Recessionary Cooks

043008_onedishinapanIt’s been called the year of the home cook.   Increasingly, families are foregoing restaurant fare and staying at home for meals.  In fact, in-home cooking is fast approaching a 25-year high, according to the NPD Group.  But things have changed.  Home cooking looks different than it did during the past two recessions when prepared meals and frozen entrees ruled. This time around families are more likely to cook from scratch, according to Information Resources Inc.’s Competing in a Transforming Economy webinar. The IRI data indicates that 53% of consumers are cooking from scratch more frequently — sending sales of sauces, spice blends, marinades and seasonings soaring.  

Elizabeth Sloan reviews these trends in this month’s Food Tcchnology.  She says consumers are attempting to prepare restaurant-style foods at home and are looking to these prepared sauces and seasonings to build maximum flavor flexibility into their family meal routines. As consumers turn to one-dish meals, casseroles, woks and crock pots to stretch less-expensive cuts of meat, Sloan predicts that we’ll see more sauces and seasoning mixes tailored to specific preparation methods and appliances. With an increase in “cooking enthusiasts” in this country, look for finishing, hot drizzling and high-end dessert and spirit/wine-based sauces to get more attention, she said.  Other “saucy” trends:

  • Bread dipping sauces (other than oils), appetizer sauces,especially for fish/shellfish, and healthier versions of classic continental sauces such as Bordelaise
  • Local artisan and varietal sauces, and sauces designed by celebrity chefs or high-end restaurants
  • Upgraded soups for cooking, such as chanterelle or porcini mushroom cooking sauce

In an effort to sample the world of foodservice flavors at home, consumers are redefining convenience food, looking for products that assist with flavors (e.g., marinating sauces or rubs), according to the Hartman Group’s Reimagining Convenience Food report.  Sloan writes that U.S. consumers are most likely to  look for American regional flavors in their sauces and marinades, but expect sauces coupled to international regional cuisines, such as Brazilian churrasco sauces and Argentinean chimichurri sauces to be the next wave.


soaked_slathered_seasonedThis summer, now that grilling season is in full swing, expect to see a greater demand for grill-specific marinades, sauces and rubs.  The variety of ready-made grilling sauces is exploding, but I tend to make my own.  My favorite new guide is the book just released by my good friend Elizabeth Karmel called Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned:  A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill.  I encourage you to check it out this summer.  It includes 400 creative recipes for marinades, brines, barbecue sauces, glazes, mops, salsas, dipping sauces, pestos and tapenades for foods on the grill.  It truly opened my eyes to the possibilities of a sauce.

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