Scratch and short-cut cooking continuing to increase in the UK

Recent research from MINTEL has shown that three in five (60%) 16-34s* like experimenting with new cooking trends and ingredients, compared to 51% of UK consumers overall, leading to scratch cooking in the UK increasing.

However, whilst young consumers show a passion for experimental cooking, they appear to be in hot water in the kitchen as many struggle to master the basics.

Two in five (39%) Brits aged 16-34 say it’s hard to know when meat is cooked to a safe temperature, compared to one quarter (26%) of consumers overall, and over one third (37%) of young cooks say they prefer not to handle raw meat when cooking, compared to an average of 27%. What’s more, one third (34%) say it’s hard to get the seasoning right when cooking compared to just 22% overall.

Although the majority of young consumers love to cook, it is deemed too difficult by almost half (46%) of 16-34s who agree that cooking from scratch produces too much washing up, compared to one third (33%) of Brits overall. What’s more, 44% think preparing raw ingredients is a hassle, for example peeling and chopping, up from a national average of 32%.

Anita Winther, Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said: “Brits are, on the whole, confident in the kitchen. Most who cook are happy to put meals together using whatever ingredients they have at home and to modify recipes based on whatever is available in the kitchen. However, Britain’s young cooks are lagging behind.”

“Tutorials, as well as products that provide guidance, should appeal to these less confident cooks and help boost brands’ relevance among this group.”

Whilst there is a generational divide in kitchen skills, Mintel research reveals that there is also a split in how the nation seeks recipe ideas. When looking for inspiration, cooks aged 16-34s are more likely to look online (53%), than to look in a cookbook (37%), while one quarter (24%) of young consumers look for inspiration using recipe apps.

Cooks over the age of 55, however still like cookbooks (49%) in preference to searching online (22%) or use of an app (11%).

Overall, in the UK friends and family are the biggest source of cooking inspiration. Some 44% of those who cook from scratch or partly from scratch turn to their friends and family for ideas.

“Friends and family are the most common source of recipe and meal ideas for home cooks. This underscores the importance of word of mouth when it comes to new foods, with cooks relying on the experience of people they know to build trust in new products.” Anita continues.

Today, cooking from scratch features on the weekly menu for over nine in 10 (93%) Brits who prepare meals at home, with as many as three in 10 (28%) doing so five times or more per week.

But rather than a chore, it seems for many, cooking is a labour of love. Half (50%) of Brits who cook meals from scratch or partly from scratch say that they do so because they enjoy it, followed by the fact that they have control of what goes into the food (49%) and to save money (47%).

“The majority of Brits find pleasure in cooking. Focusing marketing messages on the enjoyment found in cooking should provide ingredient and meal component brands with a means to tap into this emotional aspect of cooking.” Anita concludes.


More than a fifth of Brits are now cooking every meal from scratch, compared to just one in eight before the lockdown.

A study of 2,000 adults found more than half have been experimenting and using extra ingredients in their cooking more often. And they show a high level of interest in new and exciting short-cut and scratch ingredients which can hep them easily elevate the flavour and quality of meals to those they desire when eating out – which of course still remains out of favour, following the trend which started during the pandemic.

With the nation having rediscovered the joys of home cooking (with the average household spending almost seven hours a week cooking their meals compared to just six hours previously) and looking to be spend-savvy during the current time of economic difficulties, it has also emerged one in five have widened their repertoire of recipes and 35 per cent are better at using leftovers to avoid food waste.

The research, which was commissioned by Tesco, also found a quarter of households are spending increased time cooking together, and 33 per cent said mealtimes have become more of an occasion.

As a result, two-fifths enjoy cooking more now than they did before, with 89 per cent vowing to continue making food from scratch once the restrictions are lifted.

The study also found when it comes to inspiration, 28 per cent said the dishes they cook at home are influenced by their mum, followed by celebrity chefs (12 per cent) and social media (11 per cent).

And 41 per cent use family recipes that have been passed down to them, including classics such as stews and cakes — with women (45 per cent) more likely to do this than men (36 per cent). But the big change is that more and more home cooks are varying and reinventing family dishes by introducing twist ingredients.

The shift in cooking styles comes after 37 per cent blamed a lack of time for their reluctance to cook from scratch prior to the  lockdown of 2020/2021, while more than a quarter put it down to having no motivation.

But now, 34 per cent feel relaxed when cooking, a quarter calm and 21 per cent even find it therapeutic.

In a further piece of research conducted by OnePoll, a sixth of those polled now see food as a means of bringing people together.

It also emerged that of those with children at home, 40 per cent said their youngsters have continued to show an interest in cooking and a further 46 per cent enjoy getting involved with food prep and more than a third of kids are eating at the dinner table –  more often than before.

And one of the surprising winners from this changing behaviour is the frozen category which has shown the biggest growth in volume and value over the last few years, second only to the alcoholic drinks category.

The ‘always to hand’ convenience combined with no waste and time-saving, scratch cooking ingredients such as onions, garlic, peppers and various other vegetables are creating a window and theatre for more adventurous short-cut flavoursome ingredients.

I expect this trend to not only continue but to accelerate over the coming months as consumers seek new and exciting ways to create new family favourites whilst saving time, reducing waste and reducing cost by shopping the frozen fixture.

If you’d like to find out more about how I help my clients take advantage of these significant changes in cooking behaviour, take a look at Food Brand Strategist.

And to explore how I can help you launch a new food idea to capitalise in the growth of scratch cooking, ping an email so we can schedule a call.

Last Updated on 21/10/2023 by Eddie Stableford

2 Thoughts

  1. I have always cooked ” from scratch” it’s the only way my family has ever cooked. We are anglo Italian, inter married with native British. We were brought up to regard food as as important and as an act of love within the family. Sharing meals with friends is important too. No pubs for us!

    1. Hi there, I agree. I’m half Greek and the care and love that I saw my grandmother and mother give to every meal they prepared will remain with me forever. There is a body of research which shows that families that share home prepared meals together are happier families!

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