Can't cook? Or won't cook? Will anyone cook in 2030?

25 Jun 2010|Added Value

Added Value completes pioneering research for leading UK retailer, Sainsbury’s, into the attitudes of children and their families towards cooking.

The research reveals the barriers to cooking and healthy eating among children aged 5 – 16 years. The research coincides with the investment of a further £3 million by Sainsbury’s to enable schools to purchase essential cooking equipment and ingredients through Sainsbury’s Active Kids scheme.

The findings were revealed by Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King and a panel of experts, including chef Jamie Oliver and Tim Loughton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families.

The research shows that as a nation we are on a culinary journey with 68% of people saying they enjoy cooking. But how people define “cooking” can be very different; homemade from scratch, part homemade using a cooking sauce, assembled and warming up convenience foods. Further delving shows that only 11% actually cook entirely from scratch.

However, the study highlights a number of reasons why some families are not placing the same degree of importance on cooking, from scratch and using fresh ingredients. These barriers include a lack of interest in food, lack of awareness or concern towards nutrition, a lack of confidence or enjoyment of cooking, fussy kids who prefer prepared food, a perception that cooking from scratch is more expensive and a reluctance to change routines that work.

Kids cooking – at home

22% of households claim they never or rarely cook with their kids/parents. (18% of parents and 37% of kids claim this). This suggests that kids have broader perception of what ‘cooking’ means to them and include assembly rather than pure cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Given the dramatic rise in convenient foods such as cooking sauces, this isn’t really surprising.

Whilst parent’s own attitudes to food and cooking undoubtedly plays a large role, the study has identified a set of common barriers for cooking together regardless of how personally engaged parents are with food. The major barrier is time (too many other activities) but also the ‘faff factor’ – cooking together requires patience, creates mess, chaos in the kitchen and often results in arguments. Other factors include safety concerns, lacking ideas/know how, concern that food will be wasted or that kids are not perceived as interested.

Today cooking together is the domain of special activities versus frequent behaviour.

However, kids have a desire to better their cooking skills in the future. 75% would like to be able to cook a meal for their family, 78% think it’s important that they learn how to cook meals and 83% would like to improve their cooking skills. This is supported by parents: 90 % of parents with 5-16 year old children think it’s important that children learn how to cook food/meals.

Kids cooking – at school

The study underlines perceptions that when kids do have positive cooking experiences at school that this converts into behaviour at home. 62 % of children and 46% of parents say “I have/my child has cooked the same thing at home after a lesson.”

The research supports findings of the Licence to Cook report* that when practical, interactive and hands-on lessons are thoroughly enjoyed, there is an appetite to learn to cook when given a chance. However, approximately half of the children in the study only cook a maximum of twice a year at school.

Changing behaviours

The research provides a basis for Sainsbury’s to help parents and children bond over food. This is particularly relevant for younger children: having fun, being creative, providing a tangible understanding of nutritious meals, pleasure and sense of achievement gained from a tangible and practical result. This can provide long term benefits: helping teens take a step on the journey to independence and adulthood.

In addition, there is a clear opportunity to build food confidence by encouraging creativity versus the ‘right’ outcome. The research indicates that cooking is most successful when it is built on a foundation of fun. That means households need to be realistic about the frequency that cooking together is likely to happen. These occasions are most likely to be weekends/ holidays for low pressure environments. Generating kids buy-in (or at the very least responding effectively to pester power) at home is key. Households need to think foremost about what children want to cook – and have access to recipes that are easy to follow, featuring mainstream ingredients, which require minimal weighing and measuring. Importantly, preparing a meal should not take too long.

Says Jo Faithorn at Added Value: “Despite all the noise around healthy food and the importance of kids’ nutrition, for many households it just isn’t on the radar. Giving kids the confidence and tools to cook is a step towards healthier homes.”




  • Quantitative research: 15 minute online interview. Total sample, n=524, comprising: children aged 12-16 years (n=171); parents with children aged 5 – 11 years (n=178); parents with children aged 12-16 years (n=175). Nationally representative.


  • Qualitative research: 3 hour ethnographic style in home interviews with six families at meal time. Sample: children aged 5-16 years; families who rarely cook together; mix of SEGs.


About Added Value Group:

Added Value offers brand development and marketing insight services to blue-chip companies across all industry sectors. Everything they do starts with insight and ends with action, in pursuit of healthy brand growth for their clients.

With a footprint that now extends across 22 locations in 14 countries, drawing on the expertise within its global network, Added Value Group fuses brand marketing, consumer insight, innovation, and communications optimisation to help solve clients’ marketing problems.

Added Value Group is part of Kantar Group, the information, insight and consultancy arm of WPP, a world leader in communications services.

More information is available at:

[i]“Will anyone cook in 2030?” Event on Wednesday 23 June, held at Sainsbury’s head office in central London. More information is available on their website.

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