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For almost a decade, the market penetration of dishwashers in Britain remained under 30%. In other European countries, such as France, Austria and Switzerland, the levels of penetration of the appliance are over 65%. It is very significant therefore that this situation has suddenly begun to change.

Although the dishwasher has suffered a similar fate to other domestic appliances during the recessionary squeeze, a definite change is on the horizon in this product category. Seema Baines, GfK account manager, domestic appliances, explains: “2009 has seen a decline in sales across the MDA markets, with volume down by 10% and value down by 4.9% in the 12 months to November 2009.  Whilst this decline is reflected in dishwasher sales (801 thousand units 2009), the rates are slightly lower – at   -7.6% in volume and –4.0% in value. However, June saw the monthly dishwasher sales move into positive growth where it has mostly stayed, with all of the volume growth being driven by the slimline market.  Despite the market decline, retailers have not been overly tempted to drop prices to boost sales. The average prices for both full size (£340) and slimline (£283) models have increased during the year. As a result the annual average price of dishwashers will be above £300 for the first time since 2004.”

The slow growth in dishwasher penetration during the last decade was mainly due to the fact that the majority of new-build homes came with dishwashers installed as standard. Also, many first time property buyers grew up in homes where the dishwasher was used on a daily basis and they couldn’t live without one. Repeat purchasers, convinced of the dishwasher’s merits, and seeking more sophisticated features accounted for the remaining share of the market.

New priorities

Then the recession came and a new set of priorities started guiding customers’ purchasing decisions. “Previously factors such as design and aesthetics were at the top of customers’ lists along with price and functions.  Now, consumers take a keener look at factors such as energy efficiency, noise levels and capacity,” says Steve Dickson, commercial manager for Belling and Stoves.

Caroline Guillermard, head of product at Maytag UK, adds: “Consumers now look for triple A rated machines that are using less water and electricity, because their priorities have changed. Utility prices are going to continue to spiral in future years and it is a necessity to get consumption in the home to economical and practical levels.”

However there is a downside to this environmental economy, warns Caroline Guillermard: “The programme times are extremely long, which is off-putting to most people. To get over this issue manufacturers have introduced quick/fast/express washes, which are less economical with water and electricity but deliver shorter programme times.  It is in this area, that we will see major developments in the next few years.”

According to Iain Starkey, Hotpoint brand manager, the latest technological and product advancements in dishwashers are:

  • Energy and water saving technology, such as faster wash cycles and sensors that set water pressure and temperature to match the nature and size of the load;
  • Increased noise reduction;
  • Larger load capacity and more flexible loading options like movable baskets, folding plate racks and sliding cutlery baskets;
  • Specialist programmes.

Intelligent and eco-friendly

In the 1970s, an average dishwasher used 50 litres of water per wash while now average water consumption is 15 litres. Key in making the dishwasher an eco-friendly appliance are sophisticated electronics which are at the heart of the ‘intelligent’ programmes.

For example, “All De Dietrich integrated dishwashers feature ICS intelligence (Intelligent Control System). When using the ICS setting, sensors within the machine’s cavity assess the quantity and level of dirt present in the load and automatically calculate the most appropriate wash, rinse and drying programme, thus ensuring the best possible results using the least water and energy,” explains Richard Walker, sales and marketing director, De Dietrich Kitchen Appliances.

Also the AAA-rated Fagor LF73DWiTU dishwasher featuring AIS (Advanced Intelligence System), reduces washing times by up to 30% on any programme. It also has an in-built Eco sensor that saves up to 25% water by measuring how cloudy the water is and reusing it where applicable.

“Smeg’s Save+ programme, combines an alternative drying system with a more efficient washing cycle to obtain a 10% reduction in energy usage compared with a standard ‘A’ class dishwasher, whilst Quick Time reduces the length of the washing cycle by up to 55%, combining higher temperatures with an intense mechanical spray action,” comments Joan Fraser, product development and training manager, Smeg UK.

Whirlpool’s 6th Sense technology featured on its AquaSteam dishwasher allows for up to 30% savings of water, energy and time. Meanwhile Sensor Wash on Miele dishwashers, which automatically adjusts the amount of water to the level of soiling of dishes, uses as little as 10 litres of water per cycle.

The unique ‘zeolith’ technology and energy recovery system – designed to save energy and water – is used by Siemens Zeolith dishwashers. It utilises the natural qualities of a mineral which comes into its own during the drying cycle when the mineral absorbs the warm air and then releases heat energy to dry the dishes (see Products to Watch).

Smart technology is also present on the Hotpoint Ultima FFD914 dishwasher which uses 30% less water per place setting than the entry level model (FDM550). All Hotpoint dishwashers feature an ‘Eco Wash’ cycle ensuring low energy consumption. 

