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Healthy Innovation

Appliance trends focus on health, individual expression and products that enhance and simplify work in the kitchen.

authors Elizabeth Richards | October 7, 2021

A year and a half into the pandemic, manufacturers have seen many impacts on the appliance industry, resulting in multiple changes and rising trends. “One of the most significant trends I see currently, and expect in the near future, is the focus on holistic health and wellness – not only for individuals and families but for our planet,” stresses Zach Elkin, president at Beko Home Appliances USA, based in Chicago, IL. “The COVID-19 pandemic has forced consumers and manufacturers to look differently at how the product and programs allow for better health, nutrition and sustainability.”

“Innovation and increased technology continue to be trends in the kitchen space,” offers Paula Smith, director of marketing, designer & builder at Fisher & Paykel in Costa Mesa, CA. “With buyers spending more time than ever in their kitchens over the last year, there has been greater demand for appliances that are smart, easy to use and offer perfect results. Users have learned more about appliances and frankly about cooking at home. We are seeing an uptick in interest around steam cooking due to the nutritional and overall health benefits, as well as higher interest in our refrigerators that integrate food preservation technology.”

“In the past year trends have changed significantly, mostly due to the pandemic and the lockdown,” says India Hynes, CEO at Henderson, NV-based Vinotemp. “More people are home, [which] means more people are cooking and using their appliances. People are purchasing things with extra storage space, reorganizing their spaces to fit more, buying new appliances and compatible appliances like air fryers,” she says.

Aesthetic trends have been less affected by the pandemic, say some manufacturers. “The pandemic has had a definite impact on the industry overall, but not so much on the aesthetic side of things,” observes Christian Boscherini, marketing manager at SMEG USA, based in New York, NY. “The increased interest in upgrades and remodels driven by people spending more time at home has continued from last year. But now, it is alongside an increased need for affordability in appliances, cabinetry, fixtures and lighting, as material shortages drive overall costs up. In short, people want to do more with their kitchens than ever, but at a time when many cannot afford to do it all at once.”

In addition to a focus on health and wellness, top trends in major appliances include individualizing appliances both functionally and visually, demand for appliances that simplify the work in the kitchen, and connectivity. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Health is Top Priority

Products that promote a healthy lifestyle have been on the rise for several years, a trend that continues to thrive. “Health, wellness and hygiene have become must-haves in the kitchen and home – now more than ever,” stresses Elkin. “A large population of individuals and families want to ensure they are safe, eating well and sustaining a healthy lifestyle, which is possible with breakthrough technologies,” he said. “Appliances with the latest, state-of-the-art food preservation technology, sanitation cleaning and allergen removal are just a few examples of advances that Beko already has in its appliances, or we are currently working on.

“The pandemic has strengthened the push towards consumers wanting to lead healthier lives, transforming wellness into the new luxury,” adds Jeff Sweet, corporate product manager for Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove in Madison, WI. “We found that consumers are focusing more on eating fresh foods, which has also led them to care more about food preservation and minimizing food waste,” he says. “This health consciousness also extends to how food is prepared, with steam ovens and steam cooking rising in popularity.”

Michael Rockstroh, North American Market Leader for Italy-based Bertazzoni, says that food and beverage preservation is a category that will continue to grow. A dramatic increase in the purchase of organic food drives consumers to seek out products that help them store that food properly. “That changes kitchen design as a whole because more space is dedicated to refrigeration, if possible, plus the technologies are more and more refined,” Rockstroh says.

“The trend that Miele is seeing during this time is the need for a dishwasher that can take the endless needs to clean and sanitize,” says Kevin Pchola, spokesperson for Miele in Princeton, NJ. “Also, because we are working from home more and we run the dishwasher during the day, customers want a silent machine.”

“Our customers continue to look for appliances that support their healthy lifestyle goals, yet are intuitive and beautiful,” concurs Smith. “Another area of interest that has presented itself this year is in ventilation hoods, as people have become more familiar with the significance of clean air – both in their homes and office spaces.”

