In December 2018, I was given an Instant Pot and immediately researched ways to use it. I downloaded several recipes but after a short time I found I used it for a few dishes, one of them is a South Asian dish that I never would have dreamed of making before I had the appliance. Aside from those few recipes, I only used it once in a while. Enter COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders and this device is suddenly the star of my kitchen!

Consumers have always demanded more convenience preparing their in-home meals and today’s shelter-in-place orders have accelerated those demands. New information from our National Eating Trends® shows consumers are harnessing certain tools more often today versus year ago with the aim of reducing preparation and cook times as well as expanding in-home options.

Before the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., sales of kitchen appliances, such as multi-cookers and air fryers, were already growing. These new gadgets promise to save time preparing, cooking, and cleaning, giving consumers more time outside the kitchen. Oftentimes consumers purchase these appliances and only use them occasionally. Now with restaurants under strict limitations, consumers are relying more heavily on their pantries and they’re employing these time savers even more. Consumers stocked up their kitchens with refrigerated, shelf stable, and frozen items but when they realized someone had to prepare these foods, these new appliances became useful.

And it’s not just dinner time when consumers are looking for more time savers. Lunch is seeing the largest increase for in-home occasions since that’s when consumers were most likely to eat away from home before the outbreak. Our combined data assets show nearly all the lost lunchtime restaurant meals are flowing back into the home.

To be clear, traditional appliances such as the stove top and microwaves are still used most often but at similar rates compared to year ago. Shelter-in-place orders encouraged consumers to use the appliances they already have in their home more often and also motivated them to buy new appliances. 

For food manufacturers it’s more important today than ever to demonstrate your product’s ability to provide comfort and convenience for consumers. Even those who occasionally used restaurants before the outbreak are relying on their home pantries more often and welcome short cuts for their increased work load in the kitchen. As new appliances are purchased and used more often, there is an opportunity to show consumers how your foods and meal preparation solutions fit perfectly with these new gadgets.

All this talk of food is making me hungry – I’m off to make tikka masala in the Instant Pot!


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