Last year we saw the rise of locavores — those dedicated to eating locally. Now it’s all about the scrimpavores, a term coined by Iconoculture. This cultural trend research company suggests the shift to thrift may help make us healthier. People are beginning to trade processed for more of a process in the kitchen. And that means for the first time, non-foodies are starting to act more like foodies in an effort to save money. People are being forced to learn to cook from scratch rather than buying something ready-made to eat at home. In-home meals tend to be healthier and they cost about a third of a meal purchased away from home.
Scrimpavores now have to think more strategically by using items they have on hand, stretching leftovers and working backwards by stocking up when items are on sale and then figuring out a meal. That means a whole new generation of folks are trying to make their way around a kitchen at a time when cooking has become a spectator sport. Throughout the country, the recession has brought back the home cooked meal. Now 71% of all meals are eaten at home, according to the NPD Group.
People who grew accustomed to dining out every night are now taking cooking lessons, devouring food magazines, searching recipe web sites and snatching up cookbooks. Some of the fastest growing items in the supermarket are canning and freezer supplies. Money saved by eating in has given some people the means and justification to invest in kitchen tools, cookware and small appliances like slow cookers.
There’s a tremendous opportunity to give novice home cooks the skills and the confidence to create family meals that are easy, frugal and nutritious.
Turns out, life in a recession isn’t bad for everyone. Some food products are actually thriving in this sluggish economy, according to Mintel. The market research firm identified the food and drink markets that are being improved by recessionary woes. And they all have a few things in common — they fall into the comfort/simple food categories and can be purchased at a general supermarket for a relatively low price. Then at home, they can be prepared quickly.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen people trying to save money on food by either dining out less, cutting supermarket bills, or both,” said Bill Patterson, a senior analyst at Mintel. “More people cook at home now, but they still want healthy, convenient, tasty food and drink for their dollar.”
Here’s a look at some of the recession-fueled industries that Mintel predicts will do well throughout the economic downturn:
Bread. The core of basic American eating, from breakfast bagels to lunchtime sandwiches to dinner rolls, Mintel sees the bread market faring the recession quite well.
photo credit: xixsnaps on Flickr
Sweet spreads. Brown bag lunches are back. America’s quintessential lunch — the PB&J — is doing great during recessionary times. A healthy, cheap source of protein, peanut butter will drive sweet spread sales to increase 26% from 2008-2013, up substantially from Mintel’s initial prediction of 12%.
Frozen meals. Convenient, available in family-sized servings, filling and often inexpensive, frozen meals will undoubtedly benefit from the recession, Mintel predicts. The firm expects a total sales increase of 4.5% in 2008.
Side dishes. More people are cooking at home, but small conveniences like ready-prepared side dishes aren’t out of the question for many families. The side dish market grew more than 5%, driven by increased sales of basic comfort foods such as mac and cheese.
Coffee. The $4 latte is finally going out of fashion. More adults are making their coffee at home, causing the retail coffee market to grow 6% in 2008, a substantial jump from Mintel’s original forecast of 2.4%. Mintel expects this market to enjoy continued success in the future, though recent, less expensive coffee drink launches from Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s will compete with at-home coffee sales.
In a survey of 1,008 adults, 40% said they’re eating less nutritious foods in an effort to save money. But not sure how they’re interpreting less healthy. Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Asked which foods they’re eating more of: pasta (44%), sandwiches (39%), soup (36%), eggs (36%), cold cereal (36%), bread (29%), peanut butter (28%), tuna fish (27%), beans (26%) and hot dogs (22%).
Some research indicates that people are even more motivated to eat nutritious foods during these tough economic times. Food industry research analyst Christopher Shanahan from Frost and Sullivan said consumers are increasingly focused on ways to avoid becoming ill due to the economic downturn and companies would do well to pay attention. Focusing on health and wellness and building brand awareness are the most successful strategies for weathering the global economic storm, he said.
Is our bad economy making us fat? There’s a growing concern that the deepening recession could inflate America’s waistlines. Are we in store for “recession pounds” as cash-strapped shoppers seek cheaper food?
Sure, the dollar drive-thru menu may look appealing. But as Adam Drewnowski says, the answer lies in affordable but nutrient-rich foods that give you the biggest nutritional bang for your buck — real foods that people relied on during the Great Depression, such as beans, rice, potatoes, milk, cheese, carrots, canned tomatoes and soups. He’s calling it ”a diet for a new Depression.”
photo credit: Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition
And Depression-era foods are back in a big way. Perhaps the best evidence is the latest sensation on You Tube called Great Depression Cooking with Clara, a series of 10 videos featuring 93-year old Clara Cannucciari. Her filmmaker grandson created the videos of Clara demonstrating the meals her family ate during the Great Depression.
Here’s Cannucciari making a “Poorman’s Feast,” a Depression-era version of a celebration meal featuring salad and lentils, rice and a little bit of meat cooked in lemon and oil.
So how are people changing how they eat based on these tough economic times?
The recession has brought back home cooking — or at least eating at home. It’s hard to say home much cooking is actually happening, but 71% of consumers say they’re eating out less. The most popular entree at dinner : sandwiches! That’s according to research by the NPD Group. When people eat at home, they’re apt to eat better.
Some evidence suggests people look to health and wellness in a recession — they are increasingly focused on ways to avoid becoming ill during these uncertain times. But instead of high-priced functional foods, wholesome real foods cooked at home are the likely approach. It’s the back to-basics bailout diet.
The casserole is making a comeback. An article in Advertising Age says this one-dish wonder has become a lot more popular lately among cash-strapped and often culinarily challenged consumers anxious to save bucks while getting dinner on the table. But the modern-day casserole is being re-invented with more fresh vegetables and spice.
Less expensive cuts of meat are quickly growing in popularity, including the cube steak, which is the hottest cut of beef in the country now. An article about the resurgence of cube steak was recently featured in the New York Times by Kim Severson, who lovingly profiled this “wallflower among meat cuts” that brings her back to her childhood dinner table…when “life was safe, steady and predictable.”
NPR food commentator Bonny Wolf says the recession will have a big impact on food trends in 2009 — it will be all about comfort, value and simplicity.
Thoughts, opinions, musings and discussion about nutrition, food trends, diet myths, new products and fad-free healthy eating.
About Janet Helm
I’m a nutrition journalist, consultant, registered dietitian and mom of twins. My passion is translating nutrition science into intelligible words – and healthy food choices. I want to help people make sense of nutrition news. I don’t think it needs to be complicated or confusing. l believe food should be enjoyed, not feared. And I think taste and health can happily co-exist.