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Elevating Cooking

Upgrades in cooking appliances feature multifunctional products that allow for experimentation and preparing restaurant-quality food as consumers spend more time in the kitchen.

authors Elizabeth Richards | April 6, 2021

Over the past year, amid the pandemic, the cooking appliance industry has thrived. In fact, demand for products has been so high it was often difficult to keep pace. Recent interest, in particular, has been in appliances with multifunctional features that allow home chefs to elevate their cooking.

“We’ve just been through the year of cooking-in-place, and functionality – along with performance – will be on the wish list as much as the look, color and option to personalize,” stresses Melissa Haber, v.p. of Verona Appliances in Edgewood, NY.

Features that make appliances easier to use and achieve desired cooking results are also important. “More and more, consumers are looking for appliances with a connection to technology, as well as more-traditional aspects that help them live a healthier, more-productive lifestyle,” says Christian Boscherini, marketing manager at SMEG USA in New York, NY. Trends toward connected, flexible appliances illustrate this demand.

“The change in lifestyle has accelerated trends we’ve been seeing for quite some time,” adds Dirk Sappok, director of Product Development at Miele USA, based in Princeton, NJ. For example, the trend towards preparing locally sourced, fresh ingredients while preserving nutrients has led to growing interest in steam and combination steam ovens. “Before 2020, this was a nice option for the days you were cooking at home. But, with stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, this became a necessity.”

Other top trends include professional-style appliances that produce restaurant-quality food and the ability to personalize both aesthetics and function. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Time for an Upgrade

Manufacturers say the pandemic has increased demand for specific functions, moved existing trends forward and prompted a rise in sales as homeowners remodel and seek to upgrade their existing appliances.

The pandemic sparked demand in kitchen renovations as people began making changes they had been putting off for a while, Boscherini reports. “Overall, the industry has been doing amazingly well, to the degree that demand has frequently outstripped supply.”

“The pandemic has led consumers to make more improvements to their homes and general living spaces – whether that means appliance upgrades or simple décor changes,” remarks Stein Shi, operations director for Fotile in Parsippany, NJ.

“The kitchen was the heart of the home long before the pandemic, but it is now particularly central to our lifestyles while living in place,” offers Anja Prescher, Bosch brand director, BSH Appliances, in Irvine, CA. “Americans are cooking now more than ever, with half trying five or more new recipes per month. As such, many have learned that, while following a recipe carefully is important, so are the appliances used
to
cook your dish.”

Rod Gower, director of Business Development for Signature Kitchen Suite in Englewood Cliffs, NJ states that, although some brands faced a shortage of parts, those who had the capability to re-engineer and/or update products did just that. “It’s not just about having products to bring to the market. It’s also about what are you bringing to market,” he stresses.

Tony Dowling, v.p. sales & marketing at Elmira Stove Works in Elmira, Ontario, Canada reports that the increased demand for upscale housing as well as high-end renovations and building of second homes is driving the sales of premium and luxury appliances. “We’re also seeing a geographic shift in sales of unique and premium appliances. COVID-19 and connectivity are driving people out of larger metro areas and into the countryside. We’ve never seen anywhere near as many inquiries from rural mountain, hills, waterfront and remote communities,” Dowling remarks.

Promoting Wellness

Health and wellness have been a high priority in cooking for several years, and continue to impact trends, manufacturers say.

“Healthy eating has been ascendant for some time, so an increased interest in steam cooking has been apparent for quite a while,” Boscherini adds.

Gower notes that the focus on health and well-being is the largest trend he’s currently seeing. When developing products, he says, manufacturers must consider how they are attending to that need. Components such as air frying, steam and sous vide that allow individuals to control what they are eating are important, he adds. Steam was a luxury product 15 years ago, he continues, but in the last year it has been more available to the general population. 

Peter Weedfald, sr. v.p. of sales and marketing at Sharp Home Electronics Company of America in Montvale, NJ agrees that healthier living is a priority. Steam cooking eliminates salt and fat and allows food to be restored to its original nutrition and texture, he explains. Sharp has developed a combination built-in oven, called the Super Steam+, which offers convection, steam and super-steam cooking.

James Sandusky, president at Sharp, believes this oven is unique because, rather than heating the oven cavity to reach 485 degrees, the water itself is heated and then injected into the cavity.

Kevin Dexter, president, Fisher & Paykel North America, in Costa Mesa, CA notes that the company has witnessed both steam and sous vide cooking increase in popularity. “We see projects with steam ovens and convection ovens, but we’ve also seen a need for a combined product,” he reports. Fisher & Paykel will launch a 24″ Combination Steam Oven, which combines steam, sous vide and convection technology into one appliance, in the third quarter of 2021.

Flexible Function

Manufacturers add that multitasking appliances are increasingly important. Available space and desire for an uncluttered look drive this trend.

“When speaking of versatility, it is the expectation that appliances can do more than just one thing,” Sappok says.

Haber agrees. “Consumers want options to multi-task – such as convection modes that let them cook on multiple levels at one time, larger cavities to fit more, pre-heats that are fast, energy savings, durable brass burners that can sear or broil quickly, continuous grates to move heavy pots without lifting them, etc. They want functional features that are easy to use, easy to maintain and easy on the wallet.”

“We’re all being challenged to look at products and how to make them more viable long term,” Gower states. “This means looking at products to determine what other functionality can be added.”

Weedfald says that, one of the questions they’ve been asked for years had to do with when the company would incorporate convection capabilities into its built-in microwave drawers. That product was introduced into the market in late March 2021, he says, and demand has been incredible, with so many preorders they had to go back and make more, he says.

“It’s very infrequent that you have something no one else has,” he remarks. “To find out the demand is so high tells me that everyone recognizes the power of what this appliance can do.”

