Health benefits

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Today’s home cook wants to produce something tasty and healthy for the family. With the recent surge in consumer awareness of both the produce itself and ways of preserving and cooking it, more and more customers are looking to buy appliances that will help them create low-fat meals quickly and efficiently.

In response to this demand, manufacturers have recently launched a range of cooking appliances that cut down on the need for fats and oils, delivering delicious meals full of nutrients and flavour.

Market trends

Juliana Sado, brand marketing manager for Whirlpool, says, “With obesity rates and health issues at an all-time high, the consumer has realised that they have to adopt a healthier lifestyle, aided through healthier cooking. We anticipate the market to grow, as consumers realise the great advantages of steam and microwave cooking, and see it as a passport to the future as one of the tastiest and healthiest cooking methods around.”

In recent years, we have seen the development of compact built-in steam ovens as well as freestanding countertop steam microwave combinations. This has now evolved to include multifunction ovens with steam for the best of all worlds.

Modular hob cooking has also become more experimental. With TV chefs showing how simple it is to recreate Mediterranean dishes using just a handful of fresh ingredients, consumers are adding to their existing hob with domino hob units, wok burners and BBQ grills – mixing and matching to suit their cooking needs.

For those whose budget won’t allow for major purchases, there are plenty of innovative ideas in small appliances too, with tabletop grills, food mixers and even soup makers to help give mealtimes a healthy new twist.

So why steam?

When it comes to selling this new generation of steam ovens, it’s essential for the retailer to highlight the benefits. Mike Jarrett, sales director for Neff, has this advice, “Most people think that steam ovens are just for steaming vegetables and rice, which for steam-only models is generally the case. However, steam ovens are also excellent for refreshing already-cooked food, particularly bread and pastry, and combination models are able to link hot air with steam to ensure practically any food type can be cooked, including more traditional meals such as roast pork and crackling.”

It should also be pointed out that scientific studies have proved that vegetables retain up to 50% more vitamin C when cooked with steam, and that steam ovens can also be used to prepare soups, pasta, eggs, fish and even puddings.

The appliances themselves are also easy to install, as Richard Walker, sales and marketing director for De Dietrich, explains, “We have always manufactured steam ovens that require no plumbing in, enabling installers and designers to incorporate the product anywhere in the kitchen layout without the need for it to be attached to the mains drainage. Most manufacturers have followed this lead and many steam ovens now incorporate removable water jars as standard.”

Walker goes on to say that the benefits of a dedicated steam oven are far greater than using a pan and steamer on the hob, “All vitamins and mineral salts are retained in the food, as is the colour. It’s also possible to steam separate food types together with no mixing of flavours, so vegetables and puddings can be steamed together.”

New products

So what new products are in store? Although not everyone is going down the steam ovens route, many of the main players are and they are sure to benefit from doing so.

The latest steam oven to join Whirlpool’s portfolio is the AMW597 from the Fusion Line. It has an integrated water tank, an A rating for energy efficiency and 34 litre capacity. Along with steam, reheating and defrosting programmes, it also has the option to raise and prove bread, ideal for customers who enjoy home bread making.

Smeg has updated its collection of compact steam ovens with a new look for the SC45V2 Linea and S45V2 Classic, while the S302X is a new combination steam model.

Miele is thinking big with its new larger capacity DGC5080XL. Launched earlier this year, it offers the benefits of conventional dry heat as well as steam combined in one 39-litre appliance.

Küppersbusch and Teka offer one of the biggest ranges of steam appliances in a variety of finishes to suit all kitchens, including black chrome, platinum white and fingerprint-proof stainless steel. Teka’s HKX960S is a 45cm compact steam oven from the Expression range, with an LCD display touch control panel. Küppersbusch is also offering a compact steam oven in its brand new Black Chrome series – the EEBD6600.1E combi model.

Other options include Hotpoint’s SEO100X steam oven, Gorenje’s Pure BOC6322AX combination steam oven and the AEG-Electrolux B98205M multifunction steam oven, which combines true steam with multifunction cooking.

