What have we learned from a global study of cooking across the world? What do people gain from cooking? Rimpei Iwata, CEO of Cookpad, joins the podcast to discuss the power of cooking a meal.
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.
Mohamed Younis 00:07
For Gallup, I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is the Gallup Podcast. This week, we take a global look at one of the most ancient human activities on the planet: cooking. Rimpei Iwata is president and CEO of Cookpad, the world's largest digital community of folks who cook -- and also the world's largest compendium of traditional and new age recipes in the world. That's a huge mouthful. Rimpei, welcome to the program.
Rimpei Iwata 00:33
Thank you for having me, Mohamed.
Mohamed Younis 00:35
Why don't we start off by just the general question: What, what is Cookpad? What is your objective? What is your offering? Tell us about it.
Rimpei Iwata 00:43
So, Cookpad, we started in 1997 as an online recipe-sharing service, and now we provide that service to over 70 countries in more than 30 languages and are trying to create the world's largest and fun online cooking community of cooking lovers.
Mohamed Younis 01:05
Why is it important, Rimpei, to study how people cook around the world? Why did an organization that's really focused on, sounds like, sharing recipes and, and really restoring them for the future, suddenly decide, "We need to also understand how people are doing it all over the world."
Rimpei Iwata 01:23
It all starts from our belief in that there's a big difference between being a creator/maker versus a consumer. So, if you create things, make things, your awareness grows. For example, if you have played the violin, you will generally have much more awareness for the tone, the pitch, the volume and the emotions behind the performer compared with someone who just listens to music, and it's the same thing for cooking. If you cook, you generally become much more aware and curious about where the food comes from, how it is produced, how the texture changes/affects the taste, and the season affects the harvest and so on. But if you eat, eat out all the time, I bet you hardly think about where the ingredients are actually coming from.
Rimpei Iwata 02:23
And the other belief that we have at Cookpad is that when people are more aware, they usually care more about the choices they make, and when individuals care, they tend to make good choices. And with these two in mind, we encourage everyone to become creators and makers rather than just consumers on many things. But the impact of the act of cooking is larger than many other things. Like, eating is one of the key behaviors alongside exercise and sleep that affects our individual health and wellbeing. Second, the act of eating connects people. Eating together is probably one of the most frequent social activities we have, and this has been the foundation of our society for a long time. So whether that experience in eating together every day becomes a positive one or not will have a significant impact on our lives. And we also know that what and how we eat greatly impact the environment too. So if we all cook and become more aware about the choices we are making, our personal health, the health of our society and the health of our planet will improve.
Rimpei Iwata 03:40
Having said that, we had no idea how many people in the world cook and whether we are helping increase the number of cooks worldwide or not. Unfortunately, there was no kind of data. No one had this kind of data. That's why we started to measure the frequency of cooking worldwide to acknowledge where we are today and also measure whether we are contributing to increasing the number of cooks worldwide.
Mohamed Younis 04:09
And it's … I love how you guys, you take such an interconnected approach to the experience of really finding, preparing and consuming food, like whether it's an environmental impact, the health impact, the economic impact. I mean, there are just, there are few things we do on a daily basis that really touch so many different parts of the underlying fundamental sort of wellbeing of society from, you know, do you have enough food? To, are you consuming food that's sustainably created where you live? To, are you eating food that's healthy for you based on your genetic background? Are you eating food based on your historic traditions, which I know, Rimpei, is another really important thing to Cookpad that I just love, is this idea of not losing traditional recipes and approaches to eating. So, in taking this very interdisciplinary approach, let me just ask you, what are some of the findings that have surprised you in the global study that we're doing currently on cooking?
Rimpei Iwata 05:11
So, I think it starts with the biggest number, which is, on average, people in the world cook 6.7 meals per week. And that is out of 14 occasions per week because we measured data on both for lunch and dinner. And if you step back and think about it, it's a pretty big number for one person; it's almost every day. And when you live in places like the U.S. or where I live in, in the U.K., you're faced with a lot of choices eating out. And recently we've all observed the booming of the food delivery services. So the options of becoming a consumer only are becoming so affordable and easy. It's hard to continue justifying daily cooking. But even then, we are pleased to see that still a lot of people in the world are cooking on a daily basis. That's, that's just the starting point.
Rimpei Iwata 06:13
The next thing that stood out, especially for this year's report, was the impact of the pandemic. And now, as you know, and as you shared, Iran Cookpad, the world's largest online recipe sharing service. And we saw a surge in our access around March 2020 where most countries entered the first lockdown. Everyone was suddenly trying to make homemade bread, pasta, pizza. And we all remember it. And that showed in the results of this report too. A lot of people were cooking more. But for most countries, it clearly showed that the spike was short-lived. And at the end of 2020, we almost came back to where we were before the pandemic. So, as a company that is striving to help everyone cook on a daily basis, we have a lot to do.
