Thirty years ago, some argued induction was the next big thing for appliances. Although it never took off in the U.S. market, it appears that may be changing. Many exhibit booths at this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Chicago had induction cooktop offerings on display. Consumer demand is backing the trend, and many manufacturers are now meeting that demand, if not driving it.
“I think it was in 2005 when I first started seeing induction pop up again and only saw it in one booth and on one prototype. But now at KBIS, you see every major manufacturer has some kind of induction offering. That speaks to the growing popularity and interest in induction,” says Jill Notini, vice president of communications and marketing, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), Washington, D.C.
AHAM started tracking residential induction shipments in 2010. “We need at least three companies to start tracking a category in our data program. In 2010, there was significant interest, and we had the numbers to report. Today, we have seven manufacturers that report shipments of induction, and we know of several more that are shipping but just don’t report in our program,” Notini says.
In 2010, induction shipments represented 8 percent of the electric appliance market. It increased to 10 percent in 2011 and is expected to be 12 percent for this year, according to AHAM data.
Efficiency and safety are induction’s two biggest advantages. It heats up and cools down quickly, similar to the way gas cooktops operate; however, no heat is lost because it has direct contact with the pot or pan.
“You have the instant heat on and off like gas. It’s a great cooktop and equivalent heat factor. With gas cooktops you have the gas that is lost around the utensil but don’t have that with induction,” Jane-Page Crump, ASID, RID, president, Jane Page Design Group, Houston, says.
“Speed is an advantage to [induction cooktops]. It depends on who is going to be using it and how. If they make a lot of desserts and need that high level of accuracy for candy, then it would be great for them. Induction stays the same temperature; you could heat chocolate sauce all day,” Tim Benkowski, CMKBD, Timothy J Kitchen & Bath, Milwaukee, says.
Induction is the ideal technology in regards to safety. Only the burner gets hot with minimal residual heat on the surface. “Kids aren’t going to burn themselves on a burner and it’s great for older people,” MaryJo Camp, CKD, CBD, CID, CAPS, CGP, principal of Denver, N.C.-based DesignCamp, says.
These cooktops are an ideal option for the growing aging-in-place segment. There is no concern about gas being left on by an older user or hurting themselves by the heat source.
Induction cooktop cleanability is another enticing feature for homeowners. Because the surface area doesn’t get hot, nothing can burn onto the surface. In addition, its appearance is gaining traction with homeowners who are moving away from large commercial appliances. “Everything is getting more streamlined. The look is more compatible with trends of built-ins. That leads me to believe we’re on the cusp of it becoming a big deal,” Crump says.
Driving the Trend
Many customers are still not proactively asking for induction, but designers are bringing up the discussion, especially if the consumer is looking at an electric cooktop.
“Typically I ask them if they are aware of induction. Most often the answer is no. We go to one of the kitchen displays to look at it, talk about the benefits. If electric is their preference I do tell them they should consider it,” says Benkowski.
While consumers may not be aware of induction, they are intrigued once they learn more about it.
“No one has asked me for it but I point it out to them when we are in a showroom. Curiosity has grown,” says Crump.
However, Camp says her clients are asking her about induction without her bringing it up to them. “Now clients are asking us about it. Induction is starting to go mainstream. It’s being touted as more energy-efficient and easier to clean—and these are buzzwords people are interested in,” she adds.
The level of consumer induction knowledge may depend on the market, Camp says. “Almost four years ago I moved from San Francisco to North Carolina. San Francisco is a gas market. Here in North Carolina, it’s an electric market; people are looking for alternatives within electric fuel.”
Cookware companies may be somewhat responsible for the level of consumer induction knowledge. “There are cookware companies that are putting a symbol on the cookware that says it’s induction friendly. If it’s difficult to work with or sounds like it will be difficult to work with, it scares people,” Benkowski says. “Once you see pots and pans in stores that have the induction symbol on them or marketing them as induction friendly, it will [change induction cooktops’ demand].”
Although induction has many benefits, designers must understand how their clients use their cooktops before directing them to choose induction. With increased price points as induction’s biggest drawback, consumers will only invest in a cooktop that meets their lifestyle.
“Find out how your consumer uses the cooktop. How do they cook? Once you ask those questions you can find out what cooktop is best going to fit the individual. What level chef do they consider themselves to be?” asks John Petrie, CMKBD, vice president of the Hackettstown, N.J.-based National Kitchen and Bath Association and owner of Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Mother Hubbard’s Custom Cabinetry.
Benkowski adds the ideal induction consumer will most likely be someone who is a serious cook.
Although designers agree induction will grow in consumer demand, they add product offerings may change. “I think there is a place for this technology and I do think this is going to be something that will further the idea or use of more than one type of cooking,” Benkowski says. “The idea of using multiple heat sources is going to be more prevalent. We are seeing that now as some manufacturers are selling a single 15-inch induction burner.”
NKBA and AHAM are in agreement induction offerings and consumer demand is going to continue to grow. They point to current products already on the market, as well as shipment data growth throughout the past few years.
“I think it’s here to stay. Appliance manufacturers have it now and housewares companies are coming out with induction-ready products and identifying them as such,” Petrie adds.
“Manufacturers are excited about this technology. Consumers and homeowners are becoming more familiar with it,” Notini says. “The numbers we are seeing for this technology are encouraging and it is growing in popularity.”