There was a really interesting article in the Washington Post about 10 days ago titled Cooking 101: Add a Cup of Simplicity. It outlined a trend that many of the big food brands who have dedicated teams of recipe developers already know - Americans tend to lack basic cooking skills. There lots of factors that have led to this like increasing numbers of moms in the work place (they have less time to teach the next generation how to cook), the rise of convenience foods, the proliferation of the microwave, the elimination of Home Economics classes from high school curriculums and, of course, there is also Americans' love affair with fast food. The net result is there are a lot of people who don't have the basic cooking skills that past generations took for granted. But don't mistake people's lack of cooking knowledge with a lack of interest in cooking. You only have to look at the explosion of TV chefs, the food network, cooking websites and cooking magazines to know that people are ready to return to their kitchens.....they just needs a little help.
What kind of help should you and your brand give them? If you are a mainstream brand, start with giving consumers very simple "semi-homemade" type recipes that start with your delicious food product as a base. Keep the ingredients list short. Limit the range of ingredients to things commonly found in the pantry of your consumers. Bullet point the prep steps and keep chopping and measuring to a minimum. Keep the prepping and cooking time as short as possible. Finally test your recipes before you publish them to make sure they really are tasty! Nothing will deter a consumer faster from trying more of your recipes than having served a bad or inedible meal to her family. Remember your goal is to be your consumers' resource in the kitchen.