Cooking Connections

As homeowners get creative in the kitchen, they’re looking for smart appliances that simplify cooking, feature flexible options and add a colorful touch of style.

by Tracy Hegg

Cooking appliances have been getting quite a workout over the past two years, as the trend to stay home continues during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Extra time has inspired home cooks to try their hand at more creative cooking, creating demand for cooking appliances that are connected, convenient and offer a range of flexible options.

“As the world evolves, more and more consumers are looking to integrate technology into their routines to not only simplify their lives, but to get the best results when it comes to cooking, cleaning and more,” says Randy Warner, v.p. of LG Builder and Signature Kitchen Suite for LG Electronics USA, based in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. “That’s where smart appliances come in. By integrating technology into cooking appliances, we are making it easier for home chefs to explore their culinary skills while also taking the chore out of cooking.” 

Intelligent features and multiple options that make the process more efficient and convenient are must-haves, he adds. “This includes multiple modalities like sous vide, air fry and double ovens for more space and convenience, smart knobs that conveniently display temperature and apps/services that connect to your appliances.” 

More time in the kitchen also creates demand for appliances that look and function like those in a professional kitchen. “Recently, with everyone being at home, the focus on investing in luxury appliances has exponentially grown,” notes Tim Tyler, director of marketing at Viking Range, located in Greenwood, MS. “A huge trend in recent years has been how much people want to be able to cook like a professional chef in their own homes.”

A trend towards healthy living is also impacting cooking appliance trends. “Over the past few years, our homes have become a refuge for personal health and wellness, and the kitchen is no exception,” observes Michael Rockstroh, North American market leader for Italy-based Bertazzoni. “Thus, we’re continuing to see the rapid rise in demand for kitchen remodels and an upswing in the understanding of how our appliances can help support and inspire healthy eating and lifestyles.”

Though stainless steel is still the go-to finish, using color on appliances is also on the rise. “Homeowners today are leaning toward more personalized design concepts versus focusing on the resale value, and we’ve seen a growing number of homeowners move away from the more minimalist ‘white kitchen’ by selecting richer color palettes and bold appliance finishes,” Rockstroh reports. 

These trends, along with functional technology and appliances that minimize the carbon footprint, are most important for cooking appliances currently. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

DOING IT ALL

Space in the kitchen can be limited, but options should not be. That’s why cooking appliances that offer a range of cooking modalities are in high demand, manufacturers say.

“The ‘all in one’ approach is a growing demand from consumers,” explains Dan Rhoads, senior director, Food Preparation – Product Line at Electrolux, based in Charlotte, NC. “Consumers want appliances that offer all their favorite cooking modes in one, easy-to-use product.”

“Cooking appliances that give consumers flexibility in the kitchen are gaining traction, like ovens that have multiple cooking modes such as proofing, baking, broiling, air frying and more,” concurs Nicole LeBlanc, associate shopper marketing manager, Builder Channel at Whirlpool Corporation, based in Benton Harbor, MI. “Home entertaining is on the rise, so appliances that can provide flexibility to prepare a variety of dishes in one oven may be attractive to potential home buyers.”

“Our ‘All-in-One’ approach has to do with offering a variety of features to suit any cooking style,” explains Ann Muth, director of marketing for Blandon, PA-based BlueStar. “However, there are some cooking capabilities that are always in demand. Versatile burners are first, being able to go from a high searing heat of 25,000 BTUs down to a gentle simmer. Oversize ovens are also important [as] customers are always looking for more capacity.”

Wendy Treinen, director, Brand and Product Communications at
GE Appliances, says that consumer desire ranges from simple all-in-one cooking to highly specialized appliances. “During the pandemic, we also saw a rise in countertop appliances,” she adds. “People were looking for specialty tools in their quest for the perfect cup of coffee with an espresso maker or increased air fry capacity with a countertop oven.”

Stephen Polloni, president of The Vetta Group, which represents Italy-based Fulgor Milano in North America says, “People are expecting a lot from their appliances right now. In a freestanding range, for example, the convection option is a must.” Speed is another important feature, he offers. People want to create gourmet meals in a fraction of the time, he adds. 

EXPERIMENTING IN THE KITCHEN

One driver of this trend towards multifunctional appliances is a desire to try new cooking methods at home. “Consumers are getting more comfortable using different cooking methods, and they’re looking for multifunctional appliances that let them explore their culinary skills,” says Warner. Consumers are interested in experimenting with different cooking techniques, such as sous vide, he adds. “This has been the go-to method in some of the world’s best restaurants for years – and now it’s making its way to the residential kitchen.”  

“The last two years have spurred a resurgence in home cooking, with consumers reinvesting in their kitchen, pro-style appliances and gadgets,” Muth agrees. “As they cook more at home, they are looking to expand their repertoire and are more open to trying things they may not have considered making before. For example, we’ve seen more wok cooking at home, and some longer-length techniques like braising.”

Rhoads comments, “Consumers are becoming adventurous and are starting to look for more innovative ways to cook outside of the standard oven baking modes. This is due to the rise in popularity of small kitchen appliances that give consumers a taste of new ways to cook, such as air fryers, slow cookers, dehydrators and more.”

HEALTHY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Along with multiple options in cooking style, consumers want appliances that offer flexibility and healthy cooking options, and are as energy efficient as possible. This has led to increased demand for steam, air fry and induction cooking.  

“With an ever-increasing focus on personal health and wellness, there is a great interest in appliances that offer healthy cooking methods, such as steam,” Polloni remarks. 

“Steam and steam-assist appliances are beginning to gain traction, ranging from steam-only convection ovens to ‘combi-ovens’ that use both dry heat and water,” Rockstroh adds. “With health benefits, including better nutrient retention and the ability to cook with less oil, it’s no wonder the demand for these appliances continues to grow.”

