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Will the latest advances in dishwasher technology and ergonomics convince British consumers who have never owned a dishwasher of its merits? Anna Ryland investigates.

There is a general opinion that the dishwasher has become an integral part of the modern household. “Dishwashers are no longer considered a luxury. Along with the oven, fridge and washing machine, a dishwasher is now an integral part of everyday family life, with various members of the family sharing the loading and unloading.

In fact, men actually believe they load better!” says Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff.

Yet, this statement does not apply to all customers. “The dishwasher is still regarded as a luxury item among those who have never owned one, but once purchased, becomes a necessity and there is no going back. So, while the increase in the number entering into the market has slowed, the replacement market now makes up a larger percentage of sales than before,” argues Simon Freear, country manger for Amica in the UK.

Market penetration of dishwashers in the UK has been steadily growing, reaching 37% in 2010 (according to Mintel). Nielsen data for mid-2011 suggests penetration of 40.7%. This is still way behind other European countries, such as Germany (70%) or France (over 50%).

The recessionary conditions of 2011 “have been something of a mixed bag for the dishwashers market. Consumers have targeted promotional periods for greater savings, with the January and summer sales period stimulating significant growth. Outside of these months the market has struggled to achieve growth on last year. For the year to November value has increased by just 1% and the market is now worth £231m,” comments GfK analyst Richard Allen.

However market statistics clearly indicate the current customer priorities. “The principal area of growth lies with energy efficient products, as consumers look to reduce their energy usage in a bid to cut back on their ever-rising monthly bills. Dishwashers with a water consumption of 12 litres or less have increased by 48% (Jan-Nov 2011), and now account for 42% of the market value. As with other domestic appliances, energy efficiency is becoming increasingly important to consumers and appears to be a key feature as we head into 2012,” adds Richard Allen.

A significant growth has also been recorded in the slimline category. “Slimline dishwashers appeal to consumers for whom space is at a premium, such as in modern apartments. Sales of slimline dishwashers are up 4.3% year on year,” confirms Libby Morley, Indesit advertising and communications manager. Also Dean McKelvie, Whirlpool’s product marketing manager, Freestanding, confirms that slimline dishwashers are growing in popularity (+6.1% between September 10 and August 11),accounting for 23.3% of market share (by volume).

Customer expectations

Overall, consumers wish to own a dishwasher which will make their life easier, while at the same time fit nicely into their kitchen/diner. 

However there are two types of consumers in the dishwasher market with different needs and priorities: the replacement and the first time buyer. “In the committed replacement market the consumer values the dishwasher highly and is looking to upgrade to more capacity. However it is imperative that it’s flexible and able to be customised to ‘their way of stacking’. Replacement buyers are looking for style, energy efficiency, sensor programming and overall greater functionality,” explains Caroline Guillermard, product marketing manager for Maytag.

“The first time buyer (many having grown up with one), is less familiar and probably hasn’t established their dishwashing needs, will be purchasing to save labour and time and exploit the huge benefits of a dishwasher. But they will be price driven to meet a budget.”

Eco improvements

The key areas of product development are reduction of energy and water consumption and improved ergonomics, giving dishwashers more capacity and greater internal flexibility.

An average modern dishwasher now uses between 10 and 14 litres of water.  “On average this is 39 litres less, per load, than washing up by hand.  Consumers are becoming more receptive to the energy message and the introduction of the new energy labels will make things clearer,” comments Jane Massey, brand manager at Siemens Home Appliances. However there are models on the market, such as Maytag’s MDW 606 AWG dishwasher, which uses just six litres for 13 place settings, thanks to Maytag’s IntelliSense technology. It also has a new pump with ‘Impulse Pulse’ technology that alternates low and high pressure throughout the cycle to reduce water volume throughout the wash.  Further, in order to attain the six-litre water consumption the dishwasher recycles water from the previous programme.

Miele’s latest dishwashers use only seven litres of water. “Miele’s intelligent load recognition feature lets just the correct amount of water in to the dishwasher, enabling water consumption to be reduced by up to 16% for a small load, and increased for large loads. An Eco Sensor Plus programme uses a light beam to measure the murkiness or turbidity of the water. This information is used to adapt the programme to suit the degree of soiling, by either reducing or increasing the number of water changes,” explains Sian Rees, laundry category manager at Miele.

