How Retailers Can Help Shoppers Overcome Cooking Fatigue

If my love of cooking was a trend curve, it’s been flattened.

Before COVID-19 I was like the 42 percent of U.S. grocery shoppers who love or like cooking. Even with full-time jobs and a demanding two-year old, my husband and I would regularly experiment with bread making, unique cuisines on the weekends or special side dishes to spice up a weeknight meal. I delighted in the leftovers for lunch at work and welcomed the praise from my co-workers when I re-heated last night’s meal for another taste.

These days I stare into my very full pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and search for motivation. My lunch leftovers are pitiful, and I often resort to sneaking the bits of chicken nuggets my toddler doesn’t eat (sorry, but they are delicious) instead of whisking up something fresh and new. It’s not that I’ve lost my appetite, but more that I’ve been cooking family breakfast, lunch, and dinner nearly every day for the past 15+ weeks. Cooking is getting old and the tips and tricks that once spiced up my culinary skills have become bland.

I’m not the only American facing home cooking fatigue. According to FMI’s 2020 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, 41 percent of shoppers say they have been cooking more of their meals since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Home cooking does have its advantages, and many U.S. grocery shoppers agree. 84 percent of shoppers believe eating at home is healthier than eating away from home and the benefits of family meals are well substantiated by research. However, it’s also clear shoppers are looking for help navigating the new at-home meal normal and the opportunity is ripe for this with 39 percent of consumers saying in mid-May that they expect to eat out less often once the pandemic is over, compared to before it began.

To assess the impact of COVID-19 on the perceptions and behaviors of grocery shoppers, FMI has been actively surveying shoppers about their changing shopping habits in the U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker series. The May 28–June 7, 2020 edition offers some insights into how grocery stores cans support shoppers facing home cooking fatigue.

Spark Interest in Private Brands

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 59 percent of shoppers have turned to private brands when they were the only options available. While this switch may have been out of necessity, there has been some staying power with middle- and lower-income households showing a slight tendency to reduce their reliance on name brand products.

IGA CEO John Ross has encouraged retailers to take advantage of the opportunity that the private label surge has afforded retailers, saying, “We believe huge numbers of shoppers bought private label simply because it was in stock when there were shortages, or because a sudden job loss caused financial insecurity in the household." He continues, "But they’ve since discovered it’s a great product. That creates a huge opportunity for not just increased sales during the pandemic, but long term conversion of shoppers and sustained sales after the pandemic ends." 

Use this opportunity to shine a light on the assortment of private brand offerings and attract consumers not only to less expensive prices, but also the reliable quality and availability. Demonstrate how shoppers can use private brand products to create culinary delights or comfy classics the family will love. Retailers can easily spark interest in private brands with a dedicated display or end-cap featuring the private label as a fun new-to-you brand to test out.

IGA retailers can encourage shoppers to give IGA Exclusive Brand products a try with these tips:

  1. Promote availability with aisle end-caps as well as weekly circular and social media messaging around those in-stock and in-demand products to draw new and existing customers into the store. 
  2. Encourage substitutions in online and phone orders by telling shoppers that IGA Exclusive Brand products are the default substitute when a national brand is out of stock or when no brand is specified.
  3. Promote quality and brand distinction by reminding shoppers that IGA's double-money-back guarantee means they have nothing to lose when they try an IGA Exclusive Brand product. 
  4. Show shoppers how to use the products with exciting displays that promote a new-to-you brand. Stay tuned for how IGA will be promoting the new Exclusive Brand label look with recipes linked to the National Digital Ad. 
Support the Stock-up on Frozen Foods

Shoppers share they tend to have more frozen meat (36 percent), seafood (20 percent), and vegetables (23 percent) on hand these days than fresh options. This is particularly the case for older adults looking to make fewer frequent trips to the grocery store each week. Help shoppers take advantage of their frozen food reserves by posting recipes and cooking tips (like the ones from the Shopper Solutions section of on your social media pages.

Ride the Convenience Trend

25 percent of shoppers now report their main cooking priority is to spend as little time as possible on cooking or food preparation. This is a change from late March when only 16 percent of shoppers reported this priority. The need for convenience is rising and with that we’re seeing more shoppers take advantage of fresh prepared and prepackaged food formats. For example, 68 percent of shoppers are selecting fresh packaged produce and 55 percent are selecting prepackaged individual bakery items. Shoppers remain cautious about salad bars, prepared food bars, and other kinds of prepared food options, but overall are interested in prepared food that can help save time in the cooking process.

Private brands, frozen foods, and prepared foods offer some ways to help the burned-out home chef revitalize their culinary repertoire. The FMI Foundation has also been consulting with nutrition professionals and expert partners during COVID-19 to develop resources for consumers cooking more family meals. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic it’s been clear that grocers are well-positioned to help shoppers face their changing grocery shopping and cooking needs and whatever might come next.

For more information and to access reports, visit

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