Lifestyle Driven

Consumers have long desired ways to make their kitchens compatible with their lifestyles, a trend that has grown tremendously with more time spent at home. In spring 2021, JennAir surveyed 500 designers and architects from across the country, says Chelsey Whitehead, product and brand marketing director for JennAir in Benton Harbor, MI. “It’s clear consumers are more passionate than ever about customizing a kitchen that reflects their personalities and breaks through the monotony of basic materials and finishes. In the last year, they have had a lot of time to experience their homes and identify the changes they want to make,” she remarks. Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed say customizing a kitchen design plan has become more important to clients over the past 1–2 years, and 90% say their clients are more focused on designing a space that reflects their own personality than the resale value of the design, she adds.

Rockstroh notes there has been a gradual paradigm shift in the way people build spaces at home. Rather than designing the space for resale value, people are looking at the space in terms of how they can live in it, and how well it works with their individual lifestyle, he reports. No longer are people flocking to the “heroic new feature you had to have,” he says. Instead, they are paying attention to what they need to enhance their unique lifestyle. “The technology should adapt to your lifestyle; you shouldn’t adapt your lifestyle to the technology,” he explains.

“At Sub-Zero, Wolf and Cove, we know that the kitchen is an integral part of our consumers’ homes – and that extends to their appliances. After a year spent indoors assessing the state of our kitchens, we’ve noticed a shift towards appliances that offer customization and functionality,” Sweet reports.

“Customization is key – from pops of color to paneling options,” he adds. “Built-in and integrated appliances are becoming increasingly common, especially as consumers are seeking more decorative options. This ranges from refrigerator paneling that blends in seamlessly with the cabinetry to statement pieces that help express the homeowner’s style. We’re also seeing consumers opting for professional-style appliances that serve as a focal point in the kitchen while offering greater power and performance,” he adds.

“Customization in appliances is something we’re starting to see,” concurs Elkin. “A room in the home is often a reflection of the homeowner. In the kitchen, small appliances offer a range of colors, so of course, they may purchase a mixer or toaster in their favorite color – it’s a representation of them. Larger appliances like refrigerators are starting to see color customization, as well.”

Rockstroh reports that accessory kits to change out the knobs and handles on a standard product are also in high demand. Bertazzoni launched this option two years ago, he says, and adoption has far exceeded their expectations, with 60% of customers choosing an accessory kit to individualize the look of their product when available. “Personalization is a trend that’s going to stay with us,” Rockstroh stresses. The company’s color unit sales are outpacing growth of stainless steel units two to one, though stainless steel is still relevant, he adds.

“The staple stainless steel will always fit in any kitchen look,” remarks Pchola. “But having the ability to add a pop of color or blend in with the white, black and gray kitchens is always something customers are asking for. In our built-in ovens, Miele offers our Clean Touch Stainless Steel, which is a blend of black glass and steel; an all-white glass; an all-black glass, and an all-graphite gray glass. And the ability to stake or place appliances side-by-side is a great look and the lines match up seamlessly, providing a nice clean look.”

“People are going more towards the timeless features,” Hynes explains. “They are purchasing more things that are stainless steel and glass. Vibrant colors, odd finishes and black stainless have become a thing of the past. The black stainless was not unified with different appliances, which made it an issue when trying to match specific appliances.”

“We have seen a mild increase in interest in colors once again, after a heavy resurgence of the dominance of neutral tones over the past few years,” Boscherini remarks. “Ventilation is being increasingly treated as a ‘statement’ by consumers, leading to more styling on vent hoods. There’s also a general trend towards increased customizability, darker cabinetry colors and mixed materials.”

Scott Kim, director of product marketing at Dacor in City of Industry, CA, says more color and customization options are available, which creates new design concepts and implementation options. “For luxury appliances, the implementation of cutting-edge design and material options is opening up new avenues of kitchen design,” he notes. The ability for luxury appliances to integrate seamlessly in order to create beautiful and usable kitchens has also been impactful, he adds.

