The Grocery Industry Confronts a New Problem: Only 10% of Americans Love Cooking

Eddie Yoon
Harvard Business Review

The supermarket and grocery business is likely to suffer strong headwinds in the future, due to long-term shifts in consumer behavior. Although many people don’t realize it yet, grocery shopping and cooking are in a long-term decline. They are shifting from a mass category, based on a daily activity, to a niche activity that a few people do only some of the time.

I’ve spent two decades consulting extensively for consumer packaged goods companies. Early in my career I gathered some data for a client on cooking. This research found that consumers fell into one of three groups: (1) people who love to cook, and cook often, (2) people who hate to cook, and avoid that activity by heating up convenience food or outsourcing their meals (by ordering out or dining in restaurants), and, finally, (3) people who like to cook sometimes, and do a mix of cooking and outsourcing, depending on the situation. At the time, the sizes of the three respective groups were about 15% who love to cook, 50% who hate to cook, and 35% who are so-so on the idea.

Nearly 15 years later I did a similar study for a different client. This time, the numbers had shifted: Only 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it. That means that the percentage of Americans who really love to cook has dropped by about one-third in a fairly short period of time.

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