Built-in ovens – Magic in the oven

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With the kitchen becoming the centre of family life and the growing penchant for entertaining at home, the oven – its performance and its looks – is gaining unprecedented importance. This is clearly reflected by market trends. Anthony Williams, senior account manager at GfK, comments:
“Features such as fan function, multi-function and rapid-cook facilities which have in the past been the province of the high-end market have been quickly adopted by both mid-market and entry level built-in cooking products alike. Electric ovens have seen the greatest growth, with multifunctional ovens growing by nearly 5% in 2007 and fan ovens by around 14%. Self-cleaning ovens are also continuing to rise in popularity. Pyrolytic cleaning makes up less than 5% of the market but sales have increased by over 57% last year and catalytic ovens by more than 12%.”
In terms of fuel, electricity dominates, accounting for 96% of built-in ovens, while gas takes the remaining share. 70% of built-in ovens are single ovens (growing at a rate of 15% over the last two years), but the double oven market, currently taking only 30% of market volume, is growing at a faster rate of 16%.
Fan remains the most popular cooking method (recording 65% of volume and 25% growth over the last two years), while multifunction accounts for a 25% volume share.
Steam ovens which have stolen many column inches in recent times “had a very slow up-take, accounting for only 0.3% of built-in oven sales to March 2008 (+0.2pts over a two-year trend), but with an average market price of £734 (March 2008) versus the built-in oven average price of £343, the £400 difference is quite an up-sell,” says Tanya Searle, kitchen systems product line manager at Electrolux Major Appliances.
Emerging opportunities
The societal changes and deteriorating economic climate in the country are stimulating ‘a homing’ interest in Britain. Paul Thompson, managing director at Baumatic UK explains: “With ‘staying in’ the new ‘going out’, we are seeing more and more people turn their hands to hosting elaborate dinner parties.  The key for these budding hobby chefs is cooking flexibility.  They want to be able to create dishes to impress their guests, but also have the ability to quickly rustle up the family supper – all using the same appliances.  Therefore clever cooking features such as rotisseries, multi-function ovens, thermostatic grills, triple-crown wok burners and griddle plates are all growing massively in popularity.”
Ragip Balcioglu, Beko’s director of buying & product, draws attention to a different factor: “Built-in models are increasing their market share mainly due to the number of new build properties that are sold with fitted kitchens.”
An ‘intelligent’ and easy to operate oven has a key role to play in this situation. In fact, ovens are being equipped with increasingly sophisticated electronics, text and graphics to provide the consumer with improved information and control. More top-of-the-range models feature fully automated cooking programmes which ensure perfect results even for the least experienced domestic chefs.
Oven ergonomics, such as internal lights, revolving handles, flexi and telescopic rails (all present on Neff ovens) are making cooking an easier task.
Smart technology
While in the past, range cookers and free standing cookers led in terms of cooking capabilities, technology and capacity, now built-in ovens drive product innovation, with the additional benefit of their streamlined, design-led looks.
While Electrolux’s Inspiro oven is perhaps the biggest breakthrough in cooking technology (weighting the food, sensing its density and adjusting the time and temperature of the cooking), the market has recently witnessed a number of other significant advances.
Richard Walker, sales and marketing director, De Dietrich Kitchen Appliances, comments: “De Dietrich developed the concept of automatic cooking and launched its first ICS oven in 2003. Five years later, the ICS (Intelligent Control System) function is available in a number of our top of the range ovens and also in our 38cm microwave combination oven. The single DOP795X is the only oven on the market to feature a colour interactive display where each dish is illustrated, and using the ICS mode there are 12 automatic options ranging from cooking roast beef or chicken to pizzas, puddings and cakes, all at the touch of the controls. Using ICS there is no need to preheat the oven, or set any times or temperatures as the oven sets all the cooking parameters for perfect results every time.”
Miele’s Generation 5000 oven range has been equipped with the ‘Moisture Plus’ feature which was a preserve of commercial kitchens.  “Miele’s ‘Moisture Plus’ programme uses fan heat and steam to give optimum results for baking and roasting and is available on top of the range ovens. Water is drawn into the oven via a filling tube before cooking begins and electronically creates bursts of steam that are injected into the oven cavity at appropriate intervals during the cooking process. Moisture Plus guarantees brilliant cooking results with foods such as bread, because the steam produces a moist loaf, whilst the fan oven crisps and browns the bread to perfection,” explains Neil Pooley, Miele’s group product manager.
