What do modern consumers mean by scratch cooking? Back when your great-grandmother was in charge it could have been an afternoon making a family-size chicken pie with homemade pastry, plus some poultry she’d plucked herself.


of UK adults say that they’ll be cooking more from scratch in the next 12 months, according to HIM.


But while today’s time-poor cooks might like retro flourishes in their kitchen, beyond the ‘Keep Calm and Bake Cupcakes’ pinny they prefer more convenient cooking methods. After all, how else are consumers going to get food on the table after a busy day spent at work that’s bookended by the school run?

“The way we look at scratch cooking over the past 20 or 30 years has changed,” explains Premier Foods brand manager Helen Touchais. “It used to mean using lots of separate ingredients to make a meal. Now it can simply mean using a cooking sauce and adding other ingredients from scratch to create dinner.

“What’s really important is that the cooking still has lots of emotional engagement.”

This evolving attitude suggests convenience stores can cash in on the all-important ‘meal for tonight’ mission. It’s a growing category, too, with half of UK adults claiming they’ll be cooking more meals from scratch in the next 12 months, according to HIM research.

While saving cash is a big driver for the dining-in trend, celebrity chefs and the number of prime-time TV cooking shows have encouraged consumers to get inventive in the kitchen and try to replicate restaurant-style meals themselves at home.

“Cooking from scratch links to the growing trend in consumers choosing to dine in over eating out, which offers shoppers the freedom to choose their own ingredients to cook special, but still affordable, meals for family and friends,” says Dean Towey, marketing director at Napolina.

“Easy to prepare and convenient meal solutions play a huge role in the market,” says Jill Livesey, shopper insight & marketing director at HIM. She cites “lack of motivation” as a driver for what she calls the ‘chop and chuck’ category.

“These shoppers are those most likely to be buying bakery, packaged grocery (including cooking sauces and meal cooking kits), chilled produce (including eggs, cheese, and spreads) plus fresh veg and wine.”

Retailer view

“We have a very good fresh produce section and also a good range of meat, so we find more people are shopping here for cooking from scratch. We have spent time looking at our range to ensure we have the complete meal solutions, from meat to veg, to sauces and seasonings.

“Fruit and veg is really important to our store, and we pride ourselves on top-quality produce it really does draw people in if you can offer great fresh veg - even more so if you can get local produce. We have a local strawberry supplier and we can sell more than £500-worth a week.

“It’s hard to merchandise everything together just because some items are chilled and others aren’t, but we will link items together if we can as we find that this helps customers choose their meal options. We will also put reminders up saying ‘Don’t forget your tomatoes to go with your spaghetti bolognese!’”

Jason Tamplin, Symonds Budgens, Bath

With the clock set against them, the challenge for consumers is to turn everyday grab-and-go items into something special. And with this in mind, the big brands are keen to help out.

“The whole proposition with Oxo is that it’s about quick and easy transformation of everyday meals. Adding Oxo is a simple step that really does change the flavour of mealtimes,” says Touchais.

“How mums use it depends upon the day of the week. On Monday and Tuesday it might be about using Oxo to pull together leftovers from other meals.

“However, in some of our qualitative research mums have told us that they’re looking at ways to use up food in the fridge. This can be about ingredients they’ve used for other dishes that they don’t want to waste.

“At the weekends the meals get more involved. The Sunday roast is still a big occasion that draws family, and extended family, around the table - and that’s all about Bisto.”

Knorr, another popular passenger on the UK gravy train, has also been working hard to make shoppers’ lives easier by introducing a Gravy Pots range of easy-to-add stock.

“Knorr Stock Pots had a massive impact on the market when we launched them in 2008,” says Vanni Cataldi, brand manager at Knorr.

“Our innovative Knorr Gravy Pot range has already helped to bring incremental growth into the gravy market, which has grown 9.2% in the past year.”

Meanwhile, other everyday brands are seeking to extend their core products for the cooking from scratch category. For instance, Philadelphia’s new Simply Stir flavours are designed to go straight into pasta or chicken dishes to add rich creaminess.

“The Philadelphia brand is worth £114m,” says Susan Nash, trade communications manager for Mondelēz International.

Friday night favourites

Shoppers bored of the ‘same-old, same-old’ and seeking fresh twists on existing meals are looking to make more of the world food category mid-week.

Premier Foods brand manager Helen Touchais says that the popularity of its Sharwoods range is down to shoppers looking at emulating the Friday night take-away experience at home.

“Sharwoods is all about the Friday night family meal,” she says. “Mums are looking to match the tastes that they’d find in a restaurant or take-away.”

