Bertazzoni says that the market is moving toward digital controls, even on more traditional models such as commercial ranges. “The technology might not necessarily be visible (as consumers still prefer a round large knob on a restaurant-style range), but there are built-in sensors and processors that manage the cooking process,” he says. However, he adds, “pre-programmed recipes have not caught on, as cooking remains a very regionally influenced process and cannot be standardized.”
Other manufacturers, however, are seeing a move back to more straightforward, easy controls and technology. Kitabayashi says that there are two schools of thought – keeping it simple without the electronics, and offering gadgets with many features. “One area that has taken off in the rest of the world but will have a difficult time in the appliance industry is apps,” he says. “Major cooking appliances are considered to be attended products, not to be left alone.”
Dowling sees more requests from consumers wanting to opt for old-school reliability and simplicity. “This is being driven by concerns about the reliability and durability of ‘techy’ features, and by concerns about the impact of major weather events on appliance functionality,” he says.
Haber agrees. “We actually hear from a lot of consumers that they are trying to get away from digital controls due to frustration with failing technology and trouble with repairs,” she says. “Customers want controls that are user friendly.” At the same time, she adds, “Technology has sped up our lives in a drastic way that has become the expected speed of life. Appliances need to keep up with this speed.”
When it comes to the outward appearance of appliances, stainless steel has long been the industry standard. While the appeal of stainless isn’t likely to fade anytime soon, there has been a steady rise in a variety of color finishes as well.
“Aesthetically, colors are coming on like gang busters,” says Dowling, who notes that, while Elmira has always offered a wide color selection, other companies are now offering more color selections and apparently doing well with them. “Perhaps the day of sterile (stainless) steel is coming to an end,” he says.
There is also a shift in the colors people are choosing, he says. “On the retro side, we’ve seen a trend to ‘safer’ colors. Where five years ago, Candy Red dominated our sales, we have seen red drop off, while white, bisque and Buttercup Yellow have been increasing.”
Haber has also seen a rise in the demand for color finishes. “We see more and more sales in color ranges, cooktops and ovens – about a 25 percent increase for 2012 thus far,” she says.
Kitabayashi notes, “The high-end appliances are trending more [toward] color, although stainless steel is still king. European manufacturers have come in with a lot of color, and we at Capital see a small but continuing market in color.”
Peters agrees that stainless is on top. “Stainless steel still remains the most popular finish because it’s sleek, sexy and makes a bold statement.”
Bedard says that along with stainless, integrated appliances continue to be prevalent, and adds, “The use of accent colors in appliances is also a way consumers and designers alike can add a ‘pop’ to designs.”
Renteria adds, “Personalization options such as color, door, knob and handle options are carving their way into the look and finish of appliances, but stainless steel is still the base.”
Along with a rising awareness of health issues comes a need for appliances that can adapt to this desire for healthy living. While some manufacturers have seen more change in what people cook, rather than how they cook it, others say there are some appliances that are becoming more mainstream as a result of health choices.
Springer, for instance, thinks healthy cooking is on the rise, noting that growth, technology and awareness in the steam cooking arena is at an all-time high. Benefits of steam cooking, he notes, include no need for fat to cook, preservation of vitamins and nutrients in the food and an improved appearance of the food. “As culinary enthusiasts continue learning about the many benefits of steam cooking, that technology will continue taking shape in the American kitchen,” he adds.