“Americans tend to look for power in heating elements on cooktops, with powerful hoods to match,” Boscherini says. “Being ‘chef-friendly’ is also critical, since the foodie phenomenon has been supercharged by social media, making everyone into a sort of amateur cook. They desire flexibility. So, being ‘chef-friendly’ means making appliances with an eye towards many options and cooking modes, alongside relative ease-of-use,” he reports. 

“Consumers are seeking out appliances that can do it all, as they ultimately save space and are generally more efficient,” comments Shi. “The ‘look’ of kitchens being perfectly neat and clean, with minimal appliances both under cabinet and on countertops, is a newfound concept and preference of many,” he adds.

Valuable Connections

Smart appliances are on the rise, as technology continues to advance. “One of the biggest trends in cooking appliances throughout the past year is the shift toward connectivity in the kitchen,” observes Beatriz Sandoval, director of Brand Marketing for Thermador, BSH Appliances in Irvine, CA. “Smart appliances have been steadily infiltrating the market over the past few years, with new technology, smartphone apps and WiFi connectivity,” she adds.

Technology shouldn’t complicate the work in the kitchen, however. “People want technology, but they don’t want it to be intrusive,” Gower stresses. “They want it to be very innate and intuitive.”

“People are expecting their appliances to be connected,” Sandusky agrees. “Manufacturers are also pushing that trend because we can see the benefits to the consumer.”

“When it comes to the kitchen, homeowners seek technology that is not only simple to use and meaningful, but also adds true value and makes daily household tasks easier,” Prescher remarks.

“Features in modern appliances have developed greatly in the past decade, largely to keep up with the virtual age we live in,” offers Shi. “Smart offerings, including everything from app compatibility, voice assistant, touch screen and more, are widely available in almost any kitchen appliance and highly sought after in today’s society, as many are seeking premium kitchen options,” he states.

Dexter believes ease of use, integrated technology and hygienic features are all in high demand. “For us at Fisher & Paykel, a number of our premium indoor and outdoor products feature integrated technology and always lead with ease of use in design,” he says.

Personal Statements with Finishes

Stainless steel can give a kitchen a clean, professional look and offers easy cleaning and maximum durability. That said, the trend towards making a personal statement carries over into cooking appliances, creating demand for a range of other finish options.

“With remodels on the rise, so too is the demand for cooking appliances that can not only keep up with their needs in the
kitchen, but also match their personal style,” Prescher reports.
“In addition to the consistent demand for a classic stainless steel finish, consumers also appreciate the ability to customize the look of their appliances to match kitchen cabinetry and their overall design aesthetic.”

Because it’s so durable, Gower notes, stainless steel will always be king. While paneling is extremely popular in the kitchen, the range is the “main diamond in the ring,” he says. “[People] want that diamond to shine, and it’s typically always stainless.”

“Stainless steel is a timeless finish and one that is most requested for cooking appliances. Across the industry, stainless steel appliances are mass produced due to their durability and long lifespan. Additional benefits of stainless steel include the fact that it’s easy to clean and offers germ-resistant properties,” says Shi

“There has also been an uptick in inquiries for colored appliances, he notes, especially black and white. “Of course, there’s also consumer interest in appliances that provide a pop of color, such as orange or blue, but that is a very niche area,” he adds.

Both stainless steel and black glass are popular finishes, Dexter reports. “Color has increasingly been important to trends in kitchen design, and our Classic product lineup is a continued favorite for those looking to add color to the kitchen,” he adds.

While stainless steel may still be considered a must-have when pursuing a professional look, Sappok also sees growing interest in having appliances fit into the kitchen design instead of standing out. The company’s Graphite Gray is aligned with the growing popularity of gray in kitchen cabinets and wall paints, he explains. “Unlike the mass market manufacturer trends to offer new variants of stainless steel finishes, Graphite Grey appliances have a gray glass front,” he notes.

Weedfald says black edge-to-edge glass surrounded by stainless steel to amplify the power of the glass is a big trend, as well.

“Personalization continues to be a huge trend, which is why we have options on our Designer Range series so consumers and designers can pick the color range, color knob, fuel (induction, electric, gas, dual) and other accessories to make their range their own style,” states Haber.

“Homeowners and designers have begun the shift to a modern/industrial look that also takes into account traditional elements like farmhouse or country elements,” she adds. “Combine that with a penchant for gray, brass and other mixed metals, as well as the desire for matte finishes – especially black, which is very much in demand. Matte Black is, well, the new black,” she stresses.

“Color has become an eye-catching trend in the kitchen,” concurs Sandoval. “Particularly, blue is a striking and iconic color that is popping up more and more in designs – from custom cabinetry to stylish accessories in the form of range knobs and cookware.”

Boscherini adds, “We’ve noted a particularly high demand for white appliances, which has fueled a dramatic increase in sales.” This interest in white is a cyclical trend for appliances, he stresses. “White tends to fade in and out every five years, or so. It is a sort of baseline that color choices revert to after a period of color experimentation.”

Color is important to trends, he says, since interior design color choices will define appliance color choices and vice versa. “Prior to the pandemic, pastel shades were on top, and before that, red was king,” he says. “Homes, in general, have settled into a retro-but-sleek look lately, with whites and pale colors dominating, which is likely why pastels, and then white, have been in primacy of-late.”

“We’ve always been about unique lines and color, and the trends in this direction have never been stronger,” adds Dowling. “It’s a combination of consumers being weary of the same old same old, and wanting a bright, fresh cheery kitchen in these trying times. Custom colors are a quickly growing part of our business.

He continues, “Bespoke is perhaps an overused word, but people truly are looking for products and designs that are absolutely unique to them. Many consumers want to be trend setters rather than followers.” ▪

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