Catering to Millennials – and Outliers Like Me

October 10, 2019

This past week I attended my fourth Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS), which has grown from a small gathering in Seattle to a global event that now takes place in both Dublin and Japan as well. It was amazing to see all the innovation and excitement about how technology is improving our kitchens and the food we eat. Along with discussions on combatting food waste and improving the functionality of smart appliances, one of the main topics was how to cater to millennials. 

According to a survey conducted by The Spoon – a sister publication to SKS – only 47 percent of millennials cook at home five or more times per week, compared with 55 percent of those aged 30-44 and 60 percent of those over 60. When they do cook, the most typical meal is one with just a few ingredients, like pasta or a burger. Only 26 percent choose to spend time making more complicated meals. 

Everywhere at SKS, people were talking about how to change this, from teaching millennials basic cooking skills through guided appliances to practically handing them a finished meal with ingredient-driven, grocery delivery apps. Since food waste is such an important issue, cooking from home is going to be paramount in the future (a study from Ohio State University found that people who eat at home wasted about 3 percent of their food, compared to 40 percent wasted eating out). But what if you don’t want your food – and the menu – just handed to you?

I’m a millennial, but I love to cook. There’s something about the prepping and cutting – less about the cleaning up – that’s soothing to me. I feel stressed if I don’t have that! And I’m a marathon runner, so I also already cook healthy meals the majority of the time. 

My whole wheat sourdough loaves!

So I kept asking myself during SKS, how will the future smart kitchen cater to an outlier like me who doesn’t want to be told how – or what – to cook? My charge to smart kitchen manufacturers and designers to include others like me (I know I’m not the only young foodie out there) is this: 

  1. Continue to focus on the quality of hardware, not just software. Since I won’t likely use the self-help features of an oven with guided recipes, I will instead want an oven that works far better and more efficiently than what I currently have. Having an oven with an accurate interior temperature, or a gas stove that I can control the precise heat on, is key to being able to fully master difficult recipes.

  2. Develop refrigeration that preserves the nutrients in fresh ingredients for longer. These are already on the market of course, but there is still room to grow when it comes to accurate control, easy cleaning capabilities and better, flexible storage for seasonal produce (think odd-shaped fresh veggies like carrots with tops or bulky bunches of kale).

  3. Keep the environment in mind. This includes both the outside environment and the interior of the home. Millennials – not just the outliers – are much more educated about the climate and will be drawn to companies with eco-friendly practices. Appliances that also use less heavy-duty plastic or other unrecyclable materials will have a step up. In addition, we will continue to demand transparency in the materials we introduce into our home – that includes the chemicals used to make up our kitchens.

With all of the education about home cooking and my generation’s growing love of wellness, I don’t think I’ll be an outlier for long. To read more about the trends and products I spotted at this year’s SKS, click HERE.