Embracing The Slow Cooking Trend

Amy Myrdal Miller - Produce on the Menu

Suvir and I have been watching the slow cooking trend Amy Myrdal Miller - Produce on the Menuwith great amusement‭. ‬The goal seems to be preparing food faster‭ ‬‮…‬‭‬in a slower manner‭.

The social mindset driving this trend is very understandable‭. ‬We’re living in a very fast-paced world‭, ‬and the foodies among us are striving to preserve some peace and sanity in the kitchen by‭ ‬using a seemingly old-fashioned technique and tool in new ways‭.

The concept of slow cooking or slow food certainly isn’t new‭. ‬In fact‭, ‬up until the 1950s‭, ‬when‭ ‬“TV dinners”‭ ‬and other convenience foods were introduced‭, ‬food preparation was a task that consumed much of a typical housewife’s day‭. ‬As innovation and technology offered increasing options for convenience and ease‭, ‬and as more women joined the workforce‭,‬‭ ‬time spent on household‭ ‬“chores”‭ ‬like cooking and kitchen cleanup decreased‭.‬

While most 1950’s housewives likely welcomed the arrival of products that provided greater convenience‭, ‬not everyone applauded these societal changes‭, ‬viewing them as detrimental to food culture‭.

Slow Food International was launched in 1989‭ ‬as a global‭, ‬grassroots organization designed to‭ ‬“prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions‭, ‬counteract the rise of fast life‭, ‬and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat‭, ‬where it comes from‭, ‬and how our food choices affect the world around us‭.‬”‭ ‬There are now millions of people in more than 160‭ ‬countries participating in Slow Food efforts to enhance the mindful appreciation of food‭.

So how little time is now spent on cooking at home‭? ‬A recent USDA ERS analysis shows Americans currently spend an estimated 33‭ ‬minutes per day on food preparation and cleanup‭. ‬And we spend less time on food preparation than residents of other western countries‭. ‬Women tend to spend more time on food preparation than men do‭, ‬but data also shows the amount of time men spend on food production is increasing‭. ‬Food retailers shouldn’t discount men when it comes to food selection and preparation‭, ‬especially those Millennials who are eager to embrace the next food trend with deeper meaning‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬slow cooking is one of these trends‭.‬

The amount of time spent preparing food also affects diet quality‭. ‬There are several recently published studies that show a positive correlation between the amount of time spent shopping for and preparing food and diet quality‭, ‬including greater fruit and‭ ‬vegetable intake‭. ‬Anyone who cares about fruit and vegetable purchase and consumption patterns should also care about home-food‭ ‬preparation habits and trends‭.‬

Anyone who cares about fruit and vegetable purchase and consumption patterns should also care about home-food preparation habits and trends.

So how can you use the slow cooking trend to sell more produce‭? ‬Focus on lifestyle messages of comfort and convenience more than‭ ‬“this is good for you”‭ ‬messages about fruits and vegetables‭. ‬And don’t forget the flavor benefits of slow cooking‭. ‬Moist‭, ‬juicy‭, ‬flavorful‭, ‬succulent‭, ‬and creamy are a few seductive terms that come‭ ‬to mind‭.‬

The‭ ‬“American Time Use Survey‭,‬”‭ ‬a U.S‭. ‬Census Bureau assessment of how people spend their time‭, ‬shows that American adults have about 45‭ ‬minutes per day to devote to exercise and food preparation‭, ‬and an increase in one area will result in a decrease in the other‭. ‬This trade-off trend is true for men and women‭, ‬regardless of marital status or the presence of children in the home‭. ‬So if you are promoting health and wellness in your store‭, ‬consider how certain messages may impact overall health‭. ‬A slow cooker is a powerful asset for a home‭ ‬cook who wants to save valuable free time for other health-promoting pursuits like a daily fitness walk‭.‬

America’s Test Kitchen‭, ‬a Boston-based‭ company that produces public television programming and publishes‭ Cook’s Illustrated ‬and‭ ‬Cook’s Country‭ ‬magazines‭, ‬recently released‭ ‬Slow Cooker Revolution‭. ‬This soft-cover‭, ‬magazine-style cookbook features the‭ ‬“usual suspect”‭ ‬recipes for one-dish meals‭, ‬but it also highlights how awesome a slow cooker can be for making easy side dishes and desserts‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬including a Carrot Cake that derives its moist‭, ‬appealing texture from the cooking technique instead of excess vegetable oil‭. ‬The editors of‭ Slow Cooker Revolution ‬also highlight the power of a slow cooker on those days when you wish you had two ovens‭, ‬days like Thanksgiving when the turkey‭ ‬won’t share the oven with the Brussels sprouts‭, ‬sweet potatoes‭, ‬and apple pie‭.‬

The National Restaurant Association released its Top 20‭ ‬Food Trends for 2016‭ ‬in December‭, ‬and included in the Top 5‭ ‬were‭ ‬“natural ingredients/minimally processed foods‭.‬”‭ ‬Is this not another way to say‭ ‬“fruits and vegetables”‭? ‬Why not capitalize on this trend and show consumers how easy it is to use all natural‭, ‬minimally processed fruits and vegetables in easy slow cooker recipes‭?‬

Next month‭, ‬we’ll talk about the importance of fat quality versus fat quantity when it comes to better health and better flavor‭. ‬Have a topic you want us to cover in future issues‭? ‬Let us know via Twitter‭ ‬@AmyMyrdalMiller and‭ ‬@SuvirSaran‭.‬

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, is a farmer’s daughter from North Dakota, award-winning dietitian, culinary nutrition expert, and founder and president of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting LLC. Suvir Saran is an award-winning chef and restaurateur. Born in Delhi, India, today Suvir lives on a farm in upstate New York. His next restaurant is scheduled to open in San Francisco in 2016.