If you sometimes find it difficult to cook a meal at home, you’re not alone. Beyond the actual act of cooking, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to preparing food. You have to think about what’s in your fridge or pantry and how soon each item needs to be used, what meals you can create from those ingredients, how many people you’re cooking for, and what they do and don’t like. You think about how long it will take to cook and people’s level of hunger, and you can’t help but think about the mess and the inevitable sink full of dishes that will ensue.

consumer food journey study

Cooking a meal, whether for yourself or for others, is a big feat, yet doing so results in a significant amount of fulfillment and may improve health. In this blog post, we’ll share insights from a survey we recently ran among 1,140 US consumers at every step of the food journey, from planning a meal to plating it. Read on for a deep-dive analysis into the motivations behind cooking and grocery shopping for people across age, gender, and geography.

Motivation To Cook

Why do you cook? Is it to maintain your weekly budget, for health reasons, or to show your love and appreciation? Across generations, the reasons differ. Saving money was the most common motivator for people of all ages (65% note as top cooking motivation), but it’s especially pronounced among Millennials. But for Gen Z, the other top motivators are creativity and self-expression and developing skills and techniques. For Millennials, the second biggest driver was health and fitness and for Gen X and Boomers, the secondary drivers are evenly split between connection to loved ones, knowing what ingredients are in their food, and health and fitness.

Recipe Inspiration

Despite the plethora of new recipes being created every day, people usually end up cooking the same few recipes on repeat, which can get boring. As a result, many people search for inspiration in food blogs and cookbooks to spice up their mealtime. 

With all the inspiration available, people have trouble actually using the recipes they browse. Even if they get around to it, the method of saving recipes is also disorganized and fragmented. The most common ways of saving recipes are by and far screenshots, especially among Millennials, and saving via emails are the most common among Gen X and Boomers. With multiple places to store and save, and many people employing multiple methods depending on where the recipe is discovered, this process could easily be streamlined.

To describe this disconnected experience, a 24-year old female user from California noted, “I love watching Instagram videos of people cooking, I get really inspired by them. But I never actually make those recipes.” 

The gap between recipe browsing and recipe saving suggests there is a potential opportunity to bridge inspiration and planning. Removing the need for a manual search of recipes and providing an organized method for saving recipes is sure to remove some of the headache of choosing a recipe to cook, and then actually taking the steps to cook it. 

consumer food journey
Whisk Consumer Food Journey, US, Sept 2019, Sample n=1,140

Interestingly, while most people use and follow recipes, they often modify them to their tastes and preferences or research multiple recipes before choosing one to combine into a custom recipe.

Overall, publisher websites like Food Network or BBC Good Food are still the dominating source for recipe inspiration. Among Millennials, social media is a significant source of recipe content. Likewise, there is a significant decline in print, magazines, and cookbooks as a source of recipe inspiration among younger generations. Gender plays a role here too. For men, YouTube and friends and family are top sources of inspiration, while women seek inspiration primarily from Pinterest, Facebook, and friends and family.

Shopping List Considerations

Once you’ve decided on a recipe or a dish, you determine what ingredients you’ll need to purchase based on what’s already in your fridge and pantry. From there, most people (a little over half the population) make shopping lists at least weekly, primarily with pen and paper. 

For deciding what goes on the list, the main consideration is staples and go-to basics, followed by recipe ingredients, and budget/saving money. Creating a shopping list is an integral part of meal planning and preparation, and not creating one can lead to less successful meal outcomes. We’re all familiar with the impulsive purchases and hodgepodge of ingredients we’re left with after an impromptu trip to the grocery store without a list. Thankfully, Whisk seeks to end that.

Grocery Shopping

According to our survey, on average, a US shopper shops at 3.4 different kinds of grocery stores per month, whether that’s a supermarket, a supercenter like Walmart, a local grocer or farmers markets, a club store like Costco, or a specialty store. 

62% of people say sales and discounts are a top factor for deciding what to buy when grocery shopping and they show interest in personalized sales and coupons that match their preferences.

Post-Cooking Activities

After cooking, the most common activities are to save the recipe for personal reference and note modifications to the recipe for future use.

consumer food behavior
Whisk Consumer Food Journey, US, Sept 2019, Sample n=1,140

Food waste is also a common problem – 76% of the US throws out expired food at least once per month – and the methods to keep track of when foods expire is imprecise and sporadic, with most people occasionally checking when items expire and mentally noting food to use up or remembering what’s in the fridge or pantry.

How Whisk Helps

Understanding people’s experience of the food journey and obtaining insights into how they plan and cook their meals leads to opportunities in improving and optimizing their journey, which is our focus. With our user’s help, we’re connecting “looks delicious” to “tastes delicious.” See for yourself.