These days a kitchen hood evokes images of modern styling and flamboyant design which steal the attention from many other domestic appliances in the kitchen. This shows how far the extractor hood has travelled from the times when chimney hoods were installed above the cookers often disguised by the overhead cupboard to keep them out of sight once they performed their utilitarian function.
Now kitchen makeovers are frequently planned around these pieces of modern art. “Design is the main element in the choice of a hood. It’s more about the way it looks than the way it performs. As much as we would like the consumer to be more aware of the technical expertise of our hoods, the fact remains that design and price are the only two issues involved from their point of view,” explains Jane Massey, brand manager for Siemens.
The popularity of built-in appliances and of kitchen makeovers – in line with the changing role of the kitchen as a centre of family life – fuel demand for extractor hoods, which customers try to coordinate with the style and finish of other kitchen appliances. Anthony Williamson, senior account manager, DA, at GfK, comments: “The market grew by 3% year on year, but more than 4% in value terms suggesting that consumers are looking at higher end products when they buy, a trend echoed by the relatively low average price increase on the year. Last year consumers spent an extra £3.9m on hoods taking total value to £53.8m for the year, an impressive achievement for what many consumers see as an accessory for the main cooking equipment.”
A general aspiration is to get the best looking hood one can afford: “High value products like the island hoods are out of reach for many consumers, but increasingly better styles and greater functionality have been introduced with more mainstream products, such as the chimney and integrated type of products. Telescopic hoods, though a relatively small chunk of the sector, are experiencing growth due to the needs of space, whilst chimney hoods are still traditional and popular as an add on to a cooking package deal,” continues Anthony Williamson.
Technology – still a mystery
Extraction efficiency of modern hoods has improved considerably over the last couple years due to a few significant technological advances. One of the latest developments from Baumatic is tangential motors, which pull air in from around the entire perimeter of the motor rather than just the front. “We have recently introduced these to our new Dance Partners hoods. They give the customer vastly improved extraction, filtering a wider area of air, and work especially well on the Dance Partners hoods because of their angled shape, which extracts up the wall rather than directly from above,” comments Paul Thompson, managing director of Baumatic UK.
Meanwhile Electrolux introduced perimeter extraction. Dawn Stockwell explains: “Air is directed to the edge of the cooker hood so that the entire perimeter of the hood is used thereby reducing energy consumption and noise level whilst delivering an outstanding performance.”
De Dietrich’s top of the range decorative glass model (DHD597X) is equipped with Intelligent Control System which features a very powerful extraction level of 1100m3/h and quiet operation at 49db, while it is automatically activated as soon as sensors detect any steam or fumes from the hob. It will also switch itself off after a few minutes if it no longer detects any activity on the hob.
Improvements in grease filtering, and making the filters removable for easy cleaning either manually or in the dishwasher – are the directions in which both Miele and Whirlpool are currently moving.
And yet, these technological developments have to be actively ‘sold’ to the customer as “there is a lot of ignorance over the more significant technical features, such as choosing the correct ducting or even what shifts most air, so consumers tend to focus on the two areas they do understand: what looks good in the kitchen and what they are prepared to pay,” says Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff.
Since there is no agreement on how to measure the noise levels of the extraction hood, it is difficult for the consumer to benchmark the models available on the market. Perhaps not surprising, “the AEGElectrolux Noise Report found that 33% of those buying cooker hoods wished they had taken noise into account to a greater degree when they bought each item. The survey also revealed that given the choice again, around half would go for the quieter option, even if it was more expensive,” points out Dawn Stockell, marketing manager at Electrolux Major Appliances.
Recognising the importance of low noise levels in modern multi-dimensional kitchens, manufacturers are working hard to reduce hoods’ noise. For example, Electrolux EFA90678 100cm stainless steel island hood due to perimeter extraction technology is considered as a super quiet one in the Insight collection. Also De Dietrich has reduced noise levels to a minimum across its hood range, denoting them with ‘Silence Inside 2’ logo.
Extractor hoods have to first of all be compatible with hobs or cookers which they ‘service’. For example, the recent popularity of range cookers has led to product developments which suit best this type of cooking. “We’re seeing a continuing growth in five burner hobs which require larger 90cm hoods for effective odour and grease removal. On the design side we are seeing the trend for stainlesssteel hoods continuing to dominate, giving kitchens a contemporary, slightly industrial feel,” commented Maurizio Severgnini, acting managing director, built-in, division at Hoover Candy Group.
However, “There has been a recent trend towards extractors that don’t look like extractors!” remarked Baumatic’s Paul Thompson. “For example, our new Segretto extractor is designed to resemble a light fitting and hides the more industrial element of extractors and instead provides a nice décor feature.” Baumatic also have the new Pythagora collection which include cylindrical hoods that match well rounded hobs.
Also Whirlpool’s Evolution hood “has taken hood design a step further, bridging the gap between stylish furniture and functional appliance further by becoming a part of the lighting set up in the kitchen”,
Nevertheless, “chimney hoods are still hugely popular and growing. Glass and curves are still significant in the UK, although trends elsewhere in Europe are for more angular designs. Angled hoods are also very popular, increasing head room in the cooking area. It doesn’t matter how efficient or quiet your cooker hoods is if it keeps bruising your forehead!” explains Ken Humphrey, Bosch brand manager.
As the market is becoming more saturated with sleek designs, the manufacturers are trying to impress customers with other hood features, such as integrated lighting, as people see that the ambient lighting can be created via a hood without the need for extra wiring. For example, Electrolux’s new Global Design range of Feature Hoods features the ‘light bar’ – a slim horizontal bar of light spanning the width of the appliance.
Explain, show and advise
Because an average customer has a low level of understanding of extraction hood technology and its potential impact on their home, it is vital for the independent to have up-to-date product knowledge. “The most important factor to consider when selling a hood is the job it has to perform and the environment it has to perform in. Supplying a customer with a hood with the right extraction rate, guidance for correct installation and suitability for the room in which it is going to be used is key to customer satisfaction,” sums up the retailer’s role Joan Fraser, national sales support manger at Smeg.
FagorBrandt’s Richard Walker also points that majority of consumers are unaware that noise levels are affected by installation. The longer the ducting, the nosier is the performance of the hood. He suggests that for the best performance ducting should not exceed five meters. Consumers are often unaware of what extraction levels they need in their kitchens. “It is a simple calculation that dealers can offer: Take the width by the length by the height of the kitchen and multiply by ten. The result is the minimum level of extraction required.”
After all, it is worth remembering that, extractor hoods because of their ‘wow’ factor and a focal position in the kitchen have an excellent potential for upselling. “If the customer is investing in their once in a lifetime dream kitchen, then the price of each individual component is of least importance,” stresses FagorBrandt’s Richard Walker.
Selling extractor hoods – tips
- Ask how the customer views their kitchen – only as a place to prepare food or as an extension of their living room (super quiet hoods would be perfect in the latter case).
- Ensure that the cooker hood is suitable for the size of the customer’s kitchen.
- Advise customers that ducting hood to the outside is the preferable solution.
- Hoods should be displayed when possible, especially if they have touch sensitive controls and lights.
- Remember – environmental factors are of growing importance.