Overall U.S. cookbook sales grew 15 percent January through September, as consumers cooked more for themselves

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y., October 20, 2020 — Print unit sales for bread cookbooks in the U.S. grew 145 percent year over year, for the nine months ending September 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic shelter at home orders were instituted and restaurants closed, more people cooked at home more and many turned to baking and bread-making as a way to pass the time and learn a new cooking skill. In fact, according to The NPD Group (www.npd.com), 200,000 more bread cookbooks sold in the U.S. in 2020 than in 2019.

The rise in bread cookbook sales echoes data on changes in the foods Americans cooked and consumed. According to NPD food consumption research, bread consumption increased 4 percentage points in the U.S. from March through July 2020 compared to the previous year. NPD home products data shows that from March through July 2020, U.S. sales of bread makers reached $9.9 million, which was an increase of 100 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

“Many people found more time to cook when pandemic mitigation efforts began, which led to more experimentation and increasingly complex meals,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “Baking offered a comforting escape and yeast suddenly became more difficult to find than toilet paper. Sales of bread cookbooks are still well above 2019 levels, and given that the pandemic is still with us, the bread-baking trend could be sticking around for a while.”

Cookbooks shed light on American food
consumption trends during the pandemic

Sheltering at home during the early COVID-19 period changed the way many people cooked, as normal meal routines were disrupted, and as diets took a back seat to comfort. It also led to a 15 percent increase in overall print cookbook sales compared to 2019.

Looking at subject trends at the start of the pandemic, sales of healthy cooking methods, and vegetarian cooking all fell between March 1 and April 25, 2020 as COVID-19 hit the U.S., but they started to rebound after that. “As people sheltered in place, healthy cooking was deprioritized and many opted for comfort foods,” McLean said. “Fewer consumers were focused on vegetarian cooking for instance, but all of these subjects rebounded in May as people’s day-to-day lives steadied, and they figured out their ‘new normal.’”

The second volume of “Magnolia Table,” by Joanna Gaines, led overall cookbook category sales this year, but growth also occurred in alcoholic beverages (“The Ultimate Bar Book,” by Mittie Hellmich), and a rebound in vegan and vegetarian recipes (“The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners,” by Gabriel Miller), and, as noted above, bread and baking cookbooks (“Flour Water Sale Yeast,” by Ken Forkish). 

“The strong 2020 growth in cookbooks makes sense given the fact that consumers are cooking many more meals at home,” McLean said. “Now that we are eight months into the pandemic, with colder weather on the way that may continue to restrict dine-in options at restaurants, we expect cookbook sales to remain strong for the foreseeable future as people seek variety in their day to day meals.”