In spite of predictions that it would transform the market in the wake of its introduction in the late 1990s, consumers have long been lukewarm towards silicone. However, its convenience and health and wellness advantages are increasingly being appreciated by consumers, particularly those living alone.
Clear Advantages but Underwhelming Sales
Silicone enjoys several important advantages over more traditional materials, such as ceramic, glass and metal, in the kitchen. It is more flexible (if bent, the mould regains its shape), more durable, easier to clean (it is dishwasher safe and less prone to sticking), more versatile (it can be taken from an oven/microwave and placed immediately in a fridge-freezer or vice versa) and requires little storage space as it can be rolled up. Silicone also enables manufacturers to provide consumers with more options in terms of colour, shape and design than traditional cookware materials.
In spite of these advantages, silicone accounted for a mere 11.1% of ovenware value sales in the US in 2013, down from 11.7% in 2009. However, silicone is growing in popularity in some Western European markets, particularly the UK, where its share of ovenware value sales increased from 8.2% to 12.5% over the same period.
Health and Wellness Concerns and Shrinking Household Size Provide a Boost
Such items as silicone steamers are growing in popularity among health-conscious consumers, particularly in single-person households. For example, Barcelona-based Lékué markets its silicone Ogya ‘microwave pot’ as “The new kitchen revolution that cooks pasta, rice, stews and soups easily and quickly, in the microwave!”.
Number of Single-Person Households in Selected Countries: 2008, 2013 and 2020 (Forecast)
Source: Euromonitor International
According to one review of the Mastrad Personal 20-Ounce Silicone Steamer on website Amazon.com, “These steamers make eating healthy a lot less time and trouble. I cook for one, and these steamers have changed the way I cook”. Another wrote: “I am retired, I live alone and I can get very lazy about cooking for myself. This steamer is the answer to my problems”. A third added: “I have about a dozen steamers, including stove-top and microwave ones. This little steamer, since arrival, has been the most used. I use this every day, sometimes a few times per meal”. “It changed my life. I hate to cook because I hate to clean, but even I can’t complain about preparing and eating a meal out of an EASY to clean silicone dish,” another gushed.
With household size shrinking as populations age and many younger consumers postponing marriage and parenthood (trends that are particularly notable in much of Western Europe) and obesity increasingly recognised as a major health issue (54.2% of the adult population in the UK were either overweight or obese in 2013, while in the US this figure stood at 72%), silicone could finally be ready to enter mainstream ovenware alongside ceramic, glass and metal items.