A willingness to explore unfamiliar and new experiences can be a fun and exciting concept for many. But Canada is perhaps less adventurous than its neighbor to the south; Canadians are less keen (client-only link) to try new experiences than our American counterparts. Does this mean that Canadians are less adventurous overall? Not necessarily. That said, this does translate into one key difference within home kitchens: Canadian home cooks are less likely than Americans to be looking for new foods and flavors to try. With Canadians being more likely to cook at home and make meals from scratch on a weekly basis, talking to Canadian home cooks about recipes and ingredients that feel familiar and comfortable will resonate much when they’re thinking about what to make for dinner/meals.
It is a widely known fact that people gravitate to comforting things in uncertain or stressful times. As consumers navigate post-pandemic life amongst news of social and environmental occurrences, baseline stress levels continue to be elevated. Furthermore, rising prices at the grocery store will cool down the desire to experiment in the kitchen as consumers are doing their best not to waste food or money.
3 ways to lean into comfort
1. Enhance the enjoyment of the experience
Cooking is something that Canadians enjoy – 57% of Canadians say they like or love cooking, and a further 30% say they don’t mind the task. Partnerships between food manufacturers and ingredient companies with digital entertainment would be an effective way to enhance the experience. For example, Barilla’s partnership with Spotify resulted in a series of playlist timers designed to play for the exact amount of time it takes a specific pasta shape to cook (e.g. the 10 minutes it takes to cook linguine). This initiative brings a fun sensory experience to an otherwise mundane task. More recently, Spotify has brought a similar audio experience to the task of laundry through the launch of its Spin Cycle playlist in partnership with the OUAI Melrose Place detergent and DedCool fragrance company.
Consumers are tech-focused and often have their devices nearby. As such, combining home tasks with leisure is something that Canadians are already doing as nearly 8 in 10 consumers watch/listen to content while taking care of tasks. The Mintel Trend Sense of the Intense notes that physical and sensory experiences like this can help create a more grounded, mindful moment, thereby giving brands and products deeper meaning. Making the cooking experience more fun will put consumers in a more positive mindset in the kitchen. That positivity can be leveraged to make them more curious and adventurous about new ways to make their meals – rather than robotically preparing the same few recipes from week to week.
2. Play games, win deals
It is clear that Canadians are feeling the pinch of high food inflation and finding food or ingredient deals is now a core factor when it comes to home cooking; four out of five home cooks say that the rising cost of ingredients impacts what meals they plan or cook. At the same time, Canadians are savvy savers and know how to find a good deal. The opportunity is to make those deals fun to find. Consumers expect leisure time at home to be relaxing and media is at the heart of it. Integrating the hunt for deals with downtime at home could be a good way for grocery retailers and food/ingredient manufacturers to deepen their association of food and cooking with comfort.
In Brazil, a great example of mixing consumer habits of multi-screening with gamifying discounts was seen in May 2023 when Mercado Libre (an Argentine-based online marketplace dedicated to e-commerce and online auctions) collaborated with a local reality show to provide special discounts to its site Descontos Camuflados. To find a discount, consumers needed to access the microsite and scan the TV or computer screen on which the reality show was being broadcast. As consumers’ smartphone cameras read contestants’ faces, discounted products appeared on their screens. Each reality show participant was associated with a different discounted item. From a consumer experience, this hits all the right high notes – it’s fun, it helps save money, and ultimately, it makes downtime productive.
3. Nourish and nudge through nostalgia
Food and drink brands are well positioned to position products that bring joy as necessities in tough times, opening the door to expand on the notion of ‘comfort food’ according to Mintel’s 2023 Global Food and Drink Trend Unguilty Pleasures. Finding comfort in childhood memories is a concept that has always held true. In times of uncertainty, evoking happy experiences of the past counts even more. Nostalgia is a more dynamic concept than ever before in the current marketplace. Rather than the romanticizing of childhood memories from decades ago, it is now a concept where people think fondly back to pre-pandemic times or even closer to their recent past, according to Mintel Trend Throwback. With nostalgia being more of a state of mind than a static concept, legacy brands or even smaller brands that had a strong presence during/prior to the pandemic hold the advantage of evoking good memories and more importantly, the reassurance of trust and quality. This trust in well-known brands opens up the opportunity for brands to expand into the unknown like line extensions that tap into trending flavors or new formats will appeal to those seeking something slightly new but not looking to stray too far from what they already know. This trust also opens up the opportunity for brands to embrace diversity in their line of products. As the population is becoming ever more diverse, embracing foods of different cultures and ethnicities will also become more important.
What we think
Helping Canadians embrace a sense of comfort in the kitchen doesn’t have to mean looking at options strictly within the kitchen. Associations with other areas that bring joy like listening to music or adding an element of productivity to one’s relaxation time or embracing the evolving concept of nostalgia will all work to charm and comfort Canadian home cooks.
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