April 12, 2024


Free For All Food

America Keeps On Cooking

Today, HUNTER, a leading food and beverage public relations and marketing communications consultancy, issues findings from Wave Two of its Food Study Special Report which was fielded in December 2020. It follows Wave One, released in April 2020, which explored how these new circumstances were beginning to impact Americans’ food preferences and behaviors.

This second wave study assesses how attitudes and behaviors regarding purchasing, preparing and consuming food have evolved nine months into the pandemic (December 2020) as compared to at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis (April 2020), giving us a lens into which of these habits are likely to continue into the new year and beyond. For the HUNTER Food Study Special Report Wave Two: America Keeps on Cooking, two proprietary custom surveys were fielded, each to 1032 American adults1  with basic information captured in part one and deeper underlying motivations explored in part two. 

Now nine months further into pandemic conditions, many of the findings in Wave Two are consistent with the April learnings, while some patterns have intensified and others have begun to moderate back toward pre-COVID levels. Few findings from Wave One shifted in an entirely different direction. These results offer a glimpse into the consumer behaviors that are likely to persist in the future, as well as those that were short-term changes in direct response to the pandemic environment.

“The study results gave us some interesting data to consider as we enter into a new year and endeavor to predict how it will unfold,” said Heddy DeMaria, chief insights officer at HUNTER. “As restrictions from the pandemic remain in place, it’s inspiring to see how resilient Americans have become. They continue to channel their energies into the kitchen, adopting habits that bring joy, spark creativity and strengthen family bonds. As we eagerly look forward to a post-COVID era, the data suggests these new habits will stick around and become part of our new normal.”

Top findings include:

Bubbling Over: Americans Continue Cooking More, Leading to Increased Confidence and Creativity in the Kitchen
Nine months in to the COVID-19 pandemic, results from the Hunter Food Study Special Report Wave Two: America Keeps on Cooking, show that Americans are continuing to cook more (51%) and bake more (41%) than they did at the same time last year. Plus, the vast majority (71%) of those who are cooking more intend to continue doing so after the pandemic ends, a 20-point increase since April 2020. When asked, respondents continue to cite saving money (67%), eating healthier (56%) and feeling good (56%) as leading motivators for their at-home cooking habit. Those cooking more at home also report increased confidence in their abilities (50%) while another quarter of consumers say they are learning more and building greater confidence. As home cooks get more comfortable in the kitchen, they’re also getting more creative. An increasing number of respondents report branching out to try new ingredients (47%), brands and products (52%) and many continue to rediscover old favorites (24% ingredients, 16% brands and products).

Steady Simmer: The Joy of Preparing and Sharing Meals Persists
Despite anecdotal evidence of pandemic cooking fatigue and baking burnout, Wave Two of the HUNTER Food Study Special Report demonstrates that these activities remain a source of joy for consumers. More than three quarters of survey respondents that are cooking more say that they find enjoyment in cooking (81%), an eight-point increase over the Wave One / April 2020 findings. From artisan breads to Christmas cookies, baking is also a source of pleasure, with 51% of those surveyed claiming they enjoy the activity now more than ever before. As many cooks can attest and the data shows, home cooking also helps brings families together. 45% of consumers report eating together more as a family and the number climbs to 55% among households with kids.

Flashes in the Pan: Food Waste Prevention and Propensities for both Healthy and Indulgent Foods Still High but Swing Slightly Back Towards Pre-Pandemic Levels
While the pandemic has impacted many consumer habits, it appears not all will continue with sustained intensity in a post COVID-19 world. Data shows that while many Americans are wasting less food (42%) than pre COVID-19, this number is significantly down (-16 points) since April, which may be attributed to American’s response to the decreased threat of food shortages. A similar shift took place with regard to consumers’ consumption patterns. Although, one third of Americans claim to be eating more healthy foods and about the same claim to be eating more indulgent foods as compared to the same time last year (December 2019), more than half of respondents (56%) report that their healthy/indulgent food consumption is similar to pre-COVID levels, a 14-point increase since April which suggests we are moderating over time back to pre-COVID consumption patterns.

Table for One: Snacks and Spirits Consumption on the Rise in Single Member Households
Wave One / April 2020 learnings suggested households with kids were initially the most challenged with change – showing the greatest increase in snacking, drinking alcoholic beverages and gaining the most weight.  Latest learnings, however, suggest this has reversed, as these households are starting to moderate back to pre-COVID levels, while single member households are starting to show the biggest uptick in all of these factors.  It appears, single member households are most likely to be navigating increasingly stressful circumstances, as 35% claim money is tighter than ever before (vs. 30% average), 16% are likely to have someone in their household lose a job (vs. 13% average) and 14% have moved to a new home (vs. 10% average). At the same time, this group reports snacking more (43%), consuming more alcohol (20%) and gaining more weight (38%).

Can I Get A Box for That? Takeout and Delivery See Major Surge After April Decline
With the restaurant industry facing perhaps its most challenging year ever, it may be heartening to learn that takeout and delivery orders are up significantly when compared to the onset of the pandemic.  Forty percent of Americans are now claiming to order more takeout and delivery versus the same time last year and only 20% are doing so less, resulting in a net increase of 20% (versus a net decline of 8% in Wave One / April 2020).

For the full Hunter Food Study Special Report Wave Two: America Keeps on Cooking and additional information about the annual Hunter Food News Study, visit www.hunterpr.com/news.

Founded in 1989, HUNTER is an award-winning consumer marketing communications firm with primary offices in New York and London and a footprint across North America. Beginning with research-driven consumer insights, HUNTER executes strategic, integrated programs that build brand equity, increase engagement, and drive measurable business results for consumer products and services. The 150-person firm employs a powerful blend of marketing solutions including strategic planning, social and digital media, talent and influencer engagement, media relations, experiential, multicultural, and content creation and distribution for all platforms and channels to earn consumer attention on behalf of some of the world’s best known and most beloved brands. The agency is a member of MDC Partners Inc. (NASDAQ: MDCA; TSX: MDZ.A).

The Hunter Food Study Special Report: America Keeps On Cooking provides a comparative perspective on consumers’ meal preparation and consumption behaviors and attitudes now versus prior to the coronavirus pandemic. HUNTER fielded two proprietary custom surveys using the demographically and geographically representative national panel and insight platform, SUZY.  The survey was fielded in two parts, with basic information captured in part 1 and deeper underlying motivations explored in part 2.  The online survey was fielded on December 7, 2020 to Americans ages 18-73 years old.  The 1,032 respondents to each survey were mutually exclusive and evenly split between males and females.


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Respondents to each survey were mutually exclusive, with both surveys meeting the following criteria: N=1032 (part 1) & N=1032 (part 2); 50% male / 50% female; Lives in the United States; Age 18-73


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