Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li is Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure for Mintel. Carol researches and writes reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries.

It is remarkable that even after a year of cooking at home more, the joy and emotional rewards Canadians associate with cooking hasn’t waivered: making a home-cooked meal doubles as a form of stress relief for two-thirds of Canadians, and more than four in five home cooks say making a meal at home makes them feel accomplished – the same levels that were seen before the pandemic. With ingredients like yeast selling out due to the boom in bread baking and the rise in popularity of trends like the baked pasta or tortilla wrap hack on TikTok, it’s clear that the joy of cooking has been an important source of comfort for consumers all around the world.

Burnout will boil over

Looking ahead, the heat needs to be kept on the emotional benefits Canadians gain from cooking as Mintel predicts that burnout will take on new precedence in the next 18-24 months, according to Mintel research on meal planning and preparation. As society opens up, schedules will once again fill up with in-person leisure and social activities, which will drive a return to the pre-pandemic busy-ness and burnout that never really went away. For some, adjusting to this may be anxiety-inducing as they may not be ready to – or even want to – fully engage in activities as they had in the past due to safety concerns or a new appreciation of a slower pace of life.

The fact of the matter is that Canadian mental health is currently strained. This is seen with three in five Canadians who reported experiencing at least one mental health condition in 2020, according to Mintel research on healthy lifestyles in Canada. With added pressure coming on, consumers will be looking for solutions that help them carve out moments for a break or mental relief – if even for a short moment. Companies related to all aspects of home cooking are at a clear advantage here as Canadians already associate meal prep with uplifting emotions or as a stress reliever. The key is for companies to create avenues that encourage consumers to take a moment to soak up these benefits.

Turn the heat up on wellness benefits

The strategy is simple: build off of the fact that health management today is a holistic journey. For example, nearly half of Canadians exercise to manage stress and more than three-fourths feel that eating well is important for their emotional wellbeing. The message is obvious: consumers will be expecting food manufacturers and grocery retailers alike to support wellness in a broader, more well-integrated way.

According to Mintel 2021 Global Food and Drink Food Trend, ‘Feed the Mind,’ food-related companies will benefit by helping consumers tap into the psychological aspects of cooking by providing avenues that help consumers really tune into preparing or even consuming a meal. For example, positioning the creation of a mise-en-place – a fancy way of referring to the setup where cooks “put everything in its place” – as a soothing ritual before the start of the cooking process can give some much-needed relief in the middle of a hectic day. Similarly, creating purposeful themed kits that include elements designed to hone a person’s mental awareness so that they are more intentional about what they are eating will also resonate.

Importantly, leaning into to already existing micro-moments is key as busy consumers will be hard-pressed to find additional time for self-soothing or relief in their day-to-day routines, even if they know it’s good for them.