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The revival of home cooking

home cooking
Home cooking is on the rise in the wake of Covid-19
home cooking
Home cooking is on the rise in the wake of Covid-19

Pre Covid-19, shopper decisions were increasingly driven by key macro trends including convenience and ethical consumption. As shoppers worked longer days and became increasingly time poor, we saw a shift to ‘on the go’ formats, meal boxes and home delivery services such as Uber Eats. 

In addition, ethical and sustainable sourcing became increasingly important to many shoppers as global warming, the environment and the bushfire crises were emphasised across the media.   

Since the arrival of Covid-19 in March, it’s no secret that our shopping and consumption habits have significantly changed, along with the way we live our lives. 

Different levels of lockdown restrictions spread across Australia have meant that people have spent more time at home, and as result, suddenly time rich Australians are looking for ways to stay entertained. Among puzzles, home improvements, home workouts and Netflix, is the revival of home cooking. 

The initial Covid-19 lockdown saw many grocery categories thrive. Eighty-five per cent of Ambient categories and 66 per cent of Chilled categories experienced double-digit growth (QTR to 05/07/20 vs YA). Some of the strongest performing categories shows clear signs of cooking or baking from scratch; flours and bread mixes rose by 51 per cent, cake & muffin mixes by 35 per cent, seasonings by 35 per cent and cream by 32 per cent, to name a few. 

As restrictions ease across the country, evidence suggests that this trend is here to stay.

The economic impact of Covid-19 has been significant and cooking from scratch is a way for shoppers to minimise financial burden. Unemployment and underemployment have increased 6.8 per cent and 11.2 per cent, respectively. Job Seeker and Job Keeper reduction coupled with mortgage deferral will put families across Australia in hardship and looking for ways to save money. As a result, ABS’ sixth Household Impacts of Covid-19 survey revealed that 87 per cent of Australians have reported spending less on eating out, despite easing of restrictions and re-opening of restaurants. 

Despite the significant change in shopper habits, there is one trend preceding the Pandemic that remains an important influence on shopper preference; ethical consumption.  This is driving shoppers to increasingly cook plant-based meals at home, replacing the classic meat-based meals traditionally made by many Australians. 

Dairy and meat alternatives have performed well ahead of their original counterparts across a variety of categories. Vegan cheese has performed well ahead of Dairy cheese growing at 45 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. Dairy Free Yoghurt has outperformed its Dairy counterpart growing at 23 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively (six months to 13/09/20 vs PP). Similar trends can also be seen in cream, milk and meat replacements and meals which include a variety of vegetables, legumes and nuts are becoming the new normal. 

Looking at Amazons bestselling cookbooks for instance, many Vegetarian books appear in the list of Best Sellers with Ottolenghi Flavour, a Vegetarian cookbook, at number three and number one in ‘most gifted’. 

Cooking from scratch is expected to continue into 2021 with 66 per cent of IRI’s recent shopper panel survey stating that they will continue to create meals from scratch more often. This coupled with the positive growth trajectory of meat and dairy alternatives highlights an opportunity for both retailers and suppliers alike to capitalise on this trend. 

In addition to home cooking, it will be interesting to see what the next few months have in store. As we see restrictions ease after months of lockdown, particularly in Victoria and NSW, there could also be a boom in eating out as people want to re-connect and socialise again. 

  • Emily Hill is a senior consultant at IRI specialising in the food and beverage sector.

IRI is the leading provider of big data, predictive analytics and forward-looking insights for the FMCG industry.  For more information, visit