Whisper quiet

With the advent of open plan living and more entertaining at home, the noise level of a dishwasher is an important consideration. “Around the mid-40 decibel mark is where the quietest dishwashers sit and whisper their way through the programmes without a murmur of disturbance to the rest of the household.  Maytag’s new XXL model operates at just 43 dB(A),” comments Maytag’s Caroline Guillermard.

Smeg’s dishwashers are also exceptionally quiet – working at as low as 42dB(A). “They feature a number of integral design factors to minimise noise, eg the motor and pump are mounted within the thermoplastic base and encased in special panels to absorb the noise and vibration,” says Joan Fraser. Also on Miele dishwashers, panel insulation reduces the noise levels to 46dB. Baumatic  BDF683SS model operates at just 46dB.

Meanwhile, AEG-Electrolux offers some of the quietest models on the market – the F80873 is just 39dB on the night cycle and 41dB on its day cycles.

Large and flexible

The desirability of dishwasher models is often linked to their capacity (unless customers living in smaller homes require compact models), and manufactures go to great lengths to make room for as many items as possible in a standard footprint. That’s why Maytag has launched the Maytag XXL, with a 58cm high interior adding 40% more space inside, and the fourth rack. This means washing even more for less – 17 place settings or 195 items in less than 10 litres of water.

“Today’s consumer, above all, wants convenience, so appliances that are easy to load and easy to control with a good selection of programmes and clear indicators are popular. Amica’s ZIM627 includes a cycle especially developed to achieve the best results from 3-in-1 multi-component detergents,” says Simon Freear, country manager for Amica in the UK. Amica has just launched in the UK a range of highly functional dishwashers with good margi
ns for retailers.

“Design inside and outside is important,” stresses Sophie Davidson, Electrolux product manager. “Inside design detail that is important includes dishwashers with height adjustable baskets (to accommodate different sized plates); foldable racks on the bottom shelf so you can wash large casserole dishes and plenty of supports for wine glasses. On the outside consumers want sleek clean lines, large LCD displays that communicate clearly and visually, and looks that coordinate with other kitchen appliances.”

Compact but ergonomically ingenious,  Fisher & Paykel’s DishDrawer opens and closes as easily as a kitchen drawer. Its latest model has improved slide-and-fold racks and height-adjustable cup racks, and features nine wash programmes including an eco option. 

To meet a variety of customers’ lifestyle needs dishwashers feature many specialist programmes, such as a glass care programme on Miele dishwashers that cares for delicate glassware or ‘baby cycle’ on Hotpoint Ultima (an intensive wash to remove harmful bacteria).

The length of a wash is also important, especially in large households, and dishwashers feature 30 minute (even 25 minutes – in the case of Hotpoint Ultima dishwasher) or 55 minute quick washers.  Also half load programmes can make a real difference.

“This saves both water and time and is perfect for two-person households where the dishwasher is not normally filled to capacity every day,” argues Rita Balestrazzi, marketing manager at Baumatic.

New in dishwashing is steam technology. Whirlpool’s AquaSteam dishwasher is one of the first in Europe to use it. It uses steam to gently soften and loosen dirt from heavily soiled dishes, pots and pans. It eliminates the need for pre-soaking or customer intervention prior to washing in the machine and promotes the elimination of bacteria.  Steam technology is also used on the KitchenAid Pro Steam dishwasher, which, according to the manufacturer, increases the effectiveness of cleaning by 13%. The steam function is also ideal for delicate glasses and dishes.

Aesthetics always important

“As the desire for open plan living increases and the kitchen merges with the living area, so dishwashers have become sleeker, and more streamlined in their design and quieter in their operation. Customers want their kitchens to portray the rest of the home, which is why style and design of the product have assumed great importance in the purchasing decision,” says Juliana Sado, brand communication marketing manager at Whirlpool.

It is also worth remembering that second time buyers not only expect more sophisticated functionality from the appliances but also sleeker design than their previous model had.  Especially at the high end of the market, consumers don’t look for utilitarian appliances but those that will reflect their lifestyle and status.

The future is bright

With market penetration of dishwashers at around 30%, utility bills rising and the importance of environmental factors in every walk of life growing, the prospects for this product sector look good.

The facts about energy and water consumption prove that a dishwasher can make a difference to the household budget, as well as protecting our finite resources. Moreover it is becoming widely recognised that it saves the most precious commodity nowadays – time.

Leading white good manufacturers are developing technologies which will make dishwashers even more efficient and attractive to the customer. For example, Whirlpool’s GreenKitchen is “about creating an exchange system of energy and water. The water we use for rinsing and washing vegetables or when we are at the sink just disappears down the drain.  We capture this waste water, filter it into a tank and then this is warmed by the activities of the refrigerator for instance, which is then used in the dishwasher.  No energy is required to warm the water – the waste of one appliance is the resource of the next,” explains Juliana Saldo.

However the main challenge is to communicate these facts to the customers – at every opportunity – and first of all at the point of sale. n

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