Voices: Toops' Scoops

Young Cooks Look for Easy Ways to Wow

Cooking is an option, not an obligation for 20-Something cooks; but they want to improve their cooking skills.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

Women from different generations express themselves differently in the kitchen, according to "How America Cooks II," a national consumer study of 1,553 women (half in the 20s and half in their 40s).

Digital Research Inc, Kennebunk, Maine, recently performed the survey for the Betty Crocker Kitchens. It found that, overall, women in their 20s are more educated and tech-savvy, grew up in smaller households and their mothers worked full-time (64 percent vs. 38 percent) - resulting in some key differences in how women in the two groups view cooking and family meals. Twenty-Somethings have significantly lower recall of special family traditions that were centered around meals or foods (61 percent vs. 73 percent), ate out one night or more a week (70 percent vs. 32 percent) and didn't learn to cook as young children (30 percent vs. 41 percent).

Although many women still learn to cook from their mothers, significantly more women in their 20s learned to cook from their fathers, Internet/television chefs or on their own. And their fare while growing up was different compared to their older counterparts, with more pizza, pasta and chicken vs. "red meat and potatoes" meals.

Twenty-Somethings feel cooking is an option, not an obligation, but more than half want to improve their cooking skills. They eat out more often (2.3 times a week vs. 1.8 times), aren't as confident in the kitchen, don't consider themselves very creative cooks and use short cuts, such as sauces in a jar/pouch more often (73 percent vs. 54 percent) in meal preparation. They spend 20 to 30 minutes or less preparing a meal, and keep it simple. They don't want it just easy, however, but prefer "easy wow," which makes sense since 20-Somethings grew up with ethnic foods and eating out so their tastes are more sophisticated.

As for dessert, nearly 70 percent of women in both age groups like to bake. Twenty-Somethings do have a sweet tooth and enjoy making home-baked cakes (from a cake mix) and scratch cookies over store bought baked goods. The younger group enjoys company; in fact, they entertain more often and frequently spontaneously (70 percent vs. 66 percent).

During social gatherings, female 40-Somethings often serve dinner buffet style (34 percent vs. 28 percent) or family style (36 percent vs. 26 percent) compared to 20-Somethings. They also are more likely to serve "the works" when entertaining, including appetizers, the main course and desserts, along with finishing touches - table decorations, candles and flowers.

Women in their 20s vary their style when entertaining. One in five don't serve dinner at all. Among those who do, one-third serve dinner plated style, one-third buffet style and one-third family style.

The Betty Crocker brand does much to reach these younger women. "While part of the role of Betty is to teach, we can't talk down to this educated and savvy generation of women," says Maggie Gilbert, manager and culinary expert of the Betty Crocker Kitchens. "We've adapted our marketing tools to include everything from e-newsletters to a branded blog in an effort to speak to this audience in a way that's relevant.

"Betty Crocker.com now features fun, instructional sections such as ‘Baking Basics' and ‘Dessert of the Month,' "Gilbert continues. "All communications are designed to reinforce that it's more than easy cooking that's important to today's home cooks. Betty Crocker makes cooking and entertaining ‘Easy Wow.'"

 

Appealing to 20-Something Cooks:

 

    • Keep it simple.


    • Should not be just easy, but "easy wow."


    • Meal prep times should be 20-30 minutes or less.


    • Offer brief cooking instruction in the form of "how to," short cuts and tips.


    • Don't talk down to them; they're educated and savvy (just not in the kitchen).


    • Talk about cooking in a positive way. They don't subscribe to cooking guilt.


  • Position cooking/baking as a way to forge strong family mealtime bonds, great for get-togethers with friends, and/or the building of family traditions.

 

Source: General Mills Betty Crocker Kitchens, How America Cooks II

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