Mother’s Day is coming up. People scrambling to grab a gift often head straight to the small appliances section. But those appliances aren’t just for moms. In general, people are cooking more at home, they’re entertaining, they’re devouring cookbooks and food blogs. Kitchen electrics make up a $7 billion industry. But the products are a lot different than they used to be. Except, of course, when they’re not. Confused?
Let’s start with coffee. Because in the world of small appliances, the coffee maker is king. Mary Rodgers, marketing director for Cuisinart, says her company just launched a new coffee/espresso maker. It’s elaborate; it has a milk tank, a frothing wand, a steam control dial. Retail price? $600.
At the same time, simpler coffee makers like the French press are making a comeback, thanks to coffee shops. But it’s not just coffee makers. Small appliances now either do five things at once, or one simple thing, like something your grandmother used.
Debra Mednick, a home industry analyst with The NPD Group, says it’s part of a back-to-basics movement. To a lot of home cooks, she says, what’s old is new again. Sorry, not old — retro.
“We’re seeing products that are very traditional, or that go way back, that don’t necessarily have innovation,” Mednick says.
Like the slow cooker. Or KitchenAid’s stand mixer, which has barely changed since the 50s.
“We are seeing evidence of products that have become popular that actually require some work,” she says.
Take meat grinders. Mednick says people today want control over their ingredients, they want to know where their food comes from. Beth Robinson, public relations manager for KitchenAid, says people want to be creative and have an easier time in the kitchen.
Toast is easy, right? Not with artisanal bread. So KitchenAid this year launched a $500 toaster with longer slots to fit those oddly shaped slices. Robinson says people will pay, especially if it’s pretty, “or if they want some really great functionality, they will spend $500 for a toaster.”
Now that the microwave isn’t taking up all the counter space, there’s room for that powerful new pulverizer, formerly known as the blender.
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