The International Home + Housewares Show [IHHS] is one of the most ambitious events of its kind, providing buyers and media from around the globe a sneak peek into the new products and innovations that will be driving the conversation in the industry for the rest of the season. While attending the conference and other media events timed to coincide with the show, Euromonitor International observed a number of trends that are likely to have a big impact on the homewares and appliances markets for years to come.
Brands address demand for multifunctional, space-conscious homewares
Urbanisation, the growth of single person households, and the increasing prevalence of renting have all contributed to a boom in the number of individuals living in apartments in the US. As more consumers move into these smaller spaces, there has been an understandable surge in demand for space-conscious goods. As a result, multifunctional homewares are growing in popularity. Not only do these types of products offer added convenience, but they also make far better use of available household space. At IHHS, this trend was on full display. Oxo, a Helen of Troy Ltd brand, showcased a new set of mixing bowls that come with silicone lids, allowing the bowls to be converted easily into food storage containers. Le Creuset displayed a new oval-shaped Dutch oven with a reversible lid that can double as a grill pan. Most strikingly, exhibitors across the IHHS show floor touted the “oven-to-table” capabilities of their products, as brands such as Corningware – a subsidiary of World Kitchen LLC – and Libbey Inc flaunted the ability of their “oven-to-table” cookware offerings to seamlessly prepare and then serve home-cooked meals.
IHHS also provided a window into another key way in which brands are seeking to capitalise on the growth of space-conscious living. Stackable and nestable homewares were being promoted everywhere at IHHS this year as a way for consumers to make the best use of their limited storage space. Ovenware specialist Nordic Ware displayed new 3- and 5-piece sets of layer cake pans that were fully nestable. UK-based homewares brand Joseph Joseph Inc showed off its sets of nesting measuring cups and mixing bowls. Libbey, too, got in on the action, unveiling its new Urban Story collection of dinnerware and beverageware specifically designed for the “limited storage space in urban settings.” The collection featured a line of beer glasses that each come with their own wood lids; the lids acts as coasters, but also allow the glasses to stack easily and conveniently when stored.
Food storage on the rise
Food storage is one of the best performing segments of the homewares market these days. This is no surprise; the continuing embrace by US consumers of healthy eating trends has spurred demand for products that can store and preserve fresh produce, while the growth in the number of single-person households has simultaneously bolstered the market for products that can store leftovers. As a result, any visitor to IHHS this year could not miss the fact that more exhibitors were seeking to exploit the vigorous growth in the food storage category. Some of the exhibitors were newcomers to the US market. The Canadian-based Accent-Fairchild Group, which recently expanded into the US, prominently displayed its SnapLock and ClearLock lines of stackable, nestable food storage containers, while – in a nod to the space-conscious living trend – the upstart California brand Collapse-It showed off its line of food storage products that collapse for easy storing when not in use.
More established manufacturers were not to be outdone, however. Felli Housewares, a long-standing food storage player based in Taiwan, showcased its brand new Duo Fresh Keeper refrigerator container, which can store two different types of produce at once and features a centre hinge that allows consumers to access one side of the container without uncovering the other side. Oxo displayed its new Herbkeeper product, a compact food storage option that is designed specifically to store herbs in the refrigerator and includes an internal basket, allowing for the easy removal of the herbs from the container when desired. Not to be outdone, Newell Brands Inc. drew attention to its newest food storage product line, Rubbermaid Brilliance, which the company promotes as being “100% leak-proof guaranteed.” Clearly, homewares manufacturers are betting that food storage will be one of the key growth opportunities in the market over the next few years.
Whirlpool points to the future of the smart kitchen
On March 20, away from the prying eyes of the IHHS attendees, Whirlpool Corp hosted a by-invitation-only media event at its “World of Whirlpool” showroom in the bustling River North neighbourhood of Chicago. At the event, the company showed off a selection of innovative new products from the Whirlpool, Maytag, and Affresh brands that are to be launched over the course of 2017. One of the most impressive new products showcased at the event was the Whirlpool Front-Control Range with Scan-to-Cook Technology. Scan-to-Cook Technology shows what harnessing the power of the Internet of Things can really accomplish in the kitchen. With the help of a smartphone and the Whirlpool mobile app, users of the range cooker can scan the UPC barcode of an article of packaged food, and the “recommended directions, temperature, and cooking time” for the food are then transmitted, via Wi-Fi, to the range. The appliance will then automatically set itself to prepare the food to the pre-programmed specifications. Not only does this functionality help save time and effort, but it also allows even inexperienced cooks to easily prepare a meal. The Whirlpool app provides alerts when the oven is done preheating and when the meal is finished cooking, eliminating the need for the user to hover over the food while it is being prepared. The Scan-to-Cook Technology also allows for more experienced chefs to customize food preparation to their own specifications. With this product, Whirlpool is plainly trying to stake out a piece of the growing “smart” kitchen market for itself, and – based on the product demonstration – it appears that the company may very well be successful in this aim. The Whirlpool Front-Control Range with Scan-to-Cook Technology is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2017.
The 2017 International Home + Housewares Show took place at McCormick Place in Chicago from March 18 through March 21.