The Pandemic Pantry – How Recipes Can Solve Covid-19 Food Challenges For Consumers
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Necessity is the mother of invention and in kitchens throughout the world, invention has never been more necessary. Covid-19 lockdowns have us all cooking more often and planning our meals has replaced a much more fluid way of eating. For some, it's a chance to flex their culinary muscles and tackle those big food projects they've never had time to try. For most though, facing into at least a month of cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner at home is a daunting prospect. For food brands, grocery retailers and any company that seeks to engage with consumers through food, it's an opportunity to use recipe content to solve a number of pandemic pantry challenges faced by consumers because of Covid-19.
As people continue to stockpile, supermarkets are struggling to keep up with product demand and regular staples like chicken breast are scarce. For customers, this means turning to alternative cuts. Similarly, demand for frozen and canned vegetables is high thanks to Covid-19 stockpiling, but fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant. As a result, many are dealing with trying to create meals using unfamiliar or unloved ingredients. People Magazine Food Editor Shay Spence raided his pantry recently to create chicken dippers using, amongst other things, Goldfish crackers and waffle cones. Ingredients anxiety is real right now and while people are trying to plan out their meals to avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket, product scarcity is a genuine issue. Recipes can inspire home cooks to create a variety of tasty meals with the ingredients they can get their hands on.
Inspiring a consumer to cook with unfamiliar ingredients is one thing, but not everyone has the skills or confidence required. If you're not familiar with cheaper cuts of meat, for example, and you cook them incorrectly, the meal will be tough and inedible. A badly cooked meal during the Covid-19 lockdown is offputting and wasteful at best and could encourage another trip to the supermarket at worst. Similarly, different cooking techniques may be required, and the customer may not be confident in them. This is a particular issue where the main cook is self-isolating with Covid-19 symptoms and other members of the household who don't cook as often need to step up to the plate. Providing clear recipe content and skills-based tips and techniques will aid with that confidence. Equipping people with the information they need to work with what they have is vital to a successful experience.
Ensuring Variety and Avoiding Fatigue
Even if you're a bit of a home bird, not having the option to leave the house can get boring fast. Adding food fatigue to the mix is a recipe for disaster. Dinnertime provides a rare opportunity for variety and control during these uncertain times. Recipe inspiration is essential to help the customer work with what they have available to ensure variety and hold the family’s interest at meal-time. A wide variety of cuisines and meal types will also mean less reliance on takeout to avoid food fatigue.
An uncertain financial climate and the temporary closure of many companies has led to pay cuts, job losses and tighter home budgets. Takeout is roughly three to four times more expensive than a home-cooked meal so many have no option but to cook at home. Panic-buying of cheaper cuts of meats and dried staples such as pulses, rice and pasta means shelves are often bare, leaving those on a budget to combine what they can buy with what they already have in their pandemic pantries so save money. For some, this is unfamiliar territory and makes cooking on a limited budget even more difficult than when supermarket shelves are fully stocked. Guidance from grocery retailers in the form of low-budget meal plans and recipes will help make mealtimes interesting and varied and make customers' money go a lot further. It also helps people avoid processed options, many of which are sold out anyway.
Occupying the Family
With the schools closed and parents working from home, keeping children entertained is a challenge. Many parents are turning to cooking or baking as part of their homeschooling attempts, so child-friendly recipe content is a valuable resource. This is an opportunity to teach children about food, where it comes from and how ingredients work together to create a delicious dish. Not only that but it also gives them a sense of pride in what they have created, encourages them to try new foods and can foster a love of cooking. Most importantly, it fills time and gives children and parents a reason to step away from their screens for an hour or two and reconnect with each other.
Health and Wellbeing
When the gyms are closed and you're only allowed out once a day to exercise, health and fitness is an issue. When you're stuck at home, it's easy to binge on both Netflix and snacks all day. To stay healthy when you're not moving as often as you usually do, calorie control is vital. With an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available in supermarkets, recipes that help home cooks make the most of these nutrient-rich products will be popular. We've already seen a big increase in requests for recipe content that can help keep those who are working from home stay on track and away from nightly takeout.
Cooking for Different Meal Types
For people who are used to grabbing a coffee and a pastry on the way to work and popping out for a sandwich at lunchtime, the sudden shift to cooking breakfast and lunch as well as dinner might come as a bit of a shock to the system. These meals are potentially even more important than dinner, as they help add a much-needed sense of structure to the day. Recipe inspiration can help consumers structure their shopping lists in a way that uses the same ingredients to take care of both breakfast, lunch and dinner. A variety of vegetables can form the basis of breakfast scrambles, lunchtime soups and dinnertime side dishes, but bad purchasing decisions could mean waste. Some grocery retailers already use recipe content to create weekly dinner plans, but now is the time to expand these meal plans to incorporate simple breakfast and lunch ideas.
The Post-Pandemic Pantry
When the lockdown lifts and product scarcity is a thing of the past, people will potentially still be sitting on a pantry full of products bought in a panic and unused due to lack of inspiration. No one likes waste, but the temptation to buy something more familiar once supermarkets are fully stocked will be strong. Sales of Goya's canned beans have spiked by as much as 400%, for example, and chances are some people will be left with a post-pandemic pantry full of unopened cans and no idea how to use them. This will be a particular issue as the weather warms up and the comforting stews we're happy to turn to right now will be less appropriate.
The challenges consumers are facing surrounding food and Covid-19 can be solved, but not without help. Recipe inspiration that focuses on available ingredients not only adds an element of certainty for consumers, but it also gives supply chains a chance to catch up and put important products like chicken breasts and flour back on the shelves. Right now, sales are not an issue for grocery retailers and food brands who are inundated with in-store and online shoppers. Once Covid-19 is a distant memory though, consumers will remember the brands that stepped up to the plate to keep home cooking stress to a minimum.
It's business as usual here in Recipe Guru where we're working remotely to provide our customers with the recipe content they need to help their customers through this unusual time. Feel free to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if we can do anything to help.