News | Leatherhead Food Research

Lifting the hood on the UK’s air fryer trend

18 November, 2022

How should food businesses respond to consumers’ growing use of air fryers? To help answer this question, we surveyed more than 2,000 UK adults* to find out more about the ‘who, what, where, when, and why’ of air fryer use.

Who are the main users of air fryers?

According to our findings, almost a third of UK households (30%) currently own an air fryer. The figure is higher when there are children in the home (37%), and it reaches 51% for households with three or more children.

Of the UK households that don’t currently own an air fryer, 22% plan to buy one in the next 12 months. Sales have been steadily rising during 2022, with retailers seeing demand surge in the run up to Christmas. Grocery Gazette reports Tesco will stock an additional 40,000, on top of a previous order which was one of its largest to date. Meanwhile, Iceland sold out of its stock of 20,000 air fryers within days and has another 20,000 available to customers on the 28 November. Separately, Ninja (the most popular brand of air fryer amongst our survey respondents) is warning consumers to be wary of fraudulent websites claiming to sell its products at discounted prices.

What do people cook in air fryers?

It’s no surprise that most of the adults we surveyed who own an air fryer say they cook chips in it (73%). However, these appliances function as a mini convection oven rather than a fryer, and are suitable for a wide range of foods. Based on our survey, the top ten products for air frying are:

1. Chips (73%)

2. Potatoes (48%)

3. Breaded chicken products (47%)

4. & 5. Sausages (44%) and chicken (44%)

6. Breaded fish products (42%)

7. Fish (26%)

8. Vegetables (25%)

9. & 10. Beef burgers (24%) and bacon (24%)

We also found that 18% of owners use their air fryers to roast chicken and joints of meat. As people become more ambitious in their use of these appliances, they may be turning to online influencers for guidance. Video sharing app Tik Tok has recorded more than 399 million views of its ‘Sunday dinner in air fryer’ content. And consumer lifestyle website Your Home Style recently put three popular air fryer models to the test, rating their performance based on how well they cooked a Christmas dinner.

Where in the UK are air fryers most popular?

While the UK average for households owning an air fryer is 30%, there are some notable regional variations. The rate of ownership is highest in Northern Ireland at 48%, followed by Northeast England at 39% and the West Midlands at 36%. Lower rates of ownership are evident in the East of England (22%), London (25%) and the Southeast (27%).

When do air fryers get used?

Most UK households that own an air fryer say they use it two or more times a week, with a fifth (20%) using it daily. We also found that 67% expect to start using the appliance more due to increased energy prices.

Why are consumers choosing to use air fryers?

More than half of the UK households who own an air fryer (53%) say one of the reasons for purchase is that it’s cheaper to run than an oven. This factor is most important to the 55+ age group, with 65% of owners saying they bought an air fryer for this reason.

The ability to cook meals more quickly influenced the purchase decision of 46% of owners, and 43% said they wanted to cut the amount of fat consumed. Almost a third of owners (31%) said that environmental credentials were a factor, since faster cooking saves on electricity.

Responding to the air fryer trend

As air fryers make the transition from niche to mainstream cooking appliance, food businesses need to consider how this might impact the way their products are prepared. Air fryers come with general guidance on how to cook different types of food, but many consumers would prefer more specific instructions.

Our survey findings indicate that half of the adults in the UK who own an air fryer struggle with knowing how long to cook food in it. This issue is most evident in the 35-44 age group, where 60% say they struggle with cooking times. Similarly, 64% of all owners say they would cook more with their air fryer if cooking instructions were included on product labels, and this rises to 69% for people aged 35-44.

On-pack cooking instructions help consumers achieve safe temperature and time combinations, as well as ensuring products have the desired sensory qualities. So, as the air fryer trend continues to gain momentum, now is a good time to develop instructions for their use. While chips, potatoes and breaded chicken are the items most commonly cooked in air fryers, fresh meat, chicken and fish products could also benefit from dedicated on-pack instructions.

To help with this, we recently added air fryers to our UKAS-accredited cooking instruction generation and verification services (UKAS accredited testing laboratory no. 9365). Our test kitchens are fully equipped to undertake product testing using domestic equipment, and we offer 24-hour or 48-hour turnarounds to meet product launch schedules. Find out more here.

* Survey conducted online between 16-19 September 2022. Total sample size was 2063 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults.

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