A Marketer's Lens By Danette Amstein
Danette Amstein is a managing principal for Midan Marketing - a full-service agency that solely focuses on supporting the meat industry.

How does 'kitchen fatigue' steer consumers' meat choices?

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

As the pandemic slogs on, I find myself tired of being in the kitchen. Really, really tired of it. Life before COVID-19 included a lot of weeknight activities, and with them great opportunities (and excuses!) to eat out. I don’t have any of those right now. Haven’t for months. So I cook.

I truly don’t mind cooking. But the cleaning up … that’s what gets me down. I am weary of the constant rhythm of cleaning up after every meal. So, the sink amasses a growing pile of dirty dishes until I muster up the energy to empty, refill and restart that darn dishwasher.

Many have been talking about cooking fatigue. For me it is “cleaning up the kitchen” fatigue.

This, I assure you, is real. Recent research released by Applegate Farms confirms it: 37% of U.S. adults say they are dealing with some level of kitchen fatigue.

But how to combat this kitchen drudgery? Well, I set out on my own journey to overcome the wave of weariness that greets me each time I step foot in the kitchen. I share my learnings here so you can find a nugget or two to help not only your friends experiencing kitchen fatigue, but also the consumers buying your products. We have to meet them where they are and a lot of them are feeling just as worn out as I am.

I focused on inspiration. I needed some fast, because if I couldn’t get excited about dinner, I wasn’t going to be able to shake my kitchen fatigue blues. Two criteria quickly evolved out of my experimentation: new and easy.

Something new: Where does one turn for such inspiration? Google, of course! Searches for meat-centered recipes grew 14% from July-September of 2020 versus a year ago, according to Google Trends data.

I found myself preferring recipes with a video, the upbeat kind that quickly shows you how easy it is to make the recipe. While watching recipe videos on YouTube is new for me, I am joining lots of other folks also seeking meal inspiration and connection online. Midan Marketing’s social listening analysis found that YouTube joined Twitter and blogs as the platforms people are engaging with for cooking conversations.

Quick takeaways. Be sure your recipes have solid search engine optimization (SEO) and incorporate videos. Consider using ad dollars to boost your most popular videos or videos for products you’re heavily promoting.

Something easy: For me this meant a couple things: a short list of ingredients/value added items, minimal mess and shortcuts using one of my new kitchen gadgets. I could gush here about my Ninja Foodi and my newest addition, the Ninja XL Grill, but the bigger point is that these kitchen appliances make my life (and dinner) easier and less messy. Others think so too. The NPD Group reports that small appliance sales exploded June-August of 2020 vs. year ago: electric grills (+99%), air fryers (+81%) and sandwich makers (+65%). Naturally we new owners are searching for recipe videos that use our new appliances — how else are we going to justify the spend?!

I also found my purchases of value-added meat products have increased. If it’s already seasoned with something intriguing, I’m in! Trimmed and ready to go — yep, want that too. Oh, and then there are meal kits, a lifesaver for getting dinner on the table when the kitchen fatigue monster is rearing its ugly head. Value-added meat sales jumped nearly 30% between March 15 and July 12 in 2020 compared to the same period a year ago, according to the Midyear Power of Meat 2020 Report by 210 Analytics LLC and sponsored by Sealed Air Food Care Division/Cryovac, and in the second quarter, IRI reports that meal kits grew +50% in sales vs. year ago, outperforming most grocery categories.

Quick takeaways. If your recipes don’t incorporate these modern time-saving kitchen appliances, it’s time to upgrade. A quick way to jumpstart would be to sponsor an influencer — someone with a strong social media following who has mastered the appliance. And be sure any on-pack instructions are updated to include these new appliance types before your next packaging run.

If your value-added product lines aren’t experiencing soaring sales, it might be time to audit your offerings to find ways to make them more inspiring for today’s consumer. Finally, if you are not the meat supplier in a meal kit option, it’s time to go searching for partnerships!

Getting more inspired with new how-to recipe videos, convenient meat products and easy-to-use appliances has helped curb my kitchen fatigue. Dinner time is more fun with less to clean up, which definitely helps me with my other problem: that sink full of dirty dishes! 

Know others fighting kitchen fatigue? Share their story below!


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