a weekly meal plan that includes 15-30 minute recipes, there is less of a chance that cooking fatigue will set in later in the week.
Focus on solving the preparation stage of the cooking process
Interest in meal kits soared in 2020 as consumers sought the variety, convenience and security of having pre-measured and prepared ingredients and recipes delivered to their homes. Economic uncertainty means that meal kits are not accessible to everyone, but their convenience appeals to many. Working with food brands or independently, grocery retailers can replicate the meal kit experience in-store or online by bundling ingredients together or creating displays that house all the ingredients required to create an accompanying recipe. The benefit of meal kits over this strategy is that meal kits often pre-prepare meat and vegetables for maximum convenience. Since meal prep is a central cause of cooking fatigue, bundling ingredients that need to be peeled and sliced by the consumer to create a quick stir fry, for example, is not likely to solve this issue. Focusing on recipes that make use of pre-prepared supermarket ingredients such as diced boneless chicken thighs, packs of sliced vegetables and straight-to-wok noodles not only makes grocery shopping more convenient but it also makes the cooking process more convenient, reducing cooking fatigue potential. Whether this is done in-store in dedicated cabinets or online via shoppable recipe content, reducing prep work goes a long way towards solving cooking fatigue.
Take a look at this example of a pork noodle stir fry from BBC Good Food which makes use of pork mince and pre-prepared stir fry vegetables. When a consumer uses the Whisk-powered shopping list function, rather than adding a selection of whole, unprepared vegetables (the recipes calls for mangetout, baby sweetcorn, beansprouts, carrots and peppers) to the list, bagged, pre-prepared stir fry vegetables are added.
Make cooking fun again
Sometimes solving cooking fatigue relies on simply reminding home cooks that cooking can be fun rather than a chore. For 47% of consumers, cooking fatigue comes and goes, so it's not a full-time issue. Consumers have spent 2020 creating their own fun at home and it's fair to say that people are running out of ideas. Helping people turn at-home eating occasions into experiences is a fun way to solve the issue of cooking fatigue. Since travel and dining restrictions remain in place, recipes that help consumers recreate the flavours of a favourite holiday destination or restaurant meal could add a little interest to dinnertime. Over the top fast-food inspired recipes could engage the whole family in the cooking process, curing cooking fatigue for the main cooks and fostering interest in cooking for those who don't usually get involved. UK children are spending 80 minutes per week on average in the kitchen since the pandemic began so child-friendly recipes can help keep the whole family engaged. Cooking thrives on creativity and with interest in at-home experiences to pass the time at an all-time high, this strategy can help solve the issues of cooking fatigue and boredom for consumers.
As we navigate this part of our pandemic experience where the situation is neither new nor normal, cooking fatigue is inevitable. 62% of Americans are concerned about their health though, and others are dealing with smaller grocery budgets, so turning to the convenience of takeout isn't a regular option. Cooking out of necessity will continue to trend in 2021 and grocery retailers and food brands are well placed to solve the issue of cooking fatigue for consumers who just want to feed themselves with minimum fuss.
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