Outlook 2021: Americans To Further Enhance Cooking Expertise

cooking, culinary, home cooking

To say 2020 was an unusual year is quite an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted every aspect of life and with Americans spending more time at home, many focused on enhancing their cooking skills.

Tom Mirabile

Despite the challenges of the prior 12 months, sales of kitchenware products were hot throughout 2020 and a continuation of this trend could result in another strong year for products related to food prep and presentation.

To get a glimpse into 2021, Kitchenware Today sought out the expertise of two kitchenware industry experts: Tom Mirabile, founder & principal of Springboard Futures; and Dorothy Belshaw, chief customer and marketing officer for International Market Centers, one of the largest home goods trade show operators in the U.S.


Mirabile and Belshaw shared their insights on a variety of topics ranging from hot products to the long-term impact 2020 had on the way people shop.

KITCHENWARE TODAY: As we look back at 2020, are there are trends related to home cooking you see continuing into 2021?

Dorothy Belshaw

TOM MIRABILE: Absolutely, but with some important evolutions. Home cooking will continue, but consumers’ growing cooking fatigue means simplicity and time savings are big value drivers. Indulgence will continue, but instead of soul-soothing with a pint of Haagen-Dazs, we’ll be indulging ourselves with upgraded cooking tools and gadgets and healthier, premium ingredients. Think better cuts of meat, wild-caught fish, heritage and organic produce.

DOROTHY BELSHAW: We saw consumers investing in quality cookware, bakeware and appliances as they developed — or rediscovered — a love for food preparation, whether cooking from scratch or from a meal kit. I don’t see that passion fading as we enter the new year. Also, working from home is, in many cases, here to stay, so the rushed breakfast, fast food lunch and 30-minute dinner prep are less common. 

KWT: Are there any new trends related to cooking and beverages you see coming to the forefront in 2021?

TM: Two trends rise to the top for me. The first is nostalgia. This isn’t exactly new, but its importance to consumers is. Think reinvented (and more healthful) comfort foods, and foods that help us remember our pre-COVID lives and even our childhoods. This could include fresh takes on pancakes and omelets, stews and roasts, tacos, meatloaf, cobblers, puddings, even sundaes. The other is exploration. Diminished travel and dining out has created a culinary wanderlust. Consumers are craving new flavors and techniques that bring excitement to the core ingredients they know and love.

DB: Once it is safe to socialize with our family and friends, I think consumers will be eager to show off their newfound culinary and mixology skills. Serveware, barware and other entertaining essentials will slowly regain momentum. And to cut down on waste, many hosts will opt for eco-friendly textiles like cloth napkins, linen bread bags, beeswax wraps and reusable kitchen towels.

KWT: What housewares products do you feel will be the most popular in 2021?

TM: I think the best products and categories of 2021 will be those that deliver on two key consumer aspirations. Time: consumers value time. Whether it’s household chores or creative cooking, they are looking for products that make that experience faster and easier — all while delivering the best possible results. Comfort: Think broadly here because for some consumers comfort is making particular foods, for others it’s air or water purity, while others will find comfort in a home security system, a massager, or a perfectly organized closet. Whether you are a retailer or a supplier, ask yourself how you are delivering on these consumer aspirations. 

DB: Those products that offer simple solutions will be the most popular. In 2020 it was all about going back to the basics, getting out your grandmother’s cookbook and creating something from scratch. As our schedules begin to fill up again, our love for cooking won’t wane, but our time for it may. 

KWT: The pandemic had a major impact on how people cook at home in 2020. What will be the long-term impact of this in 2021 and beyond? 

TM: Housewares is fortunate in that it will continue to benefit. One example is family gatherings around the dinner table again. In November 2020, Springboard partnered with TABLE Magazine on a national survey that revealed that more than 70% of households are dining at the table together every day. That’s a long term “keeper” trend. Moreover, consumers have made cooking and baking a creative and therapeutic outlet, falling in love with the kitchen again. That creativity has spurred a lot of social media sharing when “outside” food experiences are so limited. All these factors are helping consumers justify new purchases and trade-ups.

DB: The confidence many consumers gained in the kitchen may be one of the best things to come out of 2020, especially the younger demographic, who can now enjoy a lifelong love of cooking. 

KWT: The pandemic forced people to change how they shop for kitchenware. Do you think these changes will be temporary or permanent in 2021 and beyond? 

TM: The pandemic forced many consumers, especially Baby Boomers, to face down certain “tech aversions” that dampened online shopping. Brick and mortar has simply not been a viable option for many, and caution will likely remain a factor beyond the actual danger of this pandemic. Also, we are adaptive creatures of habit, and the longer this event lasts, the more normalized and habitual these new modes of shopping become. That said, many consumers are feeling “led” through the online experience, herded rather than having the ability to really explore. That is one of many reasons that the physical shopping experience can never really be replaced. That said, small and midsize retailers who want to thrive must view omnichannel capabilities as a strategic necessity.

DB: A bit of both. Online shopping is here to stay, and if you’re not embracing it, you’re missing out on a key channel of commerce. On the other hand, you can read all the reviews and watch all the videos, but there is no replacement for the in-store experience of feeling the smooth surface of a pan, the weight of a platter or the balance of a knife. Product demonstrations and cooking classes should also see a resurgence in popularity as newly minted home chefs seek to broaden their expertise.