Consumer trends: Survey shows Aussies lack kitchen inspiration

Jon Condon, 11/09/2011


Up to 90 percent of items in some Perth independent butchery windows are value-added in some way, in response to increasingly time-poor customers who may also lack meal-time 'imagination.'Despite many Australians’ love affair with TV cooking shows, a new survey suggests a large number are lacking inspiration and creativity in the kitchen and desperately need help in breaking out of a meal preparation ‘rut.’

A large independent survey backed by Westfield, the nation’s largest shopping centre operator, has found that 51 percent of Australians admitted to rotating between a repertoire of five or less different home-cooked meals, and 25pc have a bank of just three recipes or less.

Just 24pc listed ten or more items they regularly cooked for dinner.

The study also showed that Australian consumers lack basic food knowledge and skills, with 83pc of those surveyed (1200 people aged 18-65) unsure how long it takes to boil an egg and one third unable to bake a cake without a packet mix.

Australians were also surveyed on their most common evening meals, with meat and vegetables emerging as the dominant favourite (no attempt was made to define the species, with ‘meat’ obviously representing a number of red or white options). Forty-one percent of respondents gave this dish as their most common meal choice, across all states and age groups.

Next most popular was spaghetti bolognaise (often the single highest polled meal in other similar surveys) and stir-fry at 18pc each; curry and casserole (both 7pc) – again, not species-specific; salad (5pc) and pizza (3pc).

Importantly for a beef retail sector looking at value-add items for greater meal options and time saving attraction for customers, the overwhelming majority of Australians surveyed (82pc) admitted they would like to become more creative in the kitchen and introduce more recipes into their regular repertoire.

“The popularity of TV cooking shows proves that Australians are incredibly passionate about food, but what this research suggests is that creative cooking is in danger of becoming a spectator sport,” said Westfield home economist, Emma Braz.

“But most consumers don’t realise that there is a wealth of advice at their fingertips. Simply getting to know their local butcher or greengrocer and calling on their expertise will help to improve their food knowledge and capability.”

Nearly half of all people surveyed (46pc) cited a lack of time as their major barrier to innovating their home cooking, followed by budget restraints and a lack of creativity (18pc and 15pc respectively). Lesser responses included lack of kitchen skills (11pc) and lack of flexibility due to fussy eaters (10pc).

“The pressure of juggling a job, being a parent and keeping the home running smoothly means that time has become more precious than ever before,” Ms Braz said.

“It’s not surprising that the majority of people surveyed said that time and money are the biggest barriers to greater creativity in the kitchen.”

Challenging the popular belief that TV cooking shows have revitalised Australian kitchens, the research also indicated that most home cooks looked elsewhere for mealtime inspiration. Almost 70pc of respondents said they lacked the skills, time or budget to recreate dishes seen on the small screen, with only 8pc recreating TV recipes at home.

“The average Australian doesn’t have time to create restaurant-calibre meals every night, however there are plenty of easy ways to become more creative and efficient in the kitchen,” Mrs Braz said.
“By investing just a small amount of time each week, Australians can reinvigorate their home cooking by using fresh ingredients that fit in the weekly grocery budget.”

In the case of the chilled meat cabinet, either in the supermarket or the independent butcher, the expansion in pre-prepared, marinated, stuffed, deboned or otherwise value-added items could add a lot of variety to everyday meal options.

Among other surprising findings from the survey:

  • One person in ten could not recognise a zucchini, confusing it with a cucumber, leek or pickle
  • Only 38pc could recognise and name the herb, coriander
  • Three in ten avoid entertaining at home due to a lack of confidence in their cooking abilities
  • One in three could not recognise or name a fig, with 87pc having never used one in the kitchen.


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