The technology of the future

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Despite its numerous benefits, induction technology is still misunderstood and undervalued. What could be done to demystify induction for the average customer? asks Anna Ryland.

Induction coking is considered as one the greatest technological advancements in the kitchen. It has been on the market for over 20 years and yet its popularity is still surprisingly low.

“Although available for over two decades, induction hobs have been hidden from the high street due to their unattainable budget breaking prices. Today many manufacturers have entered the market making them more affordable. However there is more to induction hobs than efficiency, control and easy cleaning. The latest generation of induction hobs have new features, lower prices and offer clever and helpful intelligence and flexible cooking zones,” explains Simona Bara, product marketing manager, Built-in at Whirlpool.

In addition to the declining price of induction hobs the interest in induction is fuelled by other socio-economic factors. “As the gadgetry market continues to influence household desires with new generation smart phones, tablet POs, interactive televisions and more advanced games consoles becoming must-have items in households of all ages, demand for intelligent programming and features of convenience grows,” points out Simon Freear, country manager for Amica UK.

The market statistics reflect the fast growth of the induction hob market. “Following several years of consistent growth, the past twelve months have continued this positive trend, with sales up by 18% in volume and 11% in value. This growth means that induction hobs market is now worth £31 million, and accounts for just over a quarter of all value sales within the built-in hob category. Priced at £465 (November 11- October 12), which is double the price of an average hob, this poses the question as to why consumer demand continues to grow for this type of premium appliance. The answer lies with its advanced heating technology,” says Seema Boyd, GfK senior account manger, Home Appliances.

Raff Rochira, Hotpoint built-in category manager, is also very optimistic about the prospects for induction. “The induction market is growing very quickly and now accounts for 10% of electric hobs, and this has easily doubled over the last five years. We expect to see this market grow faster – doubling again in the next three to five years.”

The winning technology

Induction is the most responsive from of cooking, giving the consumer a high degree of precision and control. “The induction cooking element contains a powerful magnetic coil, which creates a high-frequency electromagnetic field. When a cooking pot made of a ferrous material such as iron is placed on the cooker top, the element turns on and the magnetic field transfers energy to the pan, “explains Murat Sapci, Beko’s product manager (built-in).

GfK’s Seema Boyd summarises the user benefits of induction hobs: “The hobs are heated using an electromagnetic current, resulting in the heating process being almost twice as fast as traditional gas hobs. Temperatures can be changed instantly, providing a highly accurate cooking performance. The use of a current also has substantial safety advantages. The electromagnetic current ensures that the heat is generated in the pan, rather than on the hob surface. This means the hob itself never becomes dangerously hot to touch, making it far safer, and also much easier to clean. Induction hobs are also considerably more energy efficient, consuming almost half the energy used by traditional gas hobs.”

The main drawback of induction cooking is the fact that the user has to invest in compatible pans. Cookware used on an induction hob must be compatible with induction heating; glass and ceramics are unusable, as are solid copper or solid aluminium cookware. Moreover cookware must have a flat bottom since the magnetic field drops rapidly with distance from the surface. Also consumers can’t pre-heat pans as the hob will not work with an empty pan, explains Beko’s Mura Sapci.

However, Whirlpool has developed an alternative to buying new set of saucepans. Its Interface Induction Disc accessory can be placed on the induction zone and any pan works immediately. This accessory is not only a great help for consumers but also a valuable add-on for retailers.

There is also an issue of installation. Steve Dickson, commercial manager for range cooking at Stoves and Belling, explains: “Historically, one of the key barriers to consumers choosing induction has been installation. Many models require expensive and disruptive hardwiring, but manufacturers are starting to make great leaps in the quest to make induction more of a plug and play technology. By making a few design tweaks we’ve made sure all of our Belling and Stoves induction range cookers operate on a 32 amp supply, as well as the standard 45 amp supply.”

Product developments

The latest product developments are making induction cooking more accessible. The latest cooker from Beko (BDVI668X) is brining induction to the freestanding market and its induction hob has all the functions of a built-in model, such as four cooking zones and nine power levels.

Indesit has also made induction technology more affordable. “Indesit Prime VIA640C induction hob combines the very latest in touch control induction technology at a fraction of the price of competitors, making it accessible to everyone,” says Libby Morley, Indesit advertising and communication manager.

At the same time new models come in all shapes, sizes and colour options, and offer increasingly sophisticated functionality.

The Whirlpool’s latest induction hob model, the ACM 847/BA, is equipped with Whirlpool’s intelligent 6th Sense electronic sensors. The hob monitors the temperature of the pan and adjusts the power level to reach boiling point rapidly. Should the user ignores the hob and the pan is in danger of boiling dry, the hob will switch off automatically. A further innovation is the FlexiCook system, a flexible cooking space which allows the use of a variety of large pots and pans, up to 38cm in length.

