What do 2012’s best-selling cookbooks tell us about food trends?

Pioneer Woman cooks

It seems that Spring (finally arriving here in the Northern hemisphere) really starts the new cycle of cookbooks. But before we let go of last year, Cooking by the Numbers – an analysis by Publishers Weekly of just what made for a best-selling cookbook in 2012 – provides some interesting insights and forecasts about what is coming up (they primarily, but not exclusively, address the U.S. market ). The article gives a thorough analysis; here are the some of the highlights:

A television connection or super-successful blog really helps

Among the really successful books in 2012 were books with a Food Network connection. These included Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Foolproof (#1) by Ina Garten; The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl (#8) and Pioneer Woman Cooks, Food From My Frontier (#2) both by Ree Drummond; and Weeknights with Giada (#9) by Giada De Laurentiis (#9).

And the 2013 about-to-be published list is full of more books with television (not just Food Network) pedigrees. Top Chef winners, food shows, and, the U.K. are also represented. Among authors with upcoming books are Fabio Vivani, Sandra Lee,  Michael Chiarello,  Christine Ha, Kathy Brennan, Rachel Khoo, etc. etc. And the children are even getting into the act – Paula Deen’s sons are already familiar, but Mario Battali’s boys are also publishing. Plus there will be more books by the cast from The Chew (who already earned the  #7 ranking in 2012 with  The Chew: Food. Life. Fun.)  and Master Chef.

And Ree Drummond actually has two trends going for her. Besides her connection with the Food Channel she’s a super blogger, which doesn’t hurt as evidenced by another super blogger who made the top ten: Deb Perelman with The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (#6).

Look out for these trends:

  • Once-exotic vegetarianism has gone mainstream.
  • Middle Eastern cooking (think of the success of Jerusalem by  Yotam Ottolenghi  – which is on every awards list).
  • Growing respect for ingredients: “The ‘it’ cuisine will come and go, as will chefs, but there are a few movements in the culinary world that are continuing to gain a foothold regardless of the cuisine or the chef-the willingness by cooks to experiment with new ingredients, consumers’ desire to feel connected to each other through food, and a need to eat healthfully for the sake of our bodies and our planet. Farmers and food artisans are becoming superstars of the culinary world.”

And to conclude, some interesting factoids about purchasers:

  • Around 69% of cookbook buyers are women, whereas 31% are men.
  • 27% of cookbook buyers are in the 30-44 age range. The two next-older groups (45-54 and 55-64) account for 36% of cookbook customers (with 18% each). Those over 65 make up 15%.
  • 31% come from households earning $25,000-$49,000 a year.
  • Hardcover cookbooks still outsell all others, but as a portion of total unit sales, hardcovers dropped from 49% in 2011 to 42% in 2012. And e-book sales more than doubled, up from 9% to 22%.
  • Amazon sold the most books by a wide margin-its percentage of all cookbook sales nearly doubled, from 18% to 36%.

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