Survey Reveals How Homeowners Use Their Kitchens

CHARLOTTE, NC — Homeowners are using their kitchens somewhat differently than they did in even the recent past – likely a reflection of ever-changing lifestyles, family compositions and the impact of a challenging economy.

That’s the key conclusion of a newly released survey conducted by the Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), a Charlotte, NC-based organization of manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and others whose revenues derive from activities that take place in the kitchen.

The goal of RICKI’s “Remodelers 360” survey, conducted earlier this year among some 2,900 consumers, was to determine how Americans are currently using their kitchens, their design preferences, their remodeling experiences, and related matters. The study, conducted online in partnership with Seattle-based GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.), was first conducted in 2006 and is repeated every two years.

Selected excerpts of the comprehensive survey, available in its entirety from RICKI, were made available exclusively to Kitchen & Bath Design News.

According to RICKI, the survey found that the most common activities taking place in the kitchen (see related graph at right) are eating (65%) and planning meals (62%), followed by taking medication or vitamins (49%), talking in-person with family or friends (46%), talking on the phone (43%), caring for pets (38%) and sorting mail (38%).

Of the 17 kitchen activities measured, five are significantly less likely to be happening in the kitchen compared to 2006 and 2008. They are: taking medication or vitamins (down from 67% in 2006 and 65% in 2008 to 62% in 2010); talking on the phone (49% and 41% to 43%); reading newspapers or magazines (27% and 25% to 22%); entertaining (25% and 26% to 21%), and caring for plants (25% and 22% to 17%). In sharp contrast, the use of computers in the kitchen has almost doubled (6% in 2006 to 11% currently).

RICKI also concluded that gender, age and household income play a major role in how people use their kitchens. For example, women are much more likely than their male counterparts to participate in virtually all of the 17 activities measured – except for watching television, RICKI said. The younger the survey respondent, the more likely they are to eat and plan meals in the kitchen, as well as entertain family and friends, use a computer and do homework.

The survey also found that more people are eating at home now than a year ago. The frequency of eating at home has increased significantly since the 2008 wave of Remodelers 360, the first time this question was asked, jumping from 43% of respondents in 2008 to 59% in 2010 who say they are eating at home more these days. By comparison, only 7% of the survey respondents reported they are eating home less than they were a year ago, and 34% said they are eating at home about the same as they were a year ago.

A third of respondents say that they prepare dinner from scratch five or more times a week (34%), similar to the level found in the 2006 and 2008 studies (30% and 33%, respectively), RICKI reported.

Other key findings of the 2010 “Remodelers 360” survey were as follows:

There is a 70%-30% split between consumers who consider the kitchen mostly a functional space, primarily reserved for meal preparation (70%), and those who view it as the vibrant center of activity in the home (30%). This is consistent with both the 2006 and 2008 surveys, according to RICKI.

Upper-income women ($100K+ household incomes) are more likely than others to think their kitchens are a reflection on them personally and to say the kitchen is their favorite room of the home; they are also the most willing survey cohort to make improvements to the kitchen. In contrast, lower-income men are more likely to think of their kitchen as purely functional. Younger consumers (under age 44) are more likely than older consumers to say they keep up with the latest home decorating and fashion trends.

Cooking is hot. Nearly a quarter of survey respondents say they love to cook and try new recipes (23% say it “completely” describes them). This is especially true among younger women (aged 18 to 34) who may be influenced by celebrity chefs and cooking shows.

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