However the most technologically advanced developments include full surface open zone induction models.

On Siemens’ flexInduction hob the cooking surfaces comprise four individual heat zones that can be used individually, split in two or used as one large, multipurpose flexInduction zone. “Only if cookware is detected will the individual inductors work, ensuring efficient operation whether a 10cm diameter milk pan is placed in one corner, or a large griddle plate covers the whole zone. This delivers the ultimate flexibility for chefs to place any size pan they choose, anywhere on the extended cooking surface at the same time. And with twin flexInduction zones, these new models deliver twice the cooking surface,” explains John McLaughlan, senior product manager at Siemens.

Amica’s new open zone induction hob (PI6112TF), available in black and white, has an anti-burn warm setting, a child lock, minute minder and a pause button providing temporary and instant relief from direct heat. Each of the four zones has its own booster and timer. The hob is able to detect a pan anywhere on its surface. And the bridging function allows two heating zones to be treated as one.

Smeg’s new SIM62B induction hob has two zones on the left and two on the right, which can be combined to create two large MultiZones, each 400mm deep and 230mm wide. Each MultiZone automatically detects the size and position of the pans and heats up only the exact spot where they stand, providing optimum heat distribution and energy efficiency.

“De Dietrich brought the first ‘zoneless’ induction models to market in 2007 and then launched the multi award-winning Piano Zoneless induction hob in 2011. This is wher
e the future lies for the technology as it allows the user the ultimate flexibility when cooking,” stresses Richard Walker, sales and marketing director, De Dietrich Kitchen Appliances. Most De Dietrich Continuum Hobs and the Zoneless Piano Hob incorporate a unique Power Tracker to ensure the pan’s temperature remains constant wherever it is re-sited.

The Continuum Induction hobs, launched in 2012, come in grey pearl and white pearl finishes, alongside a range of black glass versions. All induction hobs in the collection come with 18 power settings, consisting of 15 power levels, a booster on all zones, the Automatic Heat up and Automatic Boil functions.”

Miele’s new range of induction hobs, to be launched in January 2013, will offer two PowerFlex zones that can be combined together into one larger zone, giving consumers increased flexibility when cooking larger dishes. They will also be equipped with the WaterBoost, a dual-circuit zone (accommodating different pan sizes) which has a 5.0kW boost, giving energy and time savings when cooking.

Meanwhile Gorenje’s recently launched IQcook hob pushes the boundaries of induction hob technology. It uses ‘IQ’ sensors to measure the cooking process. A small ‘disc’ sensor, which is placed on the pan lid, communicates with the hob’s electronics and automatically adjusts the operation of the hob, minimizing the user’s involvement in the process. Moreover the sensors use up to 40% less energy than a conventional induction hob.

Selling induction

In case of induction technology, seeing is believing . Having a working induction hob or a video showing how the technology works is essential for selling induction hobs, argues Raff Rochira, Hotpoint built-in category manager.

“You should never assume that the customer understands induction technology that is far superior than even half a decade ago. It is imperative to have a working induction hob if you intend to sell this appliance. Lurking beneath the surface is an array of powerful technology which can only be realised through demonstration,” advises Whirlpool’s Simona Bara.

Induction is now much more affordable, with some entry level models retailing for as little as £255 but offering premium features and touch control operations. “Those already in the market for intelligent cooking appliances are likely to be more open to the idea of induction, appreciating its efficiency and time-saving potential as well as its low maintenance style,” argues Rita Balestrazzi. To families with small children a retailer should point out that that induction is the safest of cooking methods.

Finally, for those who are hesitating to make a total switch to induction are hybrid options. For customers who love gas you can recommend a mixed fuel hob, such as the Gorenje ITG623ASC, which features two induction zones alongside two gas burners.

There are also single zone mini induction hobs that can be plugged in anywhere. They are perfect for in-store induction demonstrations. Baumatic also offers 30cm touch control domino hobs as well as more highly specified 90cm induction and gas dual fuel models.

It will get even better

“The future for this market segment remains optimistic, with sales of induction hobs set to challenge gas hobs in the forthcoming years. We have already seen prices fall as they become more mainstream, helping them become more affordable to a wider audience. Since 2008, prices have been eroded by an average of £20 each year, which has helped fuel sales during the tough economic climate. With greater emphasis placed on quality, energy efficiency and safety within the home environment, it is surely only a matter of time before induction hobs start becoming a familiar sight within our kitchens,” says GfK’s Seema Boyd.

With the induction hob category expected to treble in size over the next five years, this is a sales opportunity which the independent cannot afford to miss.

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