Nearly every category of small kitchen electrics saw exciting introductions this year, but beverage makers still dominate the newest offerings. While it's no surprise that fresh coffee brewers keep arriving on the scene, there are still many unexpected turns in the kitchen electrics marketplace. Today's shoppers are buying for a strange new kitchen – whether it's downsized, geared toward health-consciousness or fully loaded with technology.
Both younger and older shoppers are making a big impact in the housewares category, experts say. According to The NPD Group, a leading global information company, older shoppers remain the steadiest group purchasing in this category, accounting for nearly three-quarters of small kitchen appliance sales. Yet in 2014, millennials proved to be the only generational segment that increased its purchases compared with the previous year. This under-35 age group accounted for 26 percent of the $6.2 billion small kitchen appliance market in 2014, up 5 percent from 2013.
"Boomers are the generation with more disposable income and a desire to splurge or trade-up for more premium products, but the sheer size of the millennial generation, and their fundamental need for the essentials, is what is moving the needle in many home-related categories," said Debra Mednick, NPD executive director and home industry analyst.
As of this year, millennials now outnumber boomers, according to Pew Research, and their spending power is increasing as the number of boomers is starting to dwindle.
Social Shifts Generate Sales
Other social factors come into play as Americans decide to buy small electrics. Manufacturers like Chef'sChoice find sales increase as households move. "Overall, we see an increase in activity in the small electrics category directly attributable to an increase in U.S. home sales and household formations over the two last years," says Sam Weiner, Chef'sChoice president. "This increase directly contributes to higher sales of small electrics as consumers equip their kitchens."
Downsizing has become a lifestyle trend for both older and younger consumers, causing household movement and prompting customers to rethink what they buy. A lot of media attention has been given to the trendy concept of occupying tiny houses, deemed as such if they are less than 1,000 square feet in size – and they are often much less.
Retailers say they find many shoppers looking for small electrics that will multitask, rather than investing in several appliances that take up storage or counter space. "Versatility is one of the reasons I believe VitaMix blenders sell so well for us," says Jill Foucré, owner of Marcel's Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Foucré says that younger shoppers, especially those registering for wedding gifts, often add a multi-purpose appliance to their registry wish list. Items like juicers aren't selling as well at her store, but mixers and blenders remain strong items because they can be used for so many tasks.
Like many specialty retailers, Foucré isn't looking to offer every option out there but instead to curate a few items that provide the best choices in each category. "We don't want to be a blender or toaster emporium," she says. "But people continue to ask for these small electrics and so we stock a few of them so shoppers can find what they need at our store."
A trend among younger consumers toward eating at home may also be fueling purchases of small electrics, experts say. Not depending on fast-casual restaurants means shoppers look for different ways to find convenience. "Millennial consumers have a sensible involvement when it comes to their food preparation. Just like many others, they want to get out of the kitchen as soon as possible, but they also want to be able to call the food their own and bring more fresh ingredients to their dishes," says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst.
While Seifer says most American consumers are looking for more control over the food they eat and prepare, millennials like to cook at home for health and taste reasons and often have – or create – time to spend in the kitchen.
Capitalizing on both efficiency and the healthy eating trend, appliance makers have created multi-cookers like 3 Squares' Tim3 Machin3 and a new Tim3 Machin3 Mini.
"Our customers were telling us they loved the Tim3 Machin3, but due to family size and limited space, really would prefer something smaller. We knew that they wanted it to be able to cook all the same stuff they make in the larger unit, so we challenged our team to make it happen," says Todd Rogers, president of 3 Squares.
The appliance works like a slow cooker but can also toast and cook quinoa, prepare rice and oatmeal quickly and create homemade yogurt. It can also multitask by steaming an entrée in the top part of the machine and cooking rice in the bottom. Another unique feature is that the company used Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced fundraising site, to get backing for both its product launches. Funders of the project get first delivery of the new appliance.
The company says U.S. Census data show that 77 percent of households in America are made of three people or less, which means both the original version and mini versions can be good fit for today's homes. "It's perfect for small households, cutting down on clutter and saving time in the kitchen," says Kyle Erickson, executive vice president of 3 Squares.
Broadening Beverage Options
Every three years, NPD asks U.S. consumers what appliances and cookware they have on hand, and how they use them, among other questions for its Kitchen Audit report. Findings from the end of 2014, the most recently released audit, show coffee is still a hot category, but pod makers aren't the only way to go.
Twenty-three percent of households in the Kitchen Audit own a coffee pod machine, with 80 percent of them saying they used their pod machine in the last month; 55 percent of them said they also own an electric drip coffeemaker.
Bulk coffee is less expensive than pods, but consumers are willing to pay the premium; making coffee at home in a pod machine is both less expensive and less time-consuming than a drink at an upscale coffee shop.
While Mintel predicts coffee pod sales will catch up to bulk coffee sales in the U.S. by 2018, the market still has room for a variety of coffee making options.
Specialty stores like Marcel's see both coffee pod lovers and avoiders come through the doors. "People either love pod coffeemakers or are very anti-pod," says Foucré. "We usually see customers looking to replace an old machine more than upgrading. If they are upgrading, it is to something much better like our high-end Capresso machines or registering for a nicer machine."
Chris Wiedemer, owner of Cooks' World in Rochester, N.Y., sees no sign of coffeemaker sales slowing down. "I would say we've seen coffee-related small electrics pick up over last year, based in part on the fact that coffee is a trend that continues to grow. There's also increased popularity of pour-over coffee products," he says.
New features for coffeemakers and other specialty electrics seem to drive consumer sales, along with awareness that comes from television, celebrity chef endorsements and social media, says Wiedemer.
