Perceptions of Homemade Meals
Americans have a large preference for homemade meals over prepared food options, and widely view home-cooking as more affordable, healthier and valuable for promoting family time. While definitions of home-cooking have evolved over time, it appears that US consumers are increasingly viewing homemade as including a variety of options, such as meal kits or food that uses some convenience ingredients.
- A preponderance of recent consumer studies (e.g., ReportLinker, Peapod, NPD) report that Americans largely prefer homemade meals over prepared food.
- Most recently, ReportLinker's 2020 survey of US consumers found that 98% of Americans prefer preparing meals at home to other dining options.
- Corroborating this finding, Peapod reported that 77% of US consumers would rather eat homemade food than go out to dinner.
- In particular, Pro Money Savings reported that the large majority (79%) of teenagers in the US prefer homemade meals to alternatives such as fast food.
- Meanwhile, this preference for home-cooking has translated to many US consumers making meals at home, with NPD reporting in 2018 that 80% of meals are now made at home in America.
- The latest consumer surveys also consistently indicate that the perceived affordability of homemade meals is the primary driver of the decision to cook at home in the US.
- For example, Peapod found that over three-fourths (77%) of Americans view homemade cooking as more affordable, and prepare meals at home to realize these cost savings.
- Similarly, Pro Money Savings reported that 72% of US consumers make homemade meals to save money, while ReportLinker added that many Americans see home-cooking as a lower cost option.
- Notably, Pro Money Savings noted that the perceived affordability of homemade meals in the US is substantiated by the average serving price of meals, given that the average serving of a home-cooked meal in the US is $4.31 compared with an average serving price in restaurants of $20.37.
Perceived Health Benefits
- In parallel, US consumers also generally view homemade meals as healthier, and also frequently choose home-cooking to enjoy these perceived health benefits.
- Notably, Food Industry Executive reported in 2019 that "homemade" is the first association that US consumers have with health food.
- As a result, Peapod adds that approximately half (51%) of US consumers choose to make homemade meals because they view home-cooking as healthier.
- Corroborating these finding, Pro Money Savings found that 52% of Americans prefer home-cooking as a way to eat healthier, while ReportLinker added that the "desire for healthy fare" is the second biggest reason US consumers cook at home.
- Once again, Pro Money Savings noted that the perceived health benefits of homemade food are validated by research, which indicates that home-cooking lowers an American's chance of having an overweight BMI by 28%, and that children eat twice as many calories when eating out.
Perceived Value for Family Time
- Lastly, another significant association that consumers make with homemade cooking its advantages for the family.
- For example, Peapod found that 41% of US consumers associate home-cooking with "quality time" with the family, adding that this association is particularly strong for Millennials (48%).
- ReportLinker validates the significance of family time for home cooks, adding that 12% of Americans who spend between 31 minutes and an hour to prepare a meal do so because the view home cooking as the "best way to gather the family together."
Definition of Homemade
- Meanwhile, industry experts (e.g., Mintel, NPD, Acosta Sales and Marketing) suggest that Americans' definition of homemade food has evolved over time.
- For example, in 2015, NPD found that US consumers defined homemade cooking based on four criteria: (1) made from scratch, (2) made at home, (3), made from fresh ingredients and (4) made personally.
- Notably, dishes that used a meal kit or other prepped item were considered "doctored" rather than home-cooked.
- However, that same year, Acosta Sales and Marketing forecast that cooking from scratch was "being replaced" by "hybrid homemade meals" in consumers' definition of home-cooking.
- Corroborating this prediction, the NPD found in a more recent (2018) study of US consumers that younger generations of Americans were increasingly defining homemade to include as "taking something already prepared" and "doctoring it up."
- In particular, the use of fresh food and associated food prep involvement became the more important factors than making a meal from scratch when defining a meal as home-cooked.
- Moreover, Mintel added that male consumers were increasingly willing to qualify meals heated in a microwave or toaster oven as home-cooked.
- Overall, NPD forecast that blended meals and other more lenient definitions of homemade will become increasingly common and more often perceived as home-cooked in the next five years.