Canadian grocery prices remain elevated (9.0 percent as of May 2023), and according to new Mintel research, Canadians are adapting their behaviours and buying habits to accommodate the economic uncertainty. The overwhelming majority (91 percent) of Canadians with any cooking or meal planning responsibility agree that cooking from scratch is an excellent way to save money on groceries, with 81 percent saying they are adapting the meals they make at home to adjust to the rising cost of ingredients such as meat and produce.
Mintel research also shows the majority (77 percent) of consumers said that the rise in food prices is pushing them to plan more of their meals ahead of time to avoid waste.
Furthermore, while it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic incentivised consumers around the world to elevate their at-home cooking skills, three in five (60 percent) Canadians say their cooking skills have improved compared to before the start of the pandemic, and two-thirds (65 percent) admit to now cooking at home more often.
Joel Gregoire, Director of Food and Drink, Mintel Reports Canada, said that by and large, Canadians have a rich food culture centred around home cooking, and as many contend with high inflation and economic uncertainty, the ability to cook at home translates to the ability to save money.
“Consumers’ increased interest in scratch cooking opens up many opportunities for brands to promote cooking, including pre-portioned kits with clear, easy-to-follow instructions,” said Gregoire.
“Although consumer interest in eating out has rebounded, improved cooking skills are a long-term benefit for companies more reliant on at-home occasions, which will undoubtedly come into greater focus should Canada experience continued economic volatility.”
When preparing meals to make at home, more than six in ten (63 percent) Canadians agreed that ease was the most important factor, followed by whether or not the meal is healthy (55 percent) and the time it takes to prepare (51 percent), spotlighting that two of the top three considerations revolve around convenience. That said, in an exciting turn, given the high rate of food inflation, only 38 percent of Canadian consumers said that low-priced ingredients matter when cooking or preparing home-cooked meals. In other words, value can be conveyed in ways other than price.
Canadians’ desire for convenience is further proven when trying new recipes. Only a quarter (24 percent) of consumers stated that trying a new recipe is essential when planning and cooking home-cooked meals versus 44 percent who say familiarity is essential. This underscores a particular challenge for those responsible for innovation in the food industry, Canadians gravitate to what they know.
“Despite how much more expensive groceries have become of late, the price of ingredients has less of an impact on what meals consumers make compared to factors like ease, speed, and health.”
Convenience also plays a critical role in whether or not consumers are willing to experiment. While new recipes can often be exciting, they also come with uncertainty and the need for greater focus. Mintel’s research showed that 69 percent of consumers said they like to cook while doing something else, indicating they like preparing meals without needing to dedicate all their concentration.
“For brands that innovate in the grocery food and drink space, this points to the importance of grounding new offerings in what is already familiar to consumers.”
Finally, nearly all Canadians agree that cooking is a way to feel accomplishment, as 88 percent say that meals made from scratch by oneself are more satisfying. Most (79 percent) Canadians also said that cooking with others is an excellent way to connect, going so far as to associate cooking with relaxation and stress management (72 percent).
“Brands can engage with consumers by connecting to the sentiments that cooking at home is a flexible way to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Gregoire said that following the pandemic, greater focus is being placed on mental health, including its connection to food and drink. Brands that promote the kitchen as a sanctuary from day-to-day stresses and showcase how their products, such as meal kits, contribute to alleviating that stress will resonate.