Small and sophisticated

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As staying in is the new going out, small kitchen appliances play an increasingly important role in consumers’ lives. Anna Ryland investigated what the SKA market has to offer to retailers willing to give small appliances their attention.

A recent report from Housewares found that 42% of consumers think that it’s important that their home looks ‘good for visiting guests’ and 30% of them now ‘regularly entertain friends’ at home. “Consumers are also investing in extending or refurbishing their existing homes rather than moving house. This has led to style and colour becoming a key trend in the SKA market, as consumers are now displaying their small kitchen appliances and using them to add an element of colour and style to their kitchens,” says Mark Swift, director of marketing at Kenwood.

Although colour and design are the key words in this category at the moment, people want, to invest in appliances that are reliable and good quality – such as those demonstrated in the television programmes. “Celebrity chefs and home baking programmes continue to drive interest to the category,” confirms Susan Morris, trade marketing manager, AEG Electrolux.

All market commentators stress that branding has never been more important in the SKA market than now. “Consumers are moving towards brand-led rather than own-label products due to the level of reassurance they gain when purchasing a well know, branded product. In the current climate, this allows for a great opportunity for independent retailers who stock branded small appliances,” suggests Helen Weir-Willats, brand manager, De’Longhi UK.

This trend has been reflected by market statistics showing that sales value of small kitchen appliances outpaced volume growth. Helen Warner, GfK account executive, SDA, explains: “Small kitchen appliances market has had a relatively successful past year increasing by nearly 9% in value during the twelve months to April 2012. This equates to an extra £52 million, driven by consumers choosing premium higher ticketed products.

“In volume terms, the market is down by nearly-3%, with the only key categories to have seen growth being hot beverage makers, food preparation and deep fryers. However, this growth isn’t enough to balance out the value declines seen by other categories, such as slow cookers, kettles and toasters. It is innovation and style driving sales especially in low oil deep fryers and areas of food preparation, such as choppers and kitchen machines. If this innovation continues and spreads into other areas of small kitchen appliances, we expect value growth to continue, but more premium products will generally come with a longer replacement cycle, which will slow down sales.”

With staying in becoming the new going out, “UK consumers are getting more and more sophisticated in the kitchen and home cooking remains popular. This means they want products to help solve the common cooking dilemmas: time, health and confidence,” says Millie Quickenden, marketing manager Kitchen Appliances, Philips UK. The latest products are designed to make cooking, baking or juicing simpler, quicker and cleaner. Consumers are also looking for new and innovative ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manufacturers are continuously launching health improvement products that proved so successful during the past few years.

What’s on offer?

Kettles and toasters

During the last 12 months, the ‘must have’ categories of kettles and toasters declined in terms of sales volume (by 4.4% and 2.3% respectively) but they showed a healthy value growth of 2.4% and 7.9% (toasters), indicating that there was plenty of product innovation in this area and that consumers are interested in premium and branded products.

Building on the popularity of 1950s- inspired designs and the success of its Icona range, De’Longhi launched in June 2012 its their newest range, Vintage Icona. The new range includes a rapid boil kettle, four slice toaster and bar pump coffee machine.  The range is available in three shades – two matt colour finishes, tan-leather and black, and one gloss finish – cream. Two additional colours will be launched in September.

A breakfast set designed to create a statement in the kitchen is the Swan Union Jack range – a cordless kettle with automatic cut off and a two-slice toaster embellished with the Union Jack flag and stainless trimmings. 

Colour is also a distinctive feature of Kenwood’s  kMix Boutique range which include kMix Toaster, kMix Coffee Maker and kMix Kettle – originally in almond, peppercorn and raspberry – but now available in five vibrant shades – magenta, blue, orange, green and yellow.

Tefal has just launched a new range of breakfast sets in black and white and with stainless steel finish. The Inox kettle has a 1.5 litre capacity and an illuminated interior. The Inox toaster has four toasting slots and six toasting positions to satisfy everyone’s taste.

Healthy cooking and frying

“Diet and health are also major factors in the SDA category and there is an increasing pressure on consumers to cook healthy food while getting enough nutrients from fruit and vegetables. 24% of UK homes have an electric fryer and 58% of those use their fryer once a week or more. However as deep fat frying is considered unhealthy, consumers are now looking for ways to cook healthy yet quick and tasty food,” comments Philips’ Millie Quickenden.