Manufacturers like DeLonghi recognize the potential for growth in the espresso machine market. According to the Mintel report, more than 19 million espresso drinkers do not currently own an espresso machine, says Alicia Clarke, a spokesperson for DeLonghi. The company offers a full line of machines, from the one-touch Latissima Plus to the fully automatic Magnifica to new offerings in the pump espresso category. "The new Pump Espresso products provide in-home barista-quality drinks at highly desirable price points," she says.
Many beverages now benefit from electric prep to create quality and convenience, which may entice consumers to collect more thirst-quenching gear.
Soda makers continue to sell, with NPD Group reporting that four percent of all households currently own one. That number increases to 10 percent, however, in households with children under age six. Soda maker manufacturers pitch environmental benefits like reducing the number of plastic soda bottles that get thrown away. They also now target consumers concerned about drinking out of plastic bottles.
Electric tea makers have become highly specialty focused, with Craftea's Ultimate Tea Maker simplifying chai preparation. Authentic Japanese Matcha is also easier to create at home with the introduction of Sharp's Tea-Ceré, designed in consultation with leading Japanese tea experts.
Keurig Green Mountain, which has led sales in the pod brewing machine and coffee pod sector, is now looking to expand into cold drinks. While tea, lemonade and other drink pods that were introduced in 2009 can be served over ice, Keuring's new Kold soda machine is set to debut late in 2015. Kold can create fizz and make branded soda products like those from Coca-Cola. Beverages would be in 8-ounce portions, with many less than 100 calories, the company says.
Some shoppers, especially tea drinkers, are finding electric kettles to be an important addition to their kitchens. Wiener of Chef'sChoice says consumers look for technical advancements but don't want complicated operating instructions. The new KeepHot Thermal Electric Kettle from Chef'sChoice comes in two sizes and features double-wall vacuum insulation. Capresso makes a new premium H20 Steel Plus electric water kettle that offers the advancement of variable water temperatures and keeps the beverage warm in the kettle for 30 minutes.
Retailers and manufacturers should keep younger and older shoppers in mind as they stock new small electric offerings, whether designed for beverages, prep or cooking. Both groups want exciting design, new features and multi-function capabilities in most categories, experts say. Expect to see more changes as the demographic landscape shifts.
"The millennial mindset is starting to demonstrate its impact on the small appliance market through different approaches to food prep and at-home meals," says NPD's Mednick, "just as the times when gen X and the boomers came into their own. The home products industry as a whole needs to figure out how best to meet the needs and desires of the newest generation looking at their products, while also educating them and learning how to grow and change with them."
|Tim3 Machin3 Multi Cooker
A startup small appliance company, 3 Squares, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to create the Time3 Machin3, a versatile cooking appliance that speeds up rice cooking, makes yogurt, quinoa and oatmeal and also slow cooks. An 8-cup version called the Mini for smaller households will soon be available. SRP: $70 for the original 20-cup size.
3 Squares, San Diego, 877-393-8936, www.get3squares.com
|Premium Retro- Style Blender
Italian-based SMEG introduces a '50s retro-look blender with modern features. It offers smooth, powerful blending and ice crushing. Available in five colors – red, black, cream, silver and pastel blue. The 6-cup capacity Tritan pitcher is BPA-free. The blender has four speed settings and three preset programs: smoothie, ice crush and pulse. SRP: $249.95.
SMEG USA, New York, 212-265-5378, www.smegusa.com
|One-Touch Espresso and Coffee System
Illy's new Y5 Milk Espresso and Coffee system is its first capsule machine with an integrated milk tank and frother. It can create espresso- and brewed coffee-based drinks, like cappuccino and latte macchiato, and steamed milk with one touch. The machine conveniently dispenses hot water for tea and steamed milk. The 30-ounce water tank and 16.9-ounce milk tank are both front facing. SRP: $399.
Illy USA, Trieste, Italy, 877-469-4559, www.illyusa.com
The new T-fal 10-in-1 Multi-Cooker supports a variety of cooking and baking needs in a single machine. Cooking programs include: rice, risotto, reheat, oatmeal, slow cook, steam/soup, yogurt, baking and browning. The Multi-Cooker's touch pad control panel design features an adjustable cooking timer and the ability to preset up to 24 hours in advance. The non-stick ceramic pot holds 10 cups. SRP: $99.99.
T-Fal, West Orange, N.J., 800-395-8325, www.t-falusa.com
|Pour Over Coffeemaker
KitchenAid's Pour Over Coffee Brewer captures the technique of a barista with a pre-infusion stage that pours just enough water to wet the coffee grounds, then pauses before the final brewing stage. It creates a cup of pour over coffee without the need to watch over the cup. It also features multiple brewing settings for light and dark roast coffees and for different batch sizes. SRP: $199.99.
KitchenAid, Benton Harbor, Mich., 800-541-6390, www.kitchenaid.com
|Oxo On Coffee Grinder
The Oxo On line, which is targeting gourmet independent kitchenware retailers and upscale specialty chains, will include eight items – 9-cup coffee maker, 12-cup coffee maker, cordless glass electric kettle, 2-slice motorized toaster, 4-slice motorized toaster, illuminating digital hand mixer and illuminating digital immersion blender, and conical burr coffee grinder with integrated scale. SRPs: $79.99 for the hand mixer up to $299.99 for the 12-cup coffee brewer. The line will hit store shelves in Q4.
The Barista Brain Conical Burr Coffee Grinder with Integrated Scale, pictured, has a built-in digital scale to measure coffee using the pre-set grams-to-cup ratios. The stainless steel conical burr creates a consistent and uniform grind for optimal flavor extraction. The hopper holds 12 ounces of coffee beans and the grounds cup accommodates enough ground coffee to brew 12 cups. SRP: $199.99.
Oxo International, New York, N.Y., 800-545-4411, www.oxo.com