Food for thought: Colmar Brunton dishes up Kiwi dining data with Dinner Plate survey

As part of Colmar Brunton’s inaugural New Zealand Dinner Plate Study, 1017 Kiwis were asked what they were having for dinner, who planned, cooked and shopped for the meal, what their attitudes and emotions were to cooking, and all the who with, what with, where and which day of the week questions you can think of. And while there were lots of findings that fit with what you’d expect, there were a few surprises too, chief among them that Kiwi blokes now make up nearly half of the growing ‘passionate foodies’ category and are generally more passionate about cooking.

Males are the main dinner makers in 32 percent of households, make up 43 percent of the ‘passionate foodie’ category and don’t tend to work to such a tight budget.

Chris Vaughan, executive director at Colmar Brunton, says this segment is an emerging phenomenon in household behaviour in New Zealand, with men becoming a real kitchen force and more segment members under the age of 30.

“It’s clear [men]are becoming very familiar with mortar and pestles, shiitake mushrooms and truffle oil. The members of the ‘passionate foodies’ group tend to have the highest income, and the highest expenditure on food. They enjoy trying out new dishes, often inspired by TV cooking shows.”

The survey also found 20 percent of the those most often responsible for cooking the family evening meal have a real passion for it. These people spend time selecting meal ingredients and enjoy visiting farmers markets and specialty stores to seek out quality produce. But they’re still outnumbered by the 25 percent who find cooking dinner a “chore”

Life stages played a significant role in respondents’ attitudes towards meal preparation. Young couples with small children or without families enjoyed cooking dinner and saw it as more of a hobby. Whereas the main meal preparers for larger households that have mostly school aged children spend the least time preparing dinner and eat mince and takeaways more often.

Nine percent of evening meals are takeaways, three in four meals are eaten together as a household or family, 60 percent eat dinner in front of the television, two thirds eat dinner between 5.30pm and 7pm, 76 percent of us don’t follow any recipe when we cook dinner (which takes 54 minutes on average to prepare and half of the time is an old favourite we’ve cooked before) and 50 percent of dinners have some sort of dessert, but very few are ‘home cooked’.

As far as the country’s most popular meals go, roast chicken is New Zealand’s most cooked dinner, ahead of two other traditional dishes, chicken and veges and steak and veges. But a growing taste for international food was reflected in chicken curries taking fourth spot in the top 20 most-prepared meals. Two things that haven’t changed are Kiwis’ love of a traditional chicken roast, particularly on Sunday, and the Catholic-influenced tradition of fish on a Friday night.

“The overriding sense is that whatever is on the table for tea needs to be good value, tasty, filling and acceptable to the whole family and day of the week has a big effect on what ends up on the plate,” says Vaughan. “The easy meal strategies of those cooking for families become more pronounced as the working week progresses and by Friday, many have completely run out of steam, opting for the most basic of meals with the least possible time and effort in preparation (if not giving up altogether on meal preparation and buying takeaways).”

Colmar Brunton plans to carry out this survey twice a year, in New Zealand and Australia.

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