We do love the Great British Bake-Off – but not baking
Viewers think TV patisserie is sweet, but few are making for the kitchen
Sunday 10 August 2014
It has become the modern equivalent of the Roman arena: contestants armed with rolling pins and cookie cutters doing battle as the mob cheers their heroes and trolls the ones it hates on social media.
But despite the soaring popularity of the BBC's Great British Bake-Off, people are giving up in droves when it comes to actually baking something to eat at home. New data from market research firm Mintel suggests that millions of people have stopped in the past year, with the number of people baking at home at least once a year falling from 85 per cent in 2013 to 77 per cent this year.
The show was switched from BBC2 to BBC1 this year after the audience for last year's final hit a peak of 9.1 million – trouncing BBC stalwarts such as Top Gear. And last week more than seven million tuned in to watch judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood inspect the new intake of contestants at the start of series 12.
Claire Goodwin, a speech and language therapist from Cheshire, was the first to be dispatched after her chocolate and cherry cakes "exploded" in the oven. The internet trolls were swift and merciless, calling her "fat" and a "cry baby". But she received support from Ruby Tandoh – a finalist in last year's show who came in for her share of abuse – and others for her dignified response.
Mary Berry on the new series Amid the headline-grabbing trials and tribulations on TV, ordinary people's habits in the kitchen appear to be influenced by more mundane concerns.
Analyst Emma Clifford, who wrote the Mintel report, explained that the economic recovery meant people had money to spend on more costly activities.
"The home baking bubble has finally burst after several years of impressive growth kick-started by the recession," she wrote. "Baking faces growing competition from out-of-home leisure activities as people start to spend more freely and release pent-up demand for going out and having fun."
Concerns over eating healthily may also have contributed to the decline in interest, she added, following "the great deal of negative press" about sugar recently.
Edd Kimber, who won the first Great British Bake-Off series in 2010, said the reported decline in interest was "not surprising".
"When baking became popular again, I always assumed that people not having much money and feeling a bit pinched was probably one of the reasons," he said.
"Lots of things go in and out of fashion, and baking's been on such a high for a long time so this is probably a small dip – if 77 per cent of the country still is baking on a regular basis, I think that's a very good and healthy figure."
The contestants in the new series However Frances Quinn, who won last year's competition, said the apparent decline was "contradictory" to her own experience.
"From my point of view, people seem to be baking a lot more," she said. "A friend even told me that she is going to a wedding this year, and they are planning on having a wedding bake-off.
"Whether baking is going to peak now the show's started again, and people are going to start making their own Swiss rolls and cherry bundt cakes, I don't know. But certainly people's interest and insight into baking has increased, and people are talking about it more."
According to the Mintel report, 54 per cent of the British public bake primarily because they find it relaxing, while 44 per cent said they enjoyed the sense of pride.
Over-55s were the least likely to bake, while 25- to 34-year-olds, parents with children aged under 16 and those living in large households, are the most frequent bakers.
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