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COVID-19 Updates News Trends
Manitobans embrace home cooking amid national trend


Manitoba – Leading supply chain experts believe Manitoba has become Canada’s “home-cooking capital” and data from a new report suggests most Canadians often found comfort in cooking staples they already knew. Yet overall findings show the pandemic has enticed younger generations like gen Z or millennials to learn a lot more recipes than older ones, like boomers or generation X.

A health-care administrator who finally learned how to make basics like Jell-O. A millennial who moved into a tiny Winnipeg apartment that transformed the way she cooked. A 12-year-old who used meal kits to prepare restaurant-quality dishes for her family.

Shut-in amid COVID-19, those are just a few of the people in Manitoba who can be cited as a reason why leading supply chain experts believe the province has become Canada’s “home-cooking capital.”

And experts told the Free Press those consumption trends are here to stay — impacting the way people will interact with food and how much they pay.

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Surveying a sample of over 10,000 people from coast to coast, a new report by the Agri-Food Analytics Lab measured if Canadians are more food literate in 2021 than before the pandemic.

“The results are definitely an interesting look at the uncertainty of everything happening,” said lead author Sylvain Charlebois, food management professor at Dalhousie University.

Roughly a quarter of all Canadians claim they have self-prepared all meals consumed since the onset of COVID-19. And a total of 55.9 per cent of respondents said they have prepared most meals themselves.

But when asked about the number of recipes known, figures fluctuated from province to province and showed incremental change from 2019.

“We can see that the pandemic forced people to stay at home and so cook more at home than they ever have before,” Charlebois said in an interview. “What’s more insightful though is looking at what kind of things they were cooking, and whether that was the same or something different.”

“It’s no surprise why meal kits are taking off and grocery chains are raking skyrocketing revenues.” –Naomi Mandel

Data from the report shows most Canadians often found comfort in cooking staples they already knew, save for one or two new recipes they learned. Yet overall findings show the pandemic has enticed younger generations like Gen Z or millennials to learn a lot more recipes than older ones, like Boomers or Generation X.

“To us that signals a strong variation that’s swinging across these trends,” said Charlebois. “Frankly, we expected more changes, given how domesticated we’ve all become.”

The report offers some insights about why that might be. Researchers looked into which aspects have affected decisions on household consumption.

They found health (at 70.5 per cent) is the highest-ranking reason for food choices, followed by economy (52.7 per cent), environment (28.3 per cent) and community (at 23 per cent).

“At the peak of all of this,” said Charlebois, “is the fascinating fact that Manitoba has now become Canada’s leading province in home-cooking.”

For Andrew Stambrook, an administrative supervisor in Winnipeg, these trends are not surprising. “It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I really never knew much cooking at all before — like barely even Jell-O or scrambled eggs,” he said.

“When we got stuck at home and couldn’t go visit people, my wife started teaching me over any day off, and we bought all these groceries over and over to do that. Now, I cook almost all my own lunches.”

Susan Jurkowski said her 12-year-old daughter Charlotte didn’t know much cooking before either. “There was a little bit of baking here and there, but when she didn’t have to go school every single day, it all changed very quickly.”

Now, Charlotte cooks “big, glamorous” dinners using meal kits from Hello Fresh. “It’s exciting for us every single night what she’ll whip up,” said her mom Susan.

Victoria Avanthay would’ve done a lot more eating out when she moved to Winnipeg from rural Manitoba in the beginning of 2020. “Well, had it not been for the pandemic that is,” she said.

“I bought all these apartment-sized appliances and been making minimal trips to the grocery store,” she said. “Without the option to eat at restaurants, somehow that translated to cooking with a diverse array of foods and not the same 10 meals I’d repeatedly make before. It’s all completely different.”

Marketing and consumer behaviour analyst Naomi Mandel said businesses have begun to take notice of these trends. “It’s no surprise why meal kits are taking off and grocery chains are raking skyrocketing revenues,” said the Arizona-based researcher.

“If you’re going to look at any type of food-related businesses in major cities in America or Canada, you’ll easily see a specific emphasis being put on things that can be done at home,” added Mandel.

“That’s probably something restaurants will struggle to compete with in the future.”