What are US trends regarding cooking, from a regional perspective - are there regions of the country where people like to cook or don't like to cook?

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What are US trends regarding cooking, from a regional perspective - are there regions of the country where people like to cook or don't like to cook?

Hello, and thank you for your question about U.S. cooking trends with regard to region, desire, industry and restaurant use. The most useful resources I found to answer your questions were research papers from Market Watch and Pew Research. The short version is current American cooking trends apply more to age than region with younger people cooking less than in the past; families still dine together, but often eat meals prepared elsewhere; cooking in quantity is fading as family sizes have been decreasing; fast food remains popular; sales of healthier meal kits are on the rise; frozen meal sales are steady and instant noodle companies are changing recipes to appeal to the health-conscious. Below you will find a deep dive into my findings.

MILLENNIALS DO NOT COOK AS MUCH

I could not find current cooking trends with regard to region, and it appears the more current cooking trends are associated with age instead of location. An article based on market research by Technomic states 53% of millennials eat at restaurants at least once a week, compared to 43% of Generation X or baby boomers. The article goes on to say more millennials can afford to eat out. According to the article, in 2014, Americans, for the first time, spent more money on food away from home than on food made and eaten at home with 51% of food purchased from restaurants, school cafeterias and sports venues while 49% of food was purchased from grocery stores. The article includes survey results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating people age 15-24 have spent an average of 11-17 minutes on daily food preparation in the past decade. Instead of cooking, young consumers have become reliant on restaurant and carry-out meals.

However, that doesn't mean millennials are no longer eating dinner with the family. The Market Watch article cites a 2016 Pew Research report in saying adults age 18-34 are more likely living with parents than independently or with a spouse.

According to a 2016 Harris Poll, of those who don't enjoy cooking, 35% indicate they are not good at it, 31% say they don't have time and 31% say cooking isn't fun.

AMERICANS WHO LIKE COOKING

A 2016 Harris Poll conducted with 2,236 adults reflects 57% of Americans enjoy cooking, and 27% of those enjoy it very much. About 86% of those who really enjoy cooking prefer to cook from scratch. The poll shows 61% of women enjoy cooking, compared to 53% of men, and 65% of adults with children enjoy cooking, compared to 53% of household cooks who don't have kids.

FAMILY DINNERS

Families are still dining together, according to a 2014 article from The Washington Post that estimates 88% of Americans still frequently eat with other household members with New Mexico the only state falling below national averages. However, a 2015 article from the same publisher points out less than 60% of suppers served at home were actually cooked at home in 2014. The article notes men and women spend about 110 minutes cooking each day, on average, compared to 140 minutes in the 1970s and 150 minutes in the 1960s. The primary reason for the trend is more women spend time working and less time cooking. The article explains Americans spend less time cooking than people in other developed nations, but they also spend less time eating.

Although families are still dining together, home cooking in large quantities has decreased because family sizes have decreased. A 2015 report from Pew Research revealed 5% more women were childless in 2014 than in 1976, 8% more had one child, 13% more had two children, 3% fewer had three children and 24% fewer had four or more children.

FAST FOOD, FROZEN MEALS, MEAL KITS AND INSTANT NOODLES

Americans are reducing but not eliminating their fast food intake. A 2013 Gallup Poll indicates 80% of Americans reported eating fast food monthly, and 40% reported eating it weekly. Only 4% indicated they never eat fast food.

According to the poll, 57% of those age 18-29, 47% of those 30-49, 44% of those 50-65 and 41% of those 65 and older eat fast food weekly. The poll reflects 53% of men are likely to eat fast food, and 42% of women are likely cruise a drive-thru. Other demographics included in the poll are 52% of blacks, 53% of Hispanics and 46% of non-Hispanic whites eat fast food weekly.

Frozen ready meals are increasing in sales. A 2015 Grandview Research report shows the meals made up 35% of the frozen food market share, and sales are expected to increase by about $10 billion by the year 2024.

Millennials can eat well without shopping with the introduction of meal kits. The 2016 Market Watch article explains that Blue Apron, Chef'd and HelloFresh are marketing to the younger population that need cooking instructions and don't have time to shop. According to the article, Blue Apron now ships more than eight million meals per month in the U.S. HelloFresh claims the U.S. is its largest market with 7.5 million meals sold globally, and Chef'd claims its revenue grew 300% in just the second quarter of 2016. About one-quarter of meal kit customers are age 18-34.

Instant noodle companies are racing to keep up with health-conscious diners by overhauling cup noodle recipes. An LA Times article by Shan Li reports U.S. sales of instant noodles in 2015 was $1.06 billion, up just 4.1% from 2010. Americans ranked fifth in demand worldwide, according to Li, and Americans ate 4.2 billion servings of instant noodles, down from 4.4 billion in 2013.

RESTAURANTS

The National Restaurant Association surveyed 1,300 restaurant professionals regarding menu trends for 2017. The results provide the Top 20 food trends and the Top 10 food concept trends. The Top 10 food trends include 1) new cuts of meat, like shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas strip steak and Merlot cut, 2) street food-inspired dishes like tempura, kabobs, dumplings and pupusas, 3) healthful kids' meals, 4) house-made charcuterie, 5) sustainable seafood, 6) ethnic-inspired breakfast items like chorizo scrambled eggs and coconut milk pancakes, 7) house-made condiments, 8) authentic ethnic cuisine, 9) heirloom fruits and vegetables, and 10) African flavors. The Top 10 food concept trends include 1) hyper-local sourcing, 2) chef-driven fast-casual concepts, 3) natural ingredients/clean menus, 4) environmental sustainability, 5) locally-sourced produce, 6) locally-sourced meat and produce, 7) food waste reduction, 8) meal kits, 9) simplicity/ back to basics, and 10) nutrition.
The market for "fast casual" restaurants increased by 11% in 2015 to $44 billion in the U.S.

Because you are seeking an overall picture, I think it's important to mention the perceived shortage of chefs across the United States as it is expected to impact what Americans will be eating. The Guardian reports 51% of catering colleges have recently seen enrollment drop. It is estimated that by 2020, the restaurant industry will require 11,000 new chefs.

The Guardian also mentions that risky restaurant concepts reliant on creative cooking are being abandoned in favor of steakhouses and fast-casual eateries, which offer limited menus of fried chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers. The theory behind this is that burger chains are growing because they are easy to staff.

CONCLUSION

To wrap it up, current American cooking trends apply more to age than region with younger people cooking less than in the past. Families are still dining together, but they often eat meals prepared elsewhere. A shift from cooking to working for women has resulted in statistics reflecting people spend less time cooking, overall, and cooking in quantity is fading as family sizes have been decreasing. Fast food remains popular, sales of healthier meal kits are on the rise, frozen meal sales are steady and instant noodle companies are changing recipes to appeal to the health-conscious. Restaurant food trends focus on the house-made, ethnic and unusual, and concept trends center around local sources, natural ingredients and nutrition.

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