Though the temperatures outside might indicate otherwise, summertime is winding down. Before you know it, the kiddos will be boarding the school bus, ready to start a new year at school. And, according to our data, recipe traffic picks back up after the summer slump in a very serious way once Labor Day hits. So whether you're a food blogger, food brand, or simply a curious recipe-lover, we pulled the data for back-to-school season to tell us what kind of recipes and ingredients people love during this time of year. Spoiler alert: it's not all PBJ (but there's still lots of PBJ...).
Classic Dinner Inspo
The Trend: Popular recipes during late August and early September always veer toward the classic, even 1950s inspired meals. Popular recipes contained only a few ingredients, simple and familiar proteins, a single cooking vessel, and oftentimes a can of soup poured over the top like mom used to do.
The Takeaway: In many ways, back-to-school recipes are about nostalgia. Rather than thinking too hard about seasonal produce or heritage grain varieties to try in September, reader trends indicate that readers want casseroles, chicken parm or meatloaf. Successful content should feed a family with no frills.
The Trend: It's not delivery, it's... homemade pizza! We saw these trends across the board, but pulled some numbers on pizza to make a point. Once school is back in session, frozen meals decrease in popularity. In this case, frozen pizza purchases slumped by 50%. The pizza pieces, however, saw a rise--pizza dough ^21%, pizza sauce ^44% and mozzarella cheese ^17%.
The Takeaway: Just because certain ingredients show major shifts, that doesn't necessarily mean that a single food is being consumed less. Yes, frozen pizzas were down, but the evidence showed that homemade pizzas likely were being made and consumed more. Similarly, cooks love dinners that they don't have to make from scratch. People want to cook more, but don't have the time to wait for pizza dough to rise.
Cut Off the Crusts
The Trend: Peanut butter and jelly pops up positively everywhere, though between two slices of white bread is probably its least likely placement. And it's not a huge surprise. PBJ is arguably the greatest flavor combo since... PB... and chocolate.
The Takeaway: You may feel like it's all been done before, but food bloggers prove that there is always space to innovate with peanut butter and jelly. We were particularly surprised by how often the flavors were featured in health food recipes, like protein pancakes, shakes, or chia seed puddings. The more you can turn familiar flavors into an entry point for a new, unfamiliar, or trendy product, the more likely you are to win over cooks and consumers.
Kids These Days
The Trend: Whereas twenty years ago, my mom was--pretty much every day--packing a PBJ, tuna, or turkey sandwich in my lunchbox, today kids have a more refined palette, it seems. Come August and September, we saw a dip in those aforementioned sandwich fillings, but a bump in ingredients like spreads, specialty cheeses and hummus.
The Takeaway: Whether you're cooking for kids or trying to get the attention of their parents with your recipes or products, keep in mind that just cause you loved liverwurst on rye back in the day, tastes have changed. Spreads of all kinds are particularly popular right now (way more than deli meats). Look to include nut butters, spreadable cheese, labne, jams, or other spread in your recipe content aimed at busy parents.
The Trend: Out of curiosity, I decided to dig into our data to see which snacks readers respond to most during back-to-school. Apples, perhaps? Yes, it turns out. Top snacks were all pretty predictable.
The Takeaway: While sandwich fillings might be way different from the things we remember, brown bag snacks, arguably, haven't changed at all--save for the disappearing Twinkies. Perhaps it's time for some snacktime innovation?