This trend is further evidence of the way ethnic flavours are finding their way into more UK meals. Says Camilla Sheeley, senior innovation manager at Tilda: “Consumers are now becoming more familiar with ethnic foods that aren’t common to their ethnic background, due to the wide variety of outlets consumers have at their disposal. As such, this has led to increased experimentation with exotic ingredients in the kitchen.”

Flavoured rice, such as Tilda’s steamed basmati sweet chilli and lime, is an easy way to add ethnic pizzazz to food.

A splash of sauce can also work wonders. Nando’s Peri Peri range of sauces and marinades is available in £1.99 pricemarked packs so that retailers can add spice to the sauce shelves.

Samantha Frost, category manager at All About Food, reckons that a left-to-right approach is sensible when merchandising for spice level. “While UK consumer tastes are getting spicier, brands such as Nando’s are also offering milder variants to open the category up to an even broader shopper demographic,” she says.

“Merchandising hot sauces from left (mild) to right (hottest) will grab shoppers’ attention and allow them to find the heat level they’re looking for quicker.”


“The launch of Simply Stir brings a new element of versatility to the range, making delicious dishes accessible to even more consumers. We’ve got exciting plans for the next 12 months, which we hope will help to drive sales across the range for retailers.”

When HIM quizzed convenience shoppers on what categories they’d like to see improved before they brought more meal solutions in-store, the message came through loud and clear - fresh is best. Fresh meat was the first request, followed by fruit and vegetables.

“We are seeing a huge improvement in chilled proteins and fruit and produce in convenience stores,” says Livesey. “Retailers are investing in bigger and better range, equipment and display.”

However, any store that has dabbled in fresh before knows that there are pitfalls to be found in stocking perishable groceries.

“Fruit and veg is a difficult category to maintain,” admits Livesey - who also flags up potential problems with wastage. “But we are seeing retailers recognise that a credible offer does drive traffic to the store and gives them a USP.”

It certainly seems to have worked well for Jason Tamplin, from Symonds Budgens in Bath, who says that his veg and fruit selection helps make his store a destination for local shoppers.

When it’s time to think about the presentation of your home cooking range in store, experts agree that cross-merchandising by meal solution is still the smartest way for retailers to go.

“Shoppers build meals by buying the meats for the week and thinking ‘Now what?’,” says Cat Armitage, senior category manager at Unilever UK.

“It’s the stocks, herbs and sauces that turn these ingredients into a complete meal. Cross-merchandising products that shoppers use together can help retailers to increase valuable sales, and the key is in understanding which products to include within the promotion to ensure the best possible results.”

Touchais suggests that it’s also a good idea to add some theatre to the fixture, whether that’s by offering recipe options, or products that provide a USP for your store. She suggests that consumers want more than just aisles of their favourite foods - they’re seeking everyday inspiration as well.

“With convenience, the key occasion is ‘meal for tonight’ and shoppers are looking for inspiration - they’ve no idea what they want to eat,” she says.

“They’re generally looking for inspiration around the meal solution itself, so the more retailers can do to help them, the better.”

Ones to watch…

Kickin’ chicken

Parents of fast-food loving teens can bring home a taste of the high street to dinner courtesy of Nando’s Peri Peri sauce. And with new £1.99 PMPs, mum and dad should get a kick out of the savings while the kids get buy-in to one of the UK’s spiciest brands.

rrp: £1.99

tel: 01695 556427

Better baking

Popular baking specialist Betty Crocker has been given a retro re-brand that fits in with the current trend for vintage foodie fashions. This means products such as this Orange Drizzle cake mix should go down well with cooking fans who like to bake in style.

rrp: £2.15

tel: 01895 201367

Cooler shakers

Shares may be taking a nosedive, but the stocks market is still healthy, with dry stocks up 3.7% year on year. Oxo is investing in its future with its new Shake & Flavour range of convenient seasonings - designed to provide another level of taste to midweek meals.

rrp: £1.39

tel: 01727 815850

Currying favour

Shows such as Masterchef have helped drive the scratch cooking trend, so it seems natural that 2010 winner Dhruv Baker has hooked up with Tilda to create two new limited- edition Basmati pouches, the British Curry Rice and Barbecue Rice.

rrp: £1.59

tel: www.tilda.com

Little Italy

Thanks to the proliferation of sauces Italian has always been an easy midweek win - and it’s where a little authenticity works wonders. Napolina’s pesto range allows consumers to simply plonk it into pasta, but still produce a dish that rivals anything in your local Italian.

rrp: £1.99

tel: 0151 966 7000