Modern styles are increasingly in demand, manufacturers say. According to their survey, Whitehead says, “In the kitchen specifically, 51% of architects and designers believe sleek and modern appliances are the most common growing trend this year.”

Quality and Simplicity

Multifunctional appliances, along with undercounter products, help eliminate cluttered countertops and provide the ample storage consumers require. Technology that makes tasks easier and helps consumers use their kitchen fully are in high demand, from connected appliances to streamlined ways of cooking.

“People are looking for appliances that will make their lives easier and dynamic, given the situation of the increased amount of time we spend at home,” says Kim. “This includes features in the area of convenience and entertaining, like our refrigerators with cocktail ice, etc. along with connectivity feature sets that enable greater interaction.”

“Consumers want appliances that last long and deliver on quality and performance. They also want appliances that can help simplify their life,” adds Sweet. “Consumers are also seeking sustainable and energy-efficient appliances, such as products that incorporate induction technology. Induction is gaining popularity, since it uses electromagnetic energy to heat cookware directly, resulting in more efficient heat transfer to food, as opposed to gas or electric appliances that heat indirectly. This not only reduces emissions but keeps the cooking surface cooler to the touch. Induction also offers more responsiveness for greater control and is easier to clean.”

Rockstroh agrees that induction is gaining ground. “It’s not new, but it’s had a Sleeping Beauty phase for 40 years and now it’s coming alive,” he says. Sales of induction have doubled each year for the past three years, he notes, and induction is far more affordable than it used to be. It’s easier to use than it used to be as well, he adds, and consumer resistance to the need for new cookware has diminished. In some areas, building codes don’t allow for the installation of gas home appliances any longer, which also has helped demand for induction grow, he notes

A desire for a less cluttered look also impacts appliance trends. “The current trend in major kitchen appliances is to reduce or eliminate the need for countless small countertop appliances and accessories,” Pchola says. “While the trend[s] in appliances might not have significantly changed in the past year, awareness of how to use your appliances to their peak performance has.”

Rockstroh believes designers are driving the trend to declutter the space and calm down “visual noise” in the kitchen. Lines are more refined, he notes, and undercounter technologies are prevalent, including many drawer applications. Even appliances – such as microwaves – that used to sit on the counter, now are available in undercounter applications, he says.     

“What we are noticing now is that storage is very important,” replies Hynes. “Not only are people buying bigger refrigerators, freezers and wine storage, but they are also buying extra storage for the garage and other areas. Many people are purchasing refrigerators with designated wine and beverage storage so that there is more room for food.”

Staying Connected

Connected appliances are also on the rise, many manufacturers say. “Every year, interest in ‘smart’ appliances increases,” stresses Boscherini.

“As we all know, many consumers are living in connected homes and rely on their smart-home devices to make their experiences in the home more enjoyable and more efficient,” Whitehead notes. “The same goes for their experiences in the kitchen. That’s why you find smart-home technology integrated into JennAir brand’s suite of appliances. The digital platform allows you to control appliances remotely and access personalized insights to enhance your cooking experiences.”

“Technology in the kitchen continues to be a focus,” Smith points out. “Touch panel interfaces are popular across appliances,” she says, noting that the National Kitchen & Bath Association also called this out as a 2021 trend.

“Not surprisingly, there is a greater integration of technology in the cooking space and a higher demand for connected appliances. Consumers are taking advantage of the features and conveniences their appliances can provide, and more and more companies are incorporating smart technology into their appliances,” Sweet stresses. “Ultimately, consumers are looking for more ways that their home appliances can help simplify their lives while meeting their aesthetics.”

“WiFi is available on most appliances nowadays, and the way we have digitized appliances has changed the game. You can control music, grocery lists and even temperatures when it comes to WiFi and appliances,” says Hynes.

Even with increased connectivity, ease of use is still important. “As more digital screens are incorporated into all brands, customers want it to be intuitive,” adds Pchola. ▪

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