Air frying is another healthier, faster method of cooking that is getting a lot of attention in recent years. “In the past few years, air fryers have emerged as a way to enjoy fried foods in a healthier and faster way,” reports Andre Quadra, director of marketing at Midea in Parsippany, NJ. For that reason, many ranges, such as the all-new Midea Slide-in Range, have been updated to include an air fry convection mode, allowing customers to enjoy the health and convenience of air-fried food.”

LeBlanc says air frying is in high demand, but countertop appliances can take up precious counter space, which is at a premium in small kitchens. “Instead, ranges with built-in air fry cycles give consumers the power to air fry at home while still providing other cooking methods for a versatile solution.”

Induction cooktops are on the rise due to both flexibility and efficiency, manufacturers say. “Induction cooktops use a copper coil under the cooking surface to generate electromagnetic energy that transfers directly to the induction-compatible cookware. This means the surface allows for fast cooking and is very responsive – heating and cooling within seconds,” offers LeBlanc.  

“Beyond the ‘all in one’ approach, homeowners often rank functionality above all else, which has led to the growth of induction. With its control advantages, speed and ease of maintenance, induction offers efficient cooking and easy cleaning for a seamless experience,” states Rockstroh.

“Induction cooking is certainly not new but continues to evolve as consumers become more aware of the technology and innovation within the cooking appliance industry,” states Rhoads. “We continue to see induction grow in popularity due to its unique cooking experience, which allows for a more safe and sustainable way to cook.”

Sustainability is also a priority for both consumers and manufacturers. “In a time where the Earth is at the top of everybody’s minds, consumers have begun to look at the kitchen as a good place to start in order to achieve a more environmentally friendly home. Energy-efficient food preparation is a simple and important factor to many customers when choosing kitchen appliances,” Quadra remarks. 

RELEVANT TECHNOLOGY

Technological advances that simplify and enhance the cooking experience are important to cooking appliance trends, manufacturers say. “Consumers are interested in meaningful technology advances that help simplify and improve their lives,” explains Rhoads. 

“Technology is becoming expected when it comes to cooking appliances, but not just any technology. Buyers are looking for purposeful technology that helps improve life at home,” offers LeBlanc. 

“Constant improvements in technology have allowed appliances to become smarter and easier to use,” adds Quadra. “From WiFi connectivity to touch-control panels, smart capabilities have revolutionized the way consumers communicate with their kitchen appliances. Most new appliances are now built with smarter features, allowing users to control everything from a smart device. These improvements in technology have drastically increased the safety, convenience and performance of kitchen appliances, allowing for a more positive cooking experience.”

 A focus on performance and long-term function is important when integrating technology, manufacturers say. “We’re very intentional in what technology we’re incorporating to ensure we’re meeting core performance needs, rather than ‘keeping up with the times,’” says Rockstroh. “This intentional use of technology helps provide lasting value to homeowners, who won’t need to replace appliances to keep up with the tech cycle – and this mindset also helps promote sustainability and avoid unnecessary contributions to landfills.”

Treinen reports there is increased consumer awareness and interest in connected appliances. “As people are used to updating their phones, their cars and other systems in their homes, the future of smart home systems and integration with appliances is here and consumers are seeing the benefits. We are finding that people want to invest once and get more from that investment,” she stresses.  

For Midea, Quadra notes smart capabilities are a “must-have” for consumers. “The WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity that allows consumers to control all of their appliances from the touch of a button is becoming a must in terms of convenience and capability.” He adds, “As time goes on, the technological capabilities of appliances will continue to elevate.”

CLASSIC AND COLORFUL

Stainless steel is a classic, timeless option that remains a top trend in cooking appliance finishes. Manufacturers also see a rise in color choices, design that includes natural elements, and integrated appliances.

“Viking is known for its classic and timeless stainless-steel appliances, and this finish remains the most popular,” Tyler offers. He adds that the company also offers a palette of 14 colors inspired by the Mississippi Delta, home to Viking.

While stainless remains the highest-selling finish for Fulgor Milano, Polloni says the company is also seeing a resurgence of color in the kitchen. “Our range door color kits are a flexible and sustainable solution that will extend the longevity of the product and allow for a fresh aesthetic without the need for a new range,” he stresses. 

“When it comes to cooking appliances, stainless steel has kept its popularity due to its durability and association with professional kitchen culture,” remarks LeBlanc. “Stainless steel is a safe, easy-to-clean material that doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.” 

In addition to the classic choice, she notes, “We anticipate color to play a bigger role in the kitchen in 2022, even through appliances. Biophilic design, which encompasses natural elements, textures and colors, is a trend we expect to continue to grow.”

“The trend of using bold colors in the kitchen has been rumbling around for some time now, but there has definitely been an expansion in the shades customers are seeking,” says Muth. “While stainless remains popular, there is ‘stainless fatigue’ – it’s been around for so long, that people are feeling that their kitchens are looking cookie-cutter, as opposed to upscale and differentiated.”

“Color can work to integrate with cabinetry colors, or be a bright and bold complementary hue,” she continues. “Adding color to a high-quality appliance brings a personal touch uniquely your own.” 

Accents are another good way to add color, she observes. “Adding trim to your appliances can help create a cohesive look in your kitchen to pair with hardware, lighting and plumbing fixtures.”

“With the addition of customizable hardware, consumers are attracted to letting their own personalities shine through with new statement pieces that are the jewels of the kitchen,” offers Treinen. “Monogram appliances feature mixed metals for an elegant look, with solid brass detailing that lends a timeless luxury to the kitchen space.” ▪

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