The modern cook

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There’s no doubt that sales figures for 2007 looked promising. Built-in electric ovens saw the biggest rise with an 8.7% increase in volume, with double ovens the preferred option – showing a 15.3% volume growth. In the hobs sector, it was electric hobs that bagged the biggest increase, with a rise of 5.3% in volume against a 2.8% rise in sales of gas. This may have been largely due to induction finally making an impact on the market.
In the freestanding cookers sector, dual fuel models performed best with a 7% rise in volume and 7.8% increase in value (source: Jan-Dec 2007, GfK).
It seems that today’s modern cook is showing no signs of slowing down when it comes to kitting out the kitchen with the latest cooking appliances, as Joan Fraser, national sales support manager for Smeg, explains, “As lifestyles become increasingly hectic, the modern kitchen aims to fulfil the fast pace and versatile requirements of the consumer. Appliances within the modern kitchen tend to enhance usability and the speed at which functions can be carried out, making life that little bit easier for homeowners.”
Built-in ovens
The built-in market is still strong. As the trend for linear lines and geometric shapes continues, manufacturers have provided an impressive portfolio of ovens to satisfy the keenest of cooks.
Samsung has broken the mould with the introduction of its Dual Cook single oven, which allows you to divide the cavity in two, allowing just the top half of the oven to be used. Not only does this mean the oven heats up quicker but it also saves 25% more energy.
Product marketing manager for Glen Dimplex Home Appliances Steve Dickson warns that technological development for technology’s sake shouldn’t be encouraged. He maintains that innovation should result in tangible benefits to the consumer, so it’s more important than ever that retailers are familiar with the advantages of such features in order to increase sales. “One of our most popular new features is the intelligent meat probe,” adds Steve, “which is simply pushed into meat and is capable of taking an accurate temperature reading that turns the oven off automatically when the meat is cooked.”
There’s exciting news from Electrolux too, with the launch of its Inspiro oven, which uses heat management technology to do everything for you – deciding temperatures, times and functions – and changing them to suit as it goes along. Miele also continues to offer sophisticated cooking functions with its Navitronic sensor touch controls, which allow the customer to select the food type they wish to cook then virtually leave the rest to the oven. Hotpoint has also recently introduced an intelligent cooking system to some of its built-in ovens.  In 2008, De Dietrich extended its range of ICS (Intelligent Control System) single ovens, which use sensors to assess the weight and density of the food then automatically set all parameters for cooking, including shelf level, temperature and duration.
Compact ovens are becoming increasingly popular as they offer a mix of cooking functions with add-ons tailor-made to the customer’s needs. At the other end of the scale, Fisher & Paykel recently introduced a tower oven – the OB60DDEX1 – one of the few double ovens on the market that offers two full size cavities.
Range cookers
“While range cookers may have overshadowed built-in ovens in recent years,” says Richard Cristina, product marketing director for Baumatic, “they are now fighting back in a big way – offering improved cooking capabilities and comparable capacity as well as clever cleaning solutions.”
This is certainly true in the case of Falcon’s 900S, which has a unique design feature that uses an intelligent energy-saving panel to reduce the main double oven by half, saving cost, time and energy.
Maytag has also launched a new collection that offers user-friendly features, such as easy-grip controls, a drag hob top so you can slide pans between zones, multi-layered glass doors for safety and energy efficiency, and multifunction ovens for versatility.
Cannon has launched two new additions to its Classic freestanding range – the 60cm Carrick gas double oven and the 50cm Connemara gas twin cavity that both feature gas cut-out flame failure devices in line with the new CORGI regulations. 
One of the most exciting developments in recent months is the launch of AEG-Electrolux’s 66331K Direktouch – a new hob interface that allows consumers to go directly to the desired cooking level instead of having to go through each of the previous steps on the touch control.
Induction also seems to be finally making an impact, as price points have come down and consumers are more familiar with their benefits. This year De Dietrich introduced induction hobs with Continuum zones. The 34cm rectangular zones feature many inductors beneath the surface, which enable you to place any number of pans on top. “Reacting instantaneously to the set power levels, the zone can be separately controlled in two sections; front and back or left and right dependent on the model,” explains sales and marketing director Richard Walker.
Miele has introduced its top-of-the-range KM5993 induction model with five booster zones and memory function, while Team UKI is also planning a touch control induction hob for the near future.
In the gas market, Bosch concentrates on safety features with a flame failure device and a main switch that acts as a safety lock and quick stop, while Premium Appliance Brands offers a 112cm stainless steel ribbon hob with wok burner and three additional burners set in a line formation to save worktop space and prevent the user from reaching over hot zones.
Cooker hoods are often sought after as design features for the kitchen but retailers need to make customers aware of the importance of the maximum extraction rate, filter type and noise level.
One of the latest innovations comes from Whirlpool, as brand marketing manager Ray Isted explains, “Whirlpool’s unique microwave hood combination has been given a stylish makeover – the space above the hob can be put to dual use as the microwave has been cleverly integrated into the cooker hood. This means that worktops are left clear for the more important things, such as food preparation and spice racks. This stylish microwave also offers additional features such as the jet defrost option and crisp plate.”
Steam ovens
“Although it has been around in the industry for a while,” says Maurice Wilson, sales director for Team UKI, “steam cooking is relatively new to consumers, who up until now have been somewhat slow on the uptake, preferring instead to stick to well-known and trusted methods of cooking. This could be because steam ovens, like induction hobs, are seen as luxury items, or more complex than cooking on a hob or in an oven, when, in fact, this is not the case.”
Team UKI now produces a unique fish steamer, specially shaped for a whole fish, while Swiss manufacturer V-ZUG offers a gourmet steam function on its Combi Steam SL Steam oven.
With more than 90% of UK households already owning a microwave, this continues to be a demanding and mature market. LG however, is one manufacturer who continues to offer exciting new opportunities for both retailer and customer. Earlier this year, they launched the SolarCube – an all-in-one oven that integrates microwave and grill. “It can cook nutritious meals up to four times faster than a conventional oven,” says Simona Allan, marketing manager for LG Electronics.
Size and styling
According to Steve Dickson, product marketing manager for Glen Dimplex Home Appliances, “Colour continues to play a key role in the modern kitchen, as our interior spaces increasingly reflect what’s happening in the fashion world. 
Patterned finishes were also an emerging trend this year, particularly on range cookers, but there’s no doubt that stainless steel remains the most popular choice.
Black is predicted as the next safe choice for kitchen appliances and many manufacturers are launching a whole portfolio of matching products.
Size-wise, it seems that both ends of the scale are in vogue, with compact ovens and linear hobs sitting alongside extra wide hoods and 90cm built-in ovens.
The key to successful sales is therefore to offer choice and flexibility to fulfil the customer’s needs.

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