Another first in cooking technology is Samsung’s Dual Cook. It is the first system which allows cooking two dishes at different temperatures and time settings – without the aromas mingling. The Dual Cook saves 25% energy in comparison with other electric ovens when only one half is in use. Its other important feature is the fact that it takes up less precious kitchen space than two conventional built-in ovens.
Also Hotpoint took oven cooking to another level with the introduction of the Intelligent Cooking System on both its built-in and range cookers. It incorporates ‘Smart Chef’ for perfect roasts and fish and ‘One Touch’ for automatic control. The ‘Smart Chef’ function suggests the optimal cooking temperature of roasts and fish and even which shelf to use. The ‘One Touch’ automatic programme ensures cakes and bread are cooked to perfection at the touch of a button.
Smeg, with its Mediterranean tradition of accommodating all culinary needs of the family, now offers “up to 13 functions at the top of the range ovens and recent technological advances include a special pizza function, pyrolytic cleaning, Eco and Bread Proving. The pizza function uses the fan, lower element and grill to ensure an optimum cooking facility for pizza, cookies, quiches and flans when used with the special pizza stone which fits the base of the oven. The Eco setting is a fast preheat function which combines grill, fan and lower element to achieve optimum energy efficiency. The most recent bread proving function generates air at 40°C which provides the perfect environment for proving yeast type dough mixes,” comments Joan Fraser, national sales support manager, Smeg UK.
Easy clean
Technological advancements are also present in oven cleaning functions.  Although pyrolytic cleaning has been around for a while, only recently has it been incorporated on an increasing number of ovens. The GfK data shows that 60% of built-in ovens don’t have a self-cleaning function, although 35% have catalytic liners, and pyrolytic cleaning accounts for only 6% of integrated ovens, although it is growing fast (30% between March ’06 and March ’08).  Most manufacturers now offer a number of cleaning options to suit different budgets. For example, Neff has a wide choice ranging from CeramiClean liners   to cleaning programmes for the liners, AquaCleanse and pyrolytic.
Consumers’ priorities
Electrolux research indicates that ‘value for money’ has the highest importance ranking when the consumer chooses an oven. Next come ‘appropriate size’, ‘good oven capacity’, ‘well made and robust’ and a ‘reliable brand name’. However, Neff’s Mike Jarrett thinks that: “design and design compatibility are probably the key issues: beyond that, there is little evidence that consumers are actively seeking specific features and functions.”
All manufacturers agree that the design of built-in ovens is of prime importance. Smeg’s Joan Fraser confirms: “Design is the key focal point for oven development at present, with R&D focusing on aesthetics and materials. Smeg has recently employed the services of accomplished and influential designer Marc Newson to create a new oven collection demonstrating exceptional aesthetics and colour.”
Although black is likely to be the next ‘safe’ choice, Baumatic’s Dance partners collection proves that colour is returning to the kitchen, “following hot on the heels of our desire for bright, retro interiors and renewed enthusiasm for warmer colours and patterns in fabric and furnishings,” comments Paul Thompson at Baumatic.
Guy Weaver, CE of Premium Appliance Brands, adds another dimension to this: “Environmental considerations increasingly play a role in customers choices, but price and style are still the key factors for the majority of consumers. Couples and single people are looking to save energy by opting for smaller ovens that heat up quickly and are perfect for smaller households, as well as being better for the environment.”
Hot tips
So how can the retailer take advantage of the growth potential of this product sector?
Product knowledge is the key here, and a sleek demonstration of the appliance’s features, coupled with explanation of its benefits are a good basis for making a sale. However, built-in ovens are a perfect tool to adopt a ‘solution-based’ approach which offers much greater benefits to both parties – the buyer and the seller. PAB’s Guy Weaver explains: “Offer innovative solutions to suit customers’ needs, such as helping people make the most of limited space by purchasing a single oven and add on extras such as warming drawers and built-in coffee machines.”
Mike Jarett, sales director of Neff, goes further, suggesting: “Move from double ovens and multiple models in column, to creating a block of appliances installed in a wall or bank of tall units. The UK is still obsessed with multiple cavity cooking options, while built-in offers complete installation flexibility, plus a range of specialist appliances, that range cookers and free-standing cookers just cannot deliver.”

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