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Housewares Show Examines Changing Trends in Home Food Prep

April 30, 2008
Annual housewares show gives a peek at changing trends in home food preparation.
Celebrity chef Martin Yan demonstrated Sanyo’s non-stick Indoor Barbecue Grill with Griddle, fueled by consumers’ interest in eating healthier.

With the green movement leading the way, increasingly conscientious Americans want to eat healthier, improve their home environment and escape to the great outdoors. That’s the main message we took away from one of our favorite trend-watching conventions: the annual International Home & Housewares Show.

The annual expo of the Rosemont, Ill.-based International Housewares Assn. (IHA), was held in Chicago in March. While the Housewares Show focuses on small appliances, cookware and other kitchen accessories, it also provides a glimpse into what consumers are thinking and how they want to feed their families. Sometimes, the housewares industry responds more quickly to changing consumer demands than the food industry does. Previous shows’ interest in coffeemakers, crock pots and tortilla makers presaged food product developments to meet those trends.

The rising cost of fuel, energy concerns, higher food prices and former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” all have pushed the issues of global warming and the environment to the forefront for many consumers. Recycle, reuse, repurpose and refurbish was the mantra, and materials such as bamboo and beech weed took center stage along with multi-purpose products.

Appropriately, the color du jour for products was also green – pear at KitchenAid, apple green cast iron at Lodge, and lime green options in Dr. Andrew Weil’s ceramic cookware collection.  
In fact, some 64 percent of consumers surveyed by The NPD Group last fall believe it is important to purchase environmentally friendly products, and even more notable, those products are more important to consumers as they get older.

“The environmental or ‘green’ movement certainly seems to have been the hot topic of 2007,” says A.J. Riedel, senior partner of Phoenix, Ariz.-based Riedel Marketing Group. “I’ve seen more coverage by the consumer and business press [in the past year] than I have ever seen before.”

Reidel created the IHA Consumer Advisory Council to identify emerging home-related trends from among more than 100 HomeTrend Influentials, or HIPsters. Reidel says 77 percent of HIPsters surveyed recently say they are “extremely concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the environment and 63 percent are extremely concerned or somewhat concerned about global warming. Some 77 percent purchased a product because it is seen as being better for the environment, and the majority have switched to environmentally-friendly, organic or natural cleaning products.

Consumers are equally concerned about healthier eating. According to the HIPster survey, 52 percent have made major changes in their eating habits for a healthier diet. Most significantly, they have switched to organic food products and increased the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet.
It’s notable that 29 percent are using new food preparation products -- including food processors, choppers, juicers, slicers, blenders for smoothies or protein drinks, peelers for fruits and vegetables, steamers and woks -- to cook healthier foods.

Many HIPsters are following the family dinner trend. Those with children make it a priority to eat at home together as a family. Despite busy schedules, on average, they eat at home as a family 5.4 times a week. In fact, 21 percent are sitting down to eat dinner as a family more often than they did a year ago.

Discussing the changing product development process, Mark Dziersk, vice president of industrial design, of New York-based Laga/One80 Design says it’s moving from “a three-legged to a four-legged stool,” which includes sustainability, as well as what “works well, looks good and costs little.” And he adds, “The old chestnut that consumers won’t pay more for a product that includes an authentic sustainability element is no longer true.

“From Wal-Mart to Detroit to Wall Street, green has come into its own as a sincere piece of go-to-market planning,” explains Dziersk. “The mistake many companies make is to lead with green or compromise the other three legs. But without the fourth leg, you will not be taken seriously in the future.”

Some of the housewares products that could affect food product development:

  • Nestle Nespresso and De’Longhi joined forces to introduce the Nespresso Lattissima, an easy-to-clean espresso machine that features a one-touch fresh milk froth function for cappuccino or latte coffees.
  • Illy’s new Hyper Espresso Machine is a revolutionary yet simple system featuring a capsule of roasted, ground and tamped coffee. The coffee and water are hyperinfused in the extraction chamber under optimal pressure conditions to enhance flavor and aroma. Then the coffee passes through a valve to form a thick, velvety crème in the second chamber.
  • Olde Thompson, which introduced the pepper mill to America 60 years ago, rolls out a line of disposable, 100 percent recyclable, PET grinders for $8 each. Varieties include Malabar Pepper, Pepper Supreme, Citrus Pepper, Latin Blend, Sea Salt, Garlic Pepper, Garlic Salt, Italian Seasoning, Steak Seasoning, and Poultry Seasoning.
  • Hamilton Beach’s Four-Slice Toastation is a combo toaster/toaster oven with four wide slots for bagel halves or toast … but the oven part is large enough for a 9-inch pizza. The company’s Smart Toast 2-slice Toaster allows you to drop in frozen bagels or bread and a tone signals when it’s ready.
  • To help combat the obesity epidemic, Taylor introduces the Obesity Disease Risk Body Composition Analyzer to track your measurements at home. The scale provides a snapshot of a user’s obesity disease risk, monitoring body fat, body water, bone mineral and muscle mass.
  • Meyer Corp. U.S. this fall will start selling eco-friendly EarthPan with SandFlow nonstick cookware. Fewer greenhouse gases are used to create EarthPan, and it has no PTFE or PFOA. Similarly, the curing temps required to manufacture EarthPan are 50 percent less than temperatures reached to make ordinary nonstick pans, further lowing the line’s carbon footprint. This unique nonstick originates from sand, and is formulated to provide superior food release and easy cleanup.
  • Vita-Mix Corp. developed blender containers for the Vita-Mix 5200 using Eastman Chemical Co.’s Tritan copolyester. This durable, advanced polymer does not contain bisphenol-A (BPA), which meets the growing demand for BPA-free products from health-conscious consumers.
  • Dr. Andrew Weil, pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, collaborated with Spring Switzerland on the new two-tier Electronic Food Steamer. Simply pour water into the allotted compartment, add food to the two tiers (perhaps fish in one tier and vegetables in the second) and the food cooks at the same time.
  • Java’s Health Tea Wand, a glass straw with a filter allows you steep and filter tea leaves, herbs and infusions in your cup in seconds and helps you avoid dental stains by sipping the tea through the wand.

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