Food prep & beverage making – Healthy profits

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There are certainly some influential trends out there which are having a positive effect on the food prep and beverage maker sectors.
Home cooking is something that has bubbled away for several years. But it is really pushing through some great development at the product end, as well as encouraging consumers to try their hand at something a little different.
The latest
Domotec produces a fully automatic pasta maker and also an ice cream maker, both selling for around £200, and have seen sales on the up.
The latest addition to the George Foreman family is the Grill and Melt, which has an adjustable lid which can be locked one and a half inches above the food, ideal for melting cheese or for softer foods that you really don’t want to squash.
Tefal has launched the innovative Toast N Egg, combi wide-slot toaster and egg cooker, which performs each function separately to make a breakfast sandwich in four minutes. On the Krups food prep side, the company is launching the full range of premium products in October and includes built-in scales, automatic mix programmes, eg for bread, which ‘super quiet’ motors. Senior product manager Stefan Kaczmarczyk says that in particular food processors, hand blenders and mini choppers are growing impressively, as more consumers become ‘opportunistic chefs’.
“The plethora of cookery programmes is really getting consumers back into the kitchen where they are becoming more adventurous with recipe creation,” he says. “Indeed, the average retail price of food processors has increased by 2% as consumers trade up to better specified machines.  In particular, sales of mini choppers have grown by 500% year on year in value, as compact food processors are now becoming an everyday piece of kitchen equipment.”
Birmingham-based Team UKI has introduced a series of products including a whole fish steamer (£49.99) as well as powerful juicer and bread maker. Managing director Tony Goldenfeld said the launch of the fish steamer was prompted by seeing the popularity of standard models and thinking about how it could be taken to the next level. “Fish is perfect for all occasions, but up until now the only methods of preparing a whole fish were usually very hard work with varying results – not ideal when you’re entertaining,” he said. “Our Whole Fish Steamer – the first on the market – makes sure with the use of a timer that you get perfect results each time.”
This chimes nicely with the healthy eating trend, which is certainly helping out with food prep –  the growth in smoothies, juice and power drinks and the desire to know exactly what is going into your food is translating in part to the food prep product sector.
The café culture
While not able to lay such a claim on health perhaps, nevertheless the coffee revolution shows no signs of trailing off.
Increased product development has seen a continuing rise in interest for capsule and pod machines. Alex Meir, senior product manager for beverages at Group SEB, says coffee is a growing market, especially for espresso makers, which are up around 15% in value, while stable in volume. “This trend shows that UK consumers tend to buy higher quality machines: fully automatic bean-to-cup, pods and those offering easy to make milky coffee.”
Sara Lovell, product marketing manager at De’Longhi says sales of instant coffee in the UK are static, thanks to consumers more discerning tastes. “They’re looking to replicate quality coffee in their own homes, which is translating to a rise in coffee machine sales,” she says. “This increasing interest has led to the two major innovations of single-serving capsule coffee machines and fully automatic bean-to-cup.”
De’Longhi has just launched two bean-to-cup machines, the Perfecta ESAM 5500 (£749.99) and 5400 (£499.99). The 5500 is certainly state-of-the-art, with a one-touch system, digital screen with rotating control dial for strength and length of coffee, patented cappuccino system and self-cleaning milk carafe which can be removed for storage in the fridge.
The way in which consumers actually make their coffee has been reworked, according to Sara Lovell, with the crucial functions like refilling water tanks and loading coffee capsules being moved to the front of coffee machines, making access easier.
Another move is the growing inclusion of coffee makers as part of built-in ranges, such is the nation’s love of coffee. Cheryl Henrys Dean, product manager for built-in at Glen Dimplex, which offers a coffee maker in its Stoves Accolade range, says a built-in coffee maker is fast becoming an expected item in integrated kitchens and could soon be considered as vital as a dishwasher or microwave. “It offers convenience and style, leaving space free for food preparation,” she says. “Our kitchens are often the most social space in our homes and, as the café culture is all about making time for friends, it’s a natural progression that coffee makers should become an integral part of our kitchen.”
