For gourmet cooks who joyfully make a huge mess with big,
elaborate meals, GE has a full-size second dishwasher especially
designed for pots and pans, adds Pike. "The racking is different
and it runs at hotter temperatures," he elaborates. The washer is
also ideal for people who don't want to mix their fancy, easily
breakable china and crystal with messy pots and pans.
Two schools of thought provide for a variety of products in the oven and range markets. Gourmet cooks like products they can interact with, says Dale Persons, v.p./public affairs for Viking Range Corp., in Greenwood, MS. "[They're] more hands-on, they're not looking for timers [and other automatic features], they like to touch it, feel it, control it. You're not going to see a progression into flashing lights and stuff," he quips. Instead, improvements will be "under the hood" niceties such as better valves.
Over-scheduled two-career couples with kids, however, want as many conveniences as they can get, just to make a home-cooked meal possible. A notably innovative new product in this category is Whirlpool's Polara, a free-standing range that also has a refrigeration function. The imaginative hybrid can be programmed to keep a raw, ready-to-cook meal refrigerated until a pre-programmed time, when it's cooked and then kept warm for an hour, then refrigerated again so it doesn't spoil. So, whatever time everyone makes it home, the meal is waiting for them.
Manufacturers caution, however, that while consumers welcome extra features on their appliances, they're sometimes overwhelmed by the controls required to work those features, and careful research has to be done to ensure controls "intuitively make sense," according to Shannon.
Gaggenau also espouses a single knob or touch control through glass, using international symbols that are universally easy to understand. "[Controls] have to be really easy," says Bettina Walther, marketing manager for Gaggenau North America, in Huntington Beach, CA.
High speed cooking which combines traditional and microwave technology is another convenience that was introduced with great fanfare a few years back, but manufacturers admit there's consumer resistance to the product. Anne Howard, marketing consultant to Sharp Electronics Corp., in Mahwah, NJ, emphasizes it's important to position the product as a speed cook oven rather than a microwave. "People know what a microwave oven is good for and what it's not good for," she explains. Consumers resist paying far more for a product they perceive as a glorified microwave.
Shannon points out that live demonstrations can often allay a
consumer's fears about the quality level of high-speed ovens; once
they realize the ovens' results equal a conventional oven rather
than a microwave, they embrace the new technology.
Pike adds that GE's Avantium has gained widespread acceptance after the company started positioning the high-speed oven as part of a cooking center a trio with a conventional oven and a warming drawer. The combination assures consumers that they're not going completely away from traditional technology, but getting the best of both worlds. A high-speed oven also fits into the "second appliance" concept, for instance, aiding a family whose members have different dietary needs (on a diet vs. big eater, vegetarian vs. carnivore) but want to have dinner together.
A trend towards healthy cooking has spawned another "second" oven option Gaggenau's steam convection oven, notes Walther. The high-end appliance infuses non-pressurized steam in precisely calibrated proportion, resulting in moist food with its vitamins and nutrients preserved.
Traditional microwaves can also function as add-on appliances, manufacturers note. Howard cites wall-mounted, over-counter microwaves as the new, better alternative to locating them over the range, a harsh environment with a lot of heat and grease that can be particularly problematic with a high BTU pro range.
In terms of design, stainless steel is finally pervasive in
microwaves as well, notes Howard. For traditional ovens, Shannon
points out Jenn-Air's new curved front wall oven. "It adds
dimension and texture to the kitchen," she notes. "It's very sleek,
it adds texture without adding extra places to clean."
Color is Back
Conventional wisdom of the last few years says consumers want their appliances in safe colors that won't impede future remodeling plans or resale value. But manufacturers insist that the public is growing weary of a steady diet of black, white, biscuit and stainless steel.
"We're showing designer finishes in blue and burgundy," notes Persons, who also cites graphite grey with a metallic hint as another popular selection.
"Believe it or not, avocado is back," laughs Tratras. "Some of your colors from the 1970s are making a comeback under new names."
"Beiges and neutrals are going away," insists Collier. "We've introduced cobalt blue, which is extremely popular. In dishwashers, we've introduced all the colors our mixers come in," including bright red and yellow colors.
"We actually did a red kitchen this year," adds Shannon. "Red panels on a refrigerator, mixed with stainless steel." Ferguson also cites a new black interior for wine coolers, which makes a particularly stylish look when combined with a glass door.