That’s Eatertainment!

Discussion
Dec 28, 2006

By George Anderson

Parents – be aware of what your kids are watching on television. It might turn out that what they see influences them to cook.

According to an Associated Press report, kids between four and 16 are really getting into the culinary arts with group cooking classes, summer camps, private lessons and birthday parties.

Kids, it turns out, are really into watching Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and other chefs working their magic on the television.

Stephen Hengst, spokesman for the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., said kids are drawn to what he referred to as “eatertainment.”

Mark O’Connor, a spokesperson for the Food Network, said kids are a large part of the audience that turn out for public events and book signings by the celebrity chefs featured on its channel.

“Based on our Web site traffic, message boards, mail questions and telephone calls, we know that there are a major amount of kids watching from as young as 5 up to 15 years old,” Mr. O’Connor said.

Parents, it seems, are very happy to help their children pursue cooking as a hobby. “They used to cook with their mother or grandma, but life is so hectic they don’t have time to do the same for their kids. So they send them, or go with them, to cooking class,” said Mr. Hengst.

Katie Wilton, a cooking instructor and author of You’re the Cook!, said, “When there was a parent at home, then they were making a more extensive dinner and the kids could be involved. But everyone is rushing around so much that no one is there to teach them basic skills.”

There’s no doubt that kids are eating these classes up.

“Kids classes sell out before any of our adult classes,” said Mr. Hengst. “They are almost instant sellouts, and we are always adding new ones to meet the demand.” Whole Foods regularly has waiting lists for the cooking classes it offers for kids. Other cooking schools tell similar stories.

Gregory Zifchak, an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America, said there are added benefits to kids learning to cook. “We’ve become a prepackaged, processed food society, where so many items in grocery carts are just heat and serve,” he said. Kids who know how to make their own eat better than those who simply throw packages into a microwave.

Discussion Questions: What does the growing interest in cooking classes for kids mean for food retailers in the near and longer term? How are (can) retailers
creating their own “eatertainment” in stores, web sites, in the media and out in the community?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

11 Comments on "That’s Eatertainment!"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 4 months ago

With art departments gone in most school systems, this is an interactive way to be creative and stores would benefit from jumping on the bandwagon. Creating interactive entertaining experiences is a value added for consumers, kids and parents alike. From truly creative demos to recipes and project ideas, the retailer can offer this to customers online, in-store and in other contexts to build loyalty, trial and purchase.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Generally, only the more upscale stores offer cooking classes. I’m all for it and glad to see there is a strong interest. Overall, I don’t see it impacting sales all that much. It’s just another outreach program to get shoppers in the store. But how many would be shopping there anyway? Looking at the big picture, in my opinion, these cooking classes appear to be geared towards kids in the elite social class. I wonder what’s going on with the other 90% who think cooking is putting a 98 cent TV dinner in the microwave or warming up something from the dollar menu at McDonald’s? If Wal-Mart started offering cooking classes for kids and they filled up, then I would really be impressed.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 4 months ago

This is a pleasantly surprising phenomenon! It makes sense…kids have less home economics, PE, art and music in schools these days and this is a fun, creative outlet for them. It also builds a connection, not only with those kids, but also with the parents that benefit in many ways. Most importantly, this kind of socialization strategy is a tangible way for a grocery retailer to show that “they care.” Even if on an unconscious level, we carry strong attachments to the happy things that we do as young people…and the brands that were involved.

I grew up with Publix supermarkets and still remember nagging my mom to only shop there so that I could get my free cookie at the bakery and green balloon on the way out. Life was not pretty for her if she chose a competitor. Once I was older, I chose to work there through high school and still shop with them almost exclusively. That’s a strong brand connection.

Michele Downey, RD
Guest
Michele Downey, RD
15 years 4 months ago
I agree these would be considered loyalty programs targeted at young people (tomorrow’s shoppers) and their parents (today’s shoppers). Other retail categories have used loyalty programs targeted at youths for years — in the hopes that they will cement relationships with future (adult) consumers. Witness the marketing strategies of credit card companies targeting college students, McDonald’s developing the Playland concept, and mobile phones marketed to pre-teens. As a Registered Dietitian, I love to see kids showing an interest in preparing their meals and seeing that meals don’t need to originate at a drive-thru. We’re seeing more parents interested in purchasing and preparing wholesome meals — thus driving demand for meal components that are both healthy AND convenient. What could be more convenient than adding another cook to the household? Many grocers today offer in-store demos and classes to drive customer loyalty. So, I wouldn’t think it would be a stretch to extend offerings to this niche. Food retailers are all trying to move beyond their reputation as “sellers of groceries” and towards becoming more full-fledged… Read more »
Steve Weiss
Guest
Steve Weiss
15 years 4 months ago