Zanussi is another manufacturer offering a built-in coffee machine and both products combine all the best features of premium coffee makers. The Stoves S7-E450BCauto is fully automatic and includes a steam function and integrated coffee grinder, while the Zanussi ZCOF637X can also take coffee pods. It will be interesting to see how well established such accessories become – with average prices between £700 and £900. But both models would offer an extremely stylish aspect to a kitchen so it is easy to see why consumers revamping their kitchens might well include such a product.
Jane Wragg, marketing controller at Pulse with the Breville brand, says looking ahead it is clear the role of the kitchen is changing. “Our recent research has highlighted the role of the kitchen as the ‘engine room’ – not just a place of work for women, but a place of relaxation, socialising, self-expression, creativity, experimentation and play as well. A place which is now seen as the focal point of the whole house,” she says. “This makes product co-ordination important to some consumers who look at opportunities to give their kitchen a mini-makeover with new products.  And this is particularly true with items like kettles that sit in pride of place on the kitchen worktop.”
A perfect cuppa
Coffee is being joined by several products in the tea sector – tea ‘houses’ are fast becoming a trend, just as the high street coffee shops did a decade a go. While it is unlikely to have the same all-pervading effect, it is a trend that will continue and we can expect to see that reflected in products coming onto the market.
Meyer Prestige is claiming a first with its Fine T, a ‘gourmet tea machine’ which has been launched in response to the phenomenal growth in the speciality and loose tea market. Green tea is up the sharpest – at over 222%, while speciality tea in general is up by 60%.
Marketing manager Alison Senior said the two key considerations when preparing delicate teas like green or oolong were the temperature of the water and the infusion time. “Fine teas shouldn’t be prepared with boiled water but rather water that has been heated to the perfect temperature. It’s then just as important to maintain this temperature for the right amount of time to ensure precision brewing.” Fine T, retailing at £149.95, will be available from this autumn, with a full colour leaflet and a specially-designed in-store stand to house eight machines. It is aimed at the AB consumer sector, where speciality teas are particularly popular. “In fact 20% of these consumers say that health and vitality are a priority to them,” says Alison Senior, “and they are willing to invest in new technologies to help them achieve healthier lifestyles.”
Although this is the first product to be focused purely on tea, there are others which have taken into account the need for a lower temperature for speciality teas. The Tefal Quick Cup for one, while the Ainsley Harriott Eco Express kettles range from Home-tek features full temperature control.
This also hits another increasingly important issue for consumers – energy saving. Jamie Lennox, managing director at Home-tek, says eco-friendliness is a key theme for kettles. “With temperature controls, instead of wasting energy by always boiling the water, consumers can choose the correct temperature for their favourite specialist teas and coffees.”
Breville has also been encouraging consumers to only boil what they need and save water.  This includes designing kettles with bigger windows – such as its latest Blue Ice – to give a clear indication of how much water is being boiled.  This kettle also has an important energy message printed near the base of the large easy view window ‘Save energy – only boil what you need’ to encourage consumers not to overfill the kettle and waste energy.  Breville has also launched a 1 litre model for consumers who don’t need to boil large quantities of water.
The desire for energy-saving is tied up very closely with another issue – cash-saving. Price tends to be a dirty word, throughout the industry. But the global economic climate means there is movement – in the right direction, although whether that translates to consumers willing to spend their decreasing cash remains to be seen.
Jamie Lennox is positive about the future. “Prices are increasing.  I don’t think it’s about colour and fashion any more – consumers are looking for products which they believe will do the job, so build quality and performance are the key features now,” he says. “Prices are only going one way – up! At long last, the days of cheap products from China are over, so everyone has no choice but to increase retail prices. This should be good news for the independents, because it’s going to be about selling features and innovation, not about trying to be the cheapest.”
What to expect
Jason Steer, marketing controller for Russell Hobbs, whose ranges include the Marco Pierre White food prep collection, agrees that price is becoming less of a stumbling block to purchase. “Consumers are becoming more discerning and are willing to spend on appliances that last,” he says. “The market is moving away from cheap entry level appliances that break down to good looking reliable branded products that will do the job for years to come.”
But there will still be a place for key prices says Alex Meir at Group SEB. “Kettles are not usually promoted through ‘above the line’ activity but mainly through price promotion during key periods. With coffee – and for us, that’s mainly Nescafe Dolce Gusto with Krups – it’s about added value offers, in-store and outdoor demonstrations, PR and TV advertising.”

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