Sainsbury’s teams with British Nutritional Foundation to reveal the nation’s cooking age

Sainsbury's: promoting cooking with kids

Sainsbury’s: promoting cooking with kids

As a nation, our cooking age is falling short of our real age, and we are reaching it much later than we should, according to new research released today by Sainsbury’s. The research comes as the retailer announces plans to inspire a new generation of children to eat well through its Active Kids scheme – as practical cookery becomes compulsory for children up to Year 9 in England for the first time.

Based on research amongst 3,000 people aged 14 to 50, the national Cooking Age is claimed to be a first of its kind classification. Developed in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation, much like a person’s reading age, it benchmarks food knowledge and cooking skills against suggested core competences and the National Curriculum.

The findings reveal that while adults aged between 40 and 50 years old say they can confidently cook to the level required of GCSE students, school leavers preparing to look after themselves at university struggle most in the kitchen with a cooking age of just 12 years old.

When asked, two thirds of 19 to 24 year olds (63%) say they would be unable to rustle up simple, balanced dishes such as a shepherd’s pie. Nearly half (44%) of 17 to 18 year olds admit they are unable to make time saving, nutritious dishes like an omelette from scratch.

The UK’s Cooking Age, when compared against core food competences required to GCSE level:

Cooking Age
Current secondary school pupils aged 14 to 16 Cooking Age of 13 years old
School leavers aged 17 to 18 Cooking Age of 12 years old
Students and young adults aged 19 to 24 Cooking Age of 14 years old
Young adults aged 25 to 29 Cooking Age of 15 years old
Adults in their thirties Cooking Age of 15 years old
Adults aged between 40 and 50 Cooking Age of 16 years old

The findings suggest the new cooking and nutrition aspects of the National Curriculum will provide the UK with a vital opportunity to equip young people with the skills they need to prepare and enjoy good food. To help teachers deliver these new lessons at classroom level, Sainsbury’s is launching a nationwide schools competition through its Active Kids scheme – Sainsbury’s Active Kids Superstar Cooks.

Supported by free curriculum-linked lesson plans and recipe ideas, and fronted by Diversity founder and Got To Dance judge, Ashley Banjo, Sainsbury’s Active Kids Superstar Cooks will get children aged five to 16 cooking in the kitchen, helping to improve the Cooking Age of the next generation.

Active Kids Superstar Cooks challenges pupils to cook the ultimate, great tasting, healthy meal for the chance to win £10,000 of new kitchen kit for their school plus an exclusive dance class with Ashley Banjo. It has been created for children of all ages and abilities, with entries in two age categories five to 11 and 11 to 16 year olds. One winning school will be selected in each of the two age groups. For more information visit:

Roy Ballam, education programme manager, British Nutrition Foundation, said: “It has long been thought that the cooking ability of successive generations has been in decline due to a variety of factors, such as changing lifestyles and education.  Research shows that around 23% of children aged 2-10 years and 35% aged 11-15 years are now overweight or obese, therefore new changes to the National Curriculum in England will be vital in boosting the Cooking Age of the next generation and help children apply healthy eating for life. This is a huge collective effort by Government and education partners to improve the diets of our nation’s children.  Initiatives such as Active Kids can play an important role in helping teachers to bring food and nutrition education to life in a fun, engaging and inspirational way for children.”

A company nutritionist for Sainsbury’s, said: “Basic food knowledge and cooking skills are things we all need to lead healthy, balanced lives but as a nation we are learning these skills too late in life.

“The popularity of TV shows such as Junior MasterChef and the Great British Bake Off mean that children have become more interested in cooking. The Active Kids Superstars Cooks competition will help build on this at school level, which is why we have joined forces with Diversity star Ashley Banjo, who embodies the benefits of eating well and being active. Ashley will help teachers to inspire kids to plan, prepare and cook great tasting balanced meals at school, giving them the skills they need to enjoy good food at home throughout their lives.”

Ashley Banjo, Diversity star and Active Kids Superstar Cooks judge, said: “Eating well and being active has always been a really important part of my life. I developed a love of good food when I was young as I quickly discovered that it made me a better dancer. I’ve teamed up with Active Kids Superstar Cooks because I’m passionate about inspiring kids to learn how to cook basic recipes that will help them as adults. They might not grow up to be professional dancers or athletes, but all young people need to understand that eating well will help them feel good and give them the energy to lead full and active lives, now and in the future.”