Wednesday | November 22, 2017
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Let’s Talk Food: Those who love to cook

I love to cook and prefer cooking at home to eating out. But I just found in a Sept. 22 study released by Harvard Business Review by Eddie Yoon that I am becoming a rare breed as I am 1 in 10 American who actually enjoy preparing dinner.

The study found that 45 percent of Americans hate to prepare dinner and 45 percent are lukewarm about it.

People are busy and opting to buy prepared meals. I already see the difference at KTA Puainako, with the prepared frozen foods section getting even larger. This shift to reallocate shelf space to prepared foods is happening throughout the country to accommodate this trend. Yoon states, “The grocery and food business must stop living in the past, when most cooked meals were made from scratch.”

Ralph’s Grocery Company introduced Prep+Pared meal kits, with eight prepped and measured-out meals for customers: Athena Lemon Chicken, Chicken Enchiladas, Chickpea Tofu Tikka, Chimichurri Steak, Crispy Fish Tacos, Peruvian Salmon, Stuffed Poblano Peppers and Vietnamese Lemongrass Pork. Cook time is 20 minutes; time enough to also cook your starch, which can be brown rice or a potato. The price for each meal is between $14 and $20 for two adults.

Kroger Company also is carrying Prep+Pared meal kits.

Albertson has a Plated meal kit service, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company.

Yoon states, “Today’s consumer is looking for a variety of personalized shopping alternatives, and this transactions is the latest example of Albertson’s meeting our customers whatever and however they like to shop.”

Bob Miller, chairman and CEO of Albertson’s stated, “With Plated, we’ve found a partner who shares our commitment to delicious, affordable food, superior technology and innovation and world-class customer service. Plated knows its customers better than anyone, and together we will accelerate our ability to serve them. We are excited to offer our customers more online options and fresh quality ingredients along with distinctive recipes at their doorstep or through traditional shopping trips.”

Two decades ago, when Yoon was asked to gather data for a client, 15 percent loved to cook and cooked at home often, 50 percent hated to cook and avoided doing it by heating up convenience foods or outsourcing their meals by ordering out or dining in a restaurant and 35 percent liked to cook sometimes and did a mix of cooking and outsourcing, depending on the situation.

The number of Americans who love to cook has dropped by about one-third.

What happened?

Watching shows about cooking and food on TV has not increased the desire to cook but instead raised standards discouragingly high. Many feel intimidated by the professionals on TV and have become insecure about their cooking skills.

This may be one reason why consumers now spend more of food in restaurants than on groceries.

Even if there is excitement about Whole Foods under Amazon’s management, cooking itself is on a long, slow, steady decline. Are those of us who like to cook going to become dinosaurs?

The top 25 food and beverage companies have lost $18 billion dollars in market share since 2009. Grocers are watching customers make fewer trips to the store and many chains are in a prolonged price war, with prices declining 1.3 percent last year.

Yoon says cooking is similar to sewing. As recently as the early 20th century, many people sewed their own clothing. Today, a vast majority of Americans buy clothing and only a tiny minority still buy fabric and raw materials — and it is only as a hobby. This shift also is happening in the food industry.

The food industry needs to stop putting adhesive bandages on a major bleed and instead make a decision to amputate through ruthless portfolio strategies.

Even categories such as ready-to-eat cereals are losing sales as people are going to Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, McDonalds or Taco Bell, where breakfasts now account for 7 percent of their sales.

An example of revamping business is Hormel, which for years has depended on Spam sales in the past. Today, only 13 percent still buy it. So what did Hormel do? It changed its portfolio to attract a more upscale clientele and acquired Wholly Guacamole, Skippy Peanut Butter, Muscle Milk, Applegate Farms and Justin’s Butters and Confections.

Frozen and canned foods were a major breakthrough in the food industry in the past. Today, as I have written about before, the innovation of MATS, or microwave assisted thermal sterilization technology, created by Washington State University, will change what will be on grocery shelves in the near future. This is an FDA-approved technology that sterilizes food with minimal heat, pressure and time so the texture and taste remains restaurant quality. Because of this method, there also is no need to add preservatives to the food to make it shelf-stable for months.

The prolonged shelf life will be beneficial to the grocery stores as far as waste and inventory management.

With more than 1 billion people around the world suffering from food insecurity, just think in the future what MATS will do for the world.

Foodie bites

• The 19th annual Taste of Hilo is Oct. 22 at Sangha Hall. Call the JCCIH office at 934-0177 or email for advanced tickets for $55. Otherwise tickets are $70 at the door.

• The Hawaii Community College Cafeteria is open today through Friday. Take-out orders can be called in at 934-2559. Call to check what the specials are and if they have fresh fish for poke and chirashi bowls.

Email Audrey Wilson at


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