AEG’s Neue Kollektion top model (F99009WOP) consumes 9.8 litres of water and 0.99Kwh per wash cycle.

 LG’s new TrueSteam dishwasher has been awarded the Waterwise Recommended Checkmark for using 9 litres of water for a fully loaded dishwasher cycle. The in-built steam generator makes this appliance highly efficient and totally eliminates presoaking since “steam molecules (which are much smaller than water molecules) can penetrate and soak dried-on food remnants faster, delivering sparkling results without needing to pre-rinse,” says  Dawn Stockell, LG marketing communications manager, Home Appliances.

To keep water usage to a minimum, the Beko OneTouch dishwasher, operated by one touch of a button, uses a series of sensors, assessing the dirt level, water-hardness level and wash load. 

Clever ergonomics

The industry standard for dishwasher ‘settings’ was created back in the 70s and until now has remained the same. It doesn’t include pots and pans, salad bowls or serving dishes, and allows for plate sizes up to 26cm diameter, reminds Chandrasekar Kunche, product manager Dishwashers, at Electrolux Major Appliances.

And yet today’s load is very different.  AEG-Electrolux has therefore redesigned the interior and provided 10 litres more loadable volume in its ProClean dishwasher to fit big dishes, pots, and plates up to 34cm in diameter.

The Whirlpool Green Generation dishwasher has 30% more space than a standard appliance and a third wash level with two removable cutlery trays eliminating the need for a traditional cutlery basket in the lower rack. It also offers further functionality with the multi-zoning options allowing washing either of the top or bottom basket.

LG’s SmartRack technology allows the basket to be adjusted to accommodate a range of crockery. The LG dishwasher also has a third rack at the top with two baskets which are height adjustable, and in addition to cutlery can house such small items as espresso cups. Furthermore LG’s Inverter Direct Drive motor gives the LG TrueSteam dishwasher 10 litres extra capacity.

Greater convenience and flexibility were the leading considerations behind the development of the Fisher & Paykel Phase 7 DishDrawer. Its adjustable racking can be folded flat to accommodate large plates and deep bowls. The new model also requires less movement to open and close, and no bending.

For households where space is an issue
or those inhabited by the elderly, table top and compact built-in dishwashers are a solution. Indesit has recently introduced an AAA-rated table top dishwasher that accommodates six settings and features six programmes.

“Our compact built-in dishwashers have sold exceedingly well since launching last year. With more consumers now wanting their cooking appliances at eye level and in a ‘bank’ or ‘wall’, this is the perfect space for a dishwasher,” says Neff’s Mike Jarrett.

Noise levels of dishwashers have also come down. Low noise appliances are particularly important in households where an open plan kitchen serves as the main living space. The latest dishwashers operate at between 42 and 46dB. The Whirlpool Green Generation dishwasher operates at 42dB on a standard programme and its Super silent overnight programme works at just 39dB.

Good looks

Attractive design of household products is a priority for a growing number of customers.

Haier is the first manufacturer which has introduced glass finish to freestanding dishwashers. “In this recession, consumers are looking for big reasons to trade up and for this to happen they need to see a benefit.  Glass design offers a modern look for modern kitchen styles and a real alternative to stainless steel,” explains James Osborne, white goods product manager, Haier UK. 

The 1950’s-style dishwashers are a trademark of Smeg.  “A new arrival is the DI6013NH handle-less dishwasher featuring unique and patented press and release door technology, making it the ideal choice for installing in contemporary kitchens with handle-less door and drawer fronts to complement the minimalist design.  One of the key features of this model is ‘Active Light’ which projects a light beam onto the floor at the base of the machine which lets the user know when it is on and when the programme has finished,” says Joan Fraser, Smeg product development and training manager.

Finally

With dishwasher household penetration in the UK estimated at 40% (at best), there is plenty of growth potential in this market. Importantly, the ownership of a dishwasher is addictive. “It’s one of those products that once you’ve used it, you’ll never go back to washing up in the old kitchen sink again,” says Hotpoint’s Iain Starkey.

Moreover with a country-wide implementation of water meters and introduction of new water criteria of Part G regulation – 125 litres per person – the importance of the dishwasher in reducing water consumption will grow, stimulating future sales.  As a result, household penetration of dishwashers will increase to levels similar to those found in Europe, argues Caroline Guillermard, Maytag’s product marketing manager.

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