New for 2010, Fagor has launched the 6HV-585ATCX fully touch control 45cm steam oven to its range of compact appliances. The brand has also unveiled the FSO1700X, a standard 60cm multifunction pyrolytic self-cleaning single oven with additional steam function featuring 12 pre-set steam recipe options.

Baumatic has its P470SS combination multifunction steam model, while Bosch offers two steaming products – the Logixx steam combination and the Exxcel steamer.

“Our latest steam oven is the S0109,” says Danny Lay, sales director for Caple. “It features an innovative injection steam system, which provides a more consistent temperature throughout the cooking process. It also boasts a 34 litre capacity, which is much larger than our previous model.”

For Samsung, whose FQV137ST steam oven features steam cleaning, there’s also the OmniPro convection oven, which provides 35 cooking functions for the healthiest option available. You select the appropriate programme and the oven weighs the food and suggests the ideal cooking time.

Small appliances

There’s plenty to choose from for the smaller budget, too. Jason Steer, marketing controller for Russell Hobbs, confirms that George Foreman grills are now owned by 40% of UK households, “and that shows the importance of not just healthy but convenient eating, too.” The latest grills are designed to complement the kettle and toaster, so they remain on display at all times. “In fact,” adds Steer, “healthy grills are back on the increase, not just because of the health benefits but because cooking times are reduced by half and the health grill is surprisingly versatile, too. They can cook a range of foods, from frozen products to vegetables and even fruit kebabs. The grills are also really energy efficient compared to conventional cooking methods as they use only a fraction of the energy required to heat an electric oven or conventional oven grill.”

Kenwood has introduced its first-ever compact glass blender to the market. The BL680 is designed for small households. “The blender market is worth over £16million and has been in growth for the last 12 months,” confirms Penny Jones, Kenwood brand manager, “with compact blenders having a 17.4% share. The compact market has potential for growth and the BL680 gives consumers the opportunity to choose a smaller yet still stylish product.” It has a solid brushed metal base, 1.2 litre glass goblet and powerful 500W motor. Its latest food processor is also sure to be a hit, as the Multipro Excel FP980 has achieved coveted accreditation from the Good Housekeeping Institute. “We’ll be communicating the news on packs from April,” adds Jones, “which will offer a real selling point for retailers.”

For Cuisinart, the revolutionary Soup Maker has been making waves since its introduction to the market in September 2009. It’s the
first blender to feature an integrated heating plate, enabling you to create fresh, hot healthy soup in just 20 minutes. Other appliances from the range include the Cuisinart Cook & Steam, Cook & Hold and Griddle & Grill. John Smethurst, divisional manager for Cuisinart in the UK, says that, “Healthy home cooking with quality food continues to be a priority for the UK consumer. Cuisinart intends to continue to develop a healthy range of products that consumers will be proud to own as they continue to develop their cooking and entertaining skills and offer technology with taste.”

Future focus

So what does the future hold? Nick Bevan, product manager for built-in at Samsung Electronics, says, “we are finding that discerning homeowners want cooking options that cater for their fast-paced and leisure-centric lifestyles, their varied eating habits and that allow them to eat healthily. In essence, they are telling us that they want their appliances to do the hard work for them. Consumers are increasingly buying appliances that deliver an ‘all in one’ solution, so they can enjoy the benefits of several cooking appliances from one unit.”

Rita Balestrazzi, marketing manager for Baumatic, adds that “while steam cooking will never entirely replace more ‘traditional’ methods, there is certainly a place for the steam oven in the contemporary kitchen and we predict that sales of steam ovens, combination ovens and hobs with wok burners, all of which provide a more healthy way of cooking, will continue to increase.”

Sales tips

• Display appliances in a kitchen setting as your customers will find it easy to relate to and identify  with.

• Wire the appliances for action, turn them on and demonstrate. Seeing is believing for the customer – show just how easy steam ovens are to use and how great the results are.

• Highlight the fact that most steam ovens don’t need to be plumbed in, so they can be installed virtually anywhere in the kitchen.

• Focus on the health benefits when talking through the latest appliances, as this is high on consumers’ agenda.

• Take advantage of manufacturers’ training initiatives so that you’re up to date with the latest programmes and features and how to use them.

• Have a good product mix on display and highlight key USPs so the customer knows the differences between the models and price points.

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