Home baking is rising (thank goodness)!

As a cookware retailer, I knew this anyway, but it’s now been scientifically proven: according to a recent survey, home baking is on an inexorable rise. Mintel’s 2010 ‘Home Baking’ market intelligence report says that over 40% of respondents claim to bake once a week. And, apparently, it is the 16–34-year-olds who are powering this surge. Now, I’m not a great believer in surveys, because I think it’s human nature to obfuscate or embellish when questioned by officialdom; and also, surveys (like scientific experiments) start with a proposition which they then set out to prove.

Thus, the reasons put forward by Mintel to explain the youthful baking bonanza are not that 35–100-year-olds bake all the time, they just don’t want to talk about it, but that there are curious socio-economic forces at work, as follows. Young people are baking more than ever before:

(1) Because they are more health-conscious and avoiding processed foods gives them more control over what they eat. (Hmmm… I can see how this works for fresh pesto penne versus tinned spaghetti hoops on toast, but I’m not sure the argument holds water when considering the nutritional value of bleached flour, refined sugar and saturated fat assembled in your own kitchen - ie homebaked cake - compared to the same ingredients assembled elsewhere - ie shop-bought cake.)

(2) To cut down on shopping bills (Marie Antoinette Syndrome: it’s still cheaper to buy a loaf of bread than bake a cake at home.)

(3) To show off (“Look what a mess I’ve made of the kitchen!”)

(4) As a way of spending enjoyable time together as a family. (Mintel researchers are clearly singletons who haven’t a notion that cooking with other people, particularly people who you are related to, and especially children, is the worst possible torture.)

I have a different theory. Young people are bored, bored, bored. They’ve fallen out with all their virtual social-media friends who they perceive as having more glamorous lives; their thumbs are stiff with texters cramp; their computers/DVDs/gaming consoles have destroyed their thinking, planning, organising and problem-solving frontal lobes; and their mobile phones and ipods have fried the other sections of their brains to do with sensory function and speech. (Normal teenagers, then.)

Basically, baking is an antidote to Technology Overload. It’s creative, homey, generous, comforting and fulfilling. And our grandparents have always known this. Which is why older people bake quietly for love, and younger people bake noisily for pleasure.

Sorry, Mintel: it was ever thus.

Posted: 02-Aug-11


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