Mohamed Younis 07:16
Yeah. And the food delivery variable -- when you mentioned that, my brain just lit up because, I mean, obviously I'm not a representative sample of anybody across the world, but just speaking from a personal example, my use of those services has exploded. And the convenience of it is so tempting. The other factor I feel that is challenging when it comes to cooking, Rimpei, is, at least here in the U.S., where I live -- I'm sure it's the same in the U.K. and at least in most Western economies -- healthier fast food options are becoming more popular. So the guilt of, you know, when I was growing up, it was like, you can have something really, really, really unhealthy fast food or you could eat a home-cooked meal. Now you can really get a pretty healthy meal, nutrition-wise, by ordering it and sitting on your couch. So the challenges of keeping cooking going as a tradition are, it's so true, they're, they're almost greater now than ever.
Mohamed Younis 08:15
The other challenge, and I loved a previous conversation we had about this, we really got into, is the gender factor. I'm originally from Egypt; you're originally from Japan. These are really awesome, ancient societies of really delicious cuisine. But one aspect of it is that cooking in many societies has really been the work of the woman in the household. And there's a lot of glamour around cooking that we see today, like on TV, celebrity cooking, etc., that doesn't necessarily match up with the day-to-day experiences of, mostly, women who are responsible to prepare a meal for their families. How did the research touch on these, kind of, gender differences? Did we see any, any changes or shifts over these past few years?
Rimpei Iwata 09:04
So, this year's report, the third year of our report -- but, from the beginning we saw that women cook twice as much as men globally, and that has remained true before and throughout the pandemic. We have had anecdotal stories such as a husband in Pakistan who has never cooked before, started to pick up cooking. And not only did he enjoy it, the family communication increased and he loved it. But from a statistical standpoint, men did slightly, men did cook slightly more in 2020 compared with 2019, particularly for the more wealthy nations. But as I said, the big gap still remains.
Mohamed Younis 09:58
I want to ask you about this contest you guys are doing. One of the things I love about Cookpad is you're always looking for ways, it seems, to engage real people doing real cooking. This was a research pitch contest for people to submit questions they'd like to study about cooking globally. Why did you guys do this contest, and what are your expectations around it?
Rimpei Iwata 10:24
So, the idea of the pitch, it came from … our thinking is that, for example, if I just take an example of human health: There's so much funding and research on post-illness treatment, treatments and medicine, and I can understand that because there's a lot of financial incentives for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. And although that's important, we are mostly ignoring the fact that we are actually creating the problem before that, through our diet, and the issues around things like obesity can be prevented, for the most part. But there's not enough scientific research in this pre-illness area. So, through this pitch contest, we wanted to encourage researchers from around the world to become more interested in stopping the creation of the problems rather than only finding solutions after we created them. And we see the same issues in mental health, society health or planet health. So we are keen on working together with researchers from multiple disciplines to really understand the power of cooking and the impact it has on us.
Mohamed Younis 11:46
I want to ask you one last very hard question, Rimpei, which is: This is a global study. Is it universal enough to really study cooking across all of these different cultures? What have been the cultural challenges that have faced our teams as we've tried to figure out how to ask the world about this very basic behavior.
Rimpei Iwata 12:05
Yeah, that's a very good question. Obviously, there are so many differences in each country, and also there's a huge difference between the wealthy nations and the wealthy people and the poorer nations and the poorer people. The behaviors really change. For example, when we ask the questions around "Did you lose a job or have a significant decrease in pay due to the pandemic?" And people who said yes, for the top 20% wealthy people, they actually increased the frequency of cooking if they were financially hit by the pandemic. But for the poorer 20% in each country, they actually reduced in numbers of frequency, which probably suggests that they could not even afford to eat on a daily basis. So you cannot put this all together in one statistical number and come up with implications of that. And that is why we need the help of people from all over the world in multiple disciplines to dig into the numbers, dissect it a bit so that it can be digestible and we can solve it together as a world.
Mohamed Younis 13:24
Rimpei, I cannot thank you enough, and Cookpad, for what you're doing. I'm a follower on Instagram of a celebrity who has turned chef, which I will not mention, and one of the things that always strikes me about their posts is, they're making this, all this amazing, delicious food, but in the background there's like three chefs helping this person create everything. They're always, you know, pristinely dressed in makeup and hair, and it's really quite a production. And I mention it because it's such a far stretch from the daily experience of cooking, just for the average citizen -- whether you are in a high-income, or middle- or low-income country. What Cookpad is doing, I feel, is so important because you're bringing numbers and reality into a very important part of our lives, but an important exercise in our lives that has massive economic and other impacts all around us. So, I want to thank you, Rimpei Iwata, president and CEO of Cookpad, and I want to thank Cookpad for all you do. It's been a pleasure having you on the show.
Rimpei Iwata 14:24
Thank you, Mohamed.
Mohamed Younis 14:26
That's our show. Thank you for tuning in. To subscribe and stay up to date with our latest conversations, just search for "The Gallup Podcast" wherever you podcast. And for more key findings from Gallup News, go to news.gallup.com or follow us on Twitter @gallupnews. If you have suggestions for the show, email email@example.com. The Gallup Podcast is directed by Curtis Grubb and produced by Justin McCarthy. I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is Gallup: reporting on the will of the people since the 1930s.