While the way appliances are used varies widely from kitchen to kitchen, there are some common expectations, including practicality, performance and technological innovations. But while technology continues to be a hot button, it’s not just about having a lot of bells and whistles; rather, useful technology that’s simple to understand is what today’s consumers are seeking. Additionally, everyone wants appliances that offer flexibility and a stylish appearance, according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Scott Davies, marketing manager, Fisher & Paykel Appliances in Huntington Beach, CA says that the premium appliance market continues to prosper and show great potential. “The global financial crisis, however, has created a savvier consumer,” he notes. “This consumer is still prepared to invest in high-end appliances, but must see true benefits in the features of these products. Using gimmicks on products is no longer accepted in the marketplace, and if these features don’t add value, then the customer will just ignore them.”
Paolo Bertazzoni, president and CEO of Bertazzoni, based in Guastalla, Italy agrees. “People are aware of what they want,” he says, adding that products are now more simple and streamlined.
Mark Russell, senior v.p./sales and marketing for U-Line, based in Milwaukee, WI sees flexibility as a growing trend, noting, “The traditional kitchen triangle is becoming a thing of the past, with walls coming down and islands going up. There‘s a big trend toward customizing the kitchen to personalize the space and create activity zones.”
Fancy bells and whistles are fading into the background as consumers ask for components that have practical uses and add real value to the product. Davies says features that deliver true product solutions, such as easy-to-use controls, ergonomic design, visual feedback, counter-depth design, an aesthetic fit with the kitchen and overall performance top the list of consumer demands. “These all contribute to the culinary experience in the kitchen, and strive to make customers’ lives easier with features like convenient drawer systems, touch controls and clean design lines,” he adds.
Michela Shaw, brand manager for Bosch at BSH Home Appliances Corp., based in Huntington Beach, CA says, “At Bosch, it’s not about the latest gadget and gizmo. It’s about designing the best performing machines that deliver the best results every time.” She adds that there is great emphasis put on the foundation of the product rather than on how many fancy features will be included. “We call this purposeful design,” she says.
A product can’t just look good – performance is key. Practical considerations are high on the list of requirements for appliances, manufacturers say.
Melissa Haber, director of sales and marketing for Edgewood, NY based EuroChef USA says, “Consumers want flexibility – a workhorse that allows for families to multi-task, even in the kitchen. Accessories and features such as steam basins, warming drawers and rotisseries allow for this kind of functionality.” She adds that, in ranges, customers often request high-BTU burners, convection ovens, heavy-duty grates and double oven configurations.
Terri Connett, senior contract channel manager for Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, MI says that double oven ranges have become the fastest growing category. “Occupying the same space as a range, double ovens allow homeowners to cook at two different temperatures simultaneously, with less energy consumption and decreased preheating time,” she says.
Zach Elkin, director, brand marketing for Thermador at BSH Home Appliances Corp. asserts that time-saving features are in demand, including faster pre-heat options. Flexibility is also key, he says, both in design and in the cooking itself.
In dishwashers, says Shaw, “quietness continues to be the number one feature that consumers are demanding.”