How consumers eat has a direct impact on kitchenware stores, who strive to sell those consumers the tools they need for their cooking adventures.
For instance, if shoppers favor easy-cook frozen meals, microwaves top their shopping lists. However, a study by The NPD Group finds that consumers, especially younger consumers, are turning to fresh fruits and vegetables more than in the recent past.
In fact, the NPD researchers found that Americans are eating their fresh fruits and veggies in-home more than at any other time in the past 30 years, a fact that not only impacts cookware sales, but also sales of tableware and serveware, as more consumers prepare their meals at home.
According to NPD’s ongoing food and beverage consumption tracker, the National Eating Trends report, younger adults ages 18-to-34 are the main drivers of the shift to fresh foods and beverages. The report states that in 1984 17.8 percent of all in-home eating and drinking included fresh foods, but only 16.4 percent of occasions did so in 2001, which marked the lowest point of fresh food consumption in the report.
From then on, the percent of occasions where fresh fruit and veggies were included in home cooked meals increased to 17.2 percent in 2013 and 17.4 percent in 2014, with younger cooks leading the way back to the kitchen, a bit of a twist considering Millennials are in a life stage when people typically opt for what the report politely terms “more timesaving and convenient options.” (Read: beer and pretzels, rather than fresh, home-cooked meals.)
The researchers behind the NPD report theorize that this might be due to younger adults being hit harder by unemployment during the Great Recession. And, while this group typically is among the highest restaurant users, many pulled back from going out in favor of cooking at home.
“As Millennials retired to their homes to source more of their meals, they spend little more time in the kitchen to make dishes like eggs and omelets, pancakes, vegetables/legumes and rice,” says NPD analyst Darren Seifer.
“This doesn’t mean they are becoming chefs or that they even enjoy spending time in the kitchen. In fact, Millennials account for more than their fair share of rice cooker sales, meaning they want fresh rice with their meals without having to hover over a sauce pan for 30 minutes.”
This notion of convenience for the younger generations seems to be focused both on freshness and getting out of the kitchen quickly, he says. By contrast, he points out, previous generations opted for frozen meals.
“As Millennnials recover in the job market, there are predictions that they will return to lower levels of fresh consumption in order to manage their increased time pressures,” says Seifer. “But, there is also evidence that fresh food is here to stay.”
And that is good news for kitchenware retailers and manufacturers. “When looking at typical behaviors of Americans across the past 30 years, the consumption of fresh foods and beverages increases with age as consumers gain more cooking skills and confidence in the kitchen,” Seifer says.
“It would seem Millennials’ heightened levels of fresh consumption could represent a sizable shift in the way consumers prepare foods for decades to come.”