A relatively recent innovation in the healthy cooking category, which is getting strong customer following, are airfyers which deliver traditionally tasting results using a small amount of oil. These products are to a great extent responsible for a 30% value growth of the fryer category.

The Tefal ActiFry fryer range continues to be the UK’s number one selling kitchen appliance, combining both healthy cooking with great versatility. Tefal ActiFry Plus is 20% larger than the original ActiFry. Featuring ActiFry technology the range allows users to cook fresh potatoes in just one spoonful of oil. ActiFry can also be used to prepare curries and stir-frys.

The Philips Airfryer is another innovation in the fryers category, requiring little oil to ‘fry’ a variety of tasty and healthy meals. The Airfryer’s secret is its patented Rapid Air Technology which combines fast-circulating hot air with a grill to create such meals as chips,  chicken nuggets, meat, tempura prawns and even cakes.

Also De’Longhi has developed an alternative to deep fat frying that uses 50% less cooking oil compared to traditional fryers. The technology includes an integrated basket that slowly rotates through the hot oil rather than leaving food constantly submerged in it. De’Longhi’s Rotofry fryers also include a  Easy Clean drain tube where oil can be drained directly from the frying bowl into a storage container.

There also were new product innovations in the always-popular juicing category.

The Philips Avance Juicer has b
een developed to facilitate ‘mess-free’ juicing. The pulp container is positioned under the sieve to collect all the pulp for easy disposal. Once finished, the entire machine can be dissembled and all removable parts put in the dishwasher. Preparation time is also minimal, thanks to the extra-large feeding tube that allows ingredients to be inserted whole; so there’s no need for pre-cutting.

Meanwhile the AEG Powermix Silent blender features a patented sound reduction system making it one of the quietest blenders on the market. Today’s blenders produce an average of 85-95 dB – the same category as lawn mowers and motorcycles. The AEG Powermix Silent works at is just 77dB.

Food preparation

Food preparation equipment, such as food processors and kitchen machines, are showing a very strong value growth (up 17% during May 2011- April 2012). This was again due to increase of home entertaining and the demand for premium branded products.

As part of the True collection, Kenwood has added two compact food processors, in white and silver, ideal for consumers with a small kitchen space. They feature a sealed in-bowl drive system and a two-speed pulse action. 

New to Tefal is the powerful  Kitchen Machine with a wide assortment of attachments and functions and the Vitacompact Food Processor with ingenious storage system. The new Tefal Fresh Express, a compact electric grater that helps with quick preparation of healthy meals, has already proved to be very popular with consumers.

Swan Come Dine with Me Range of products offer a complete dinner party solution for people who choose to entertain at home. It includes six products together with a recipe book and a game pack. The collection consists of a 1.5 litre Gourmet Soup Maker that cooks and blends soups, a tangine for stir frys and slowly cooked Moroccan cuisine, a wok for six individual dishes, a stone raclette, a grill and an ice cream maker.

Energy efficiency

“Unlike in the major domestic appliances market, there hasn’t been an overall focus on energy efficient products in the SKA category,” says GfK’s Helen Warner.

However some leading brands, conscious of the growing importance of this issue, equip their product with energy efficient features. For example, all De’Longhi’s coffee machines are more than an A+ energy rated and are fitted with energy saving features including a stand-by function.

In the Kenwood Metallics range, two and four slot toasters features an ecoslot energy saving toasting function, saving up to 50% energy.

Selling SKA

Small kitchen appliance are ideal products for attracting consumer interest to the store. The latest generation of kitchen products with their vibrant colours, innovative finishes and sleek designs is better than ever before suited for this purpose.

However, the real success of SKA in store could be only built on regular demonstrations during which consumers can touch and interact with products, verify their quality and suitability for their needs.

“By demonstrating innovative features, the independent retailer has the ability to convince the consumer to purchase the product – I have proved in the past that physical demonstration or video demonstration can increase in-store sales by up to 400 per cent,” argues Jamie Lennox, Home-tek Europe’s managing director.

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