Is home cooking taking over from ‘bready’-made meals?

Jazmine Duncan, Strategic Content Manager
May 04, 2022

Home cooking sits on an ‘effort’ spectrum 

Many consumers saw lockdown as a chance to learn new skills and develop new interests. With restaurants closed for much of the pandemic, large numbers of people started cooking at home more frequently, and our consumer context tracker revealed that the activity of cooking at home had increased more than any other daily pursuit during the pandemic. In fact, the proportion of our bees who made their meals from scratch rose from 56% in 2020 to 65% in 2021. 

However, as things return to some sense of normality, consumers are continuing to cook at home but are looking for more convenient ways to do so. Our data has found that home cooking sits on a spectrum of ‘effort’. The amount of effort they put in depends on the amount of time they have at that particular moment. To be able to activate in the scratch cooking space, brands must target specific parts of this ‘effort’ spectrum.  

*Based on Streetbees’ data in BR, CN, FR, DE, IN, MX, RU, TR, UK and US. 

Let’s look at the driving demand space behind home cooking moments to help you position your brand. 

Take action with the right demand spaces 

From our 4.5 million bees, who are constantly sharing their real-time habits and attitudes with us, we’ve found that the ‘Relaxed Zero Waste Meal’ demand space over-indexes here - a space which has grown steadily since Q1 2021. This is a calm evening occasion, where consumers are creating a meal using leftover ingredients. 

In this occasion, we‘ve seen an increase in the proportion of consumers opting to prepare their meal themselves, whereas the consumption of pre-made meals has fallen. Also, the average preparation time has shifted from 0-5 minutes to between 15-45 minutes, which suggests that consumers are spending longer on their home-made dishes. 

Read this next: The condiment conundrum: what’s next for sauce and spice?

So how can you grow your food brand in this space?

1. Explore ways to add more flavour to no/low and low effort meals

No/low and low effort meals tend to be uncooked, grilled, boiled or fried, so consumers are looking for quick and easy ways to add a burst of flavour to these dishes. The low effort space in particular has grown from 23% in 2020 to 27% in 2021, and the method of boiling has risen from 17% to 23% in the same time period. 

To bring flavour to these speedy, solo meals, consider introducing spice or sauce packs with a series of single-portion packets. In the Relaxed Zero Waste Meal occasion in particular, more consumers are now adding seasonings and spices to their home-made dishes (13% 2020 vs. 22% 2021), so this is a great way to break into the space. 

*Based on Streetbees’ data in BR, CN, FR, DE, IN, MX, RU, TR, UK and US. 

Brand spotlights - ‘chip chip hooray’

Schwartz has a ‘Street Food’ seasoning range, allowing consumers to quickly add tons of flavour to low effort meals, like noodles or wraps. 

​​​​​​ Omsom is bringing traditional East and South East Asian home-cooking to the West, with sauces that make quick dishes taste like they took hours to make. 

2. Consider healthy recipe ideas for medium and high effort meals

71% of the meals prepared in the Relaxed Zero Waste Meal space are cooked from scratch and the majority of these meals are made using leftover ingredients. As a result, consumers have to think of alternative ways to use these ingredients if they don’t want to make the same meal again.

To help make this process more convenient, consider offering healthy recipe ideas for common ‘leftover’ ingredients. Alternatively, explore ingredient subscription boxes with recipe suggestions to use everything in the box. More consumers are planning ahead when they scratch cook (40% 2020 vs. 46% 2021), so providing recipes at this planning stage is a great opportunity to get in early. Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, for example, specifically refer to certain ‘effort’ occasions e.g. 30-minute meals, one-pan wonders etc. 

*Based on Streetbees data in BR, CN, FR, DE, IN, MX, RU, TR, UK and US. 

Brand spotlights - ‘grab life by the bowls’

Mindful Chef’s fresh food subscription boxes deliver healthy ingredients to consumers with a range of recipes designed to reduce waste. 

​​​​​​ Dishoom, a Bombay-inspired restaurant chain in the UK, has released a cookbook with many of its famous recipes, including the 48-hour black daal.


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