As the recession eases in some parts of the country and in some households, U.S. consumers are continuing to cook at home more.
Historically, increased restaurant dining is a primary indicator that a recession is waning, but this time they are about a year and a half behind other retailers according to a recent report by Associated Press. Auto sales grew 11 percent last year while clothing sales increased 5 percent, the report says.
In 2009, frugal became not just a necessity but the new chic, and cooking at home become a new norm; this is a big shift for the most restaurant-going nation in the world, about 44 percent of meals are eaten outside the home, according to AP.
Many consumers said they enjoyed cooking once they were forced to do it.
One couple in the AP report began having Iron Chef-inspired cooking contests while another said it learned to save up for expensive meals out but now enjoy most at home. Another consumer reported losing 30 pounds as the result of less dining out.
The bottom line
Food retailers are well-positioned to profit from shoppers eating at home more; especially those stores that have positioned themselves in recent years as value priced. Even Whole Foods managed to turn around its “whole paycheck” image and attain a better price image and profit.
Natural products stores are particularly well positioned because this growing trend of foregoing restaurants is not all about money—health also figures in. More consumers are learning that they can control sodium, fat and preservatives by cooking at home.
One unknown is how the predicted food inflation prices will affect retailer food consumption and buying patterns.