This is all hearsay based on the limited and self-interested insight of a few “experts.” Kids like to make chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes? Yawn.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

This is both a problem and an opportunity in the UK as well. One way it has been addressed – which makes a small dent but only a small one – is with cooking buses sponsored by supermarkets or other organisations. The buses park near schools or the supermarket and offer both demonstrations and hands-on lessons. Some include the school’s teachers, some include parents. A program like this can go anywhere and can offer valuable lessons as well as inspiring interest and skills among all economic categories, not just the middle classes who can afford to pay for lessons or encourage their kids to go online. It’s the tactile senses that make the real difference and this is where supermarkets have a much bigger opportunity than encouraging kids to sit at home glued to a screen.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago

When I was in my early teens, my father — then a psychology teacher and later a psychology professor — taught me about Eight Great Things. The concept is this: If a man can master eight great recipes, he’ll impress women. It works, and I taught my son the same concept. It works for him, too. Our Eight Great Things are not identical, but we do share a couple of recipes. (And no, for those who are familiar with the Doc Banks World Famous Chilidog recipe, it is not one of my Eight Great Things.)

My favorite fictional hero is Spenser, the private investigator in the Robert B. Parker novels who was portrayed by the late (and very cool) Robert Urich on TV. He was always cooking something, creating omelets out of thin air and whatever was in the fridge. Readers of the novels were exposed to at least three recipes per episode.

Bottom line, cooking is sexy. Help your kids find their Eight Great Things. After all, it’s for the children.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
Carol Spieckerman
15 years 4 months ago

Color me baffled by the phenomena that is Rachael Ray; a woman who says thing like “I don’t bake” when she’s not crying out “yummo!”… Baffled that is until I checked out the hundreds of fan sites, MySpace forums and such devoted to her. Turns out, she has some kind of kid-mojo that won’t quit (aha! Finally an explanation for Oprah’s endorsement – next generation fan insurance!) No doubt kids and teens are big drivers for Food Network’s unfortunate move away from chefs and toward “cooks,” and retailers like Kohl’s (with their exclusive for FN products), are smart to tap it.

Much as I personally dislike the trend, it’s a no-brainer for retailers to align with any network, personality or cook that enjoys high kiddie Q ratings!

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Kids’ cooking lessons can be worthwhile for food stores. The lessons don’t have to be free, so the fees can be used to pay the instructors. The students can be given a shopping list in advance so they can bring their own materials. And many lessons don’t require stoves or conventional ovens, so the classroom space needn’t be a major capital investment. It’s a great way to help build a fan base. And similar lessons can be for singles, gays and lesbians, married couples, retired folks, etc. Every Michael’s store has a classroom space and they’re heavily booked all year round. Been to the cake decorating lessons at Michael’s? No ovens or stoves are needed.

Frank Beurskens
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

The second most popular recipe category selected in our in-store kiosk network for 2006 was “Kids Recipes.” While many of the recipes viewed and printed are parents searching for ideas, our research also suggests that kids are very interested in discovering new recipes and participating in the process.

Interactive technology encourages engagement and the kids gravitate to the in-store technology. This trend isn’t about “chocolate chips” as much as it is about access and engagement.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
15 years 4 months ago
There are lots of opportunities for retailers to promote “eatertainment” and healthful and good tasting foods for kids (and their parents.) Ideas could include a cooking club with simple recipes, seasonal cooking contests, in-store events like cake or cookie decorating for Mother’s or Father’s Day, interactive newsletters and games online. Including ethnic foods using different fruits and vegetables adds appeal as well. Offering a shopping list for kids with a simple recipe can teach basic shopping skills at the same time. Developing partnerships with local TV/radio stations or cooking schools on the theme of “kids cooking in the kitchen” can offer visibility for a retailer as well. Has anyone tried doing podcasts with easy recipes for kids from their local supermarket website? The recent research from CASA illustrates the importance of family meals in that teens who eat dinner with their families six to seven times a week are at almost half the risk of substance abuse as teens who eat dinner with their families twice a week or less and are likelier to do… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is it that kids who learn how to cook at a store will continue shopping at the same banner as they become adults?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...