Sustainability and Versatility Drive Homewares Material Innovation
In 2015, homewares recorded US$77 billion in retail value sales globally, accounting for 8% of total home and garden retail value sales. Asia Pacific accounted for the largest share of homewares revenue, at 34% of overall sales, closely followed by Western Europe with 31%. The highest expenditure in homewares per household is recorded in Switzerland (US$186), which is largely due to higher unit prices and higher disposable incomes. However, the fastest-growing market is expected to be India, with predicted growth of 38% in homewares retail value sales over the forecast period.
Material innovation in homewares is driven by sustainability, as consumers are gradually moving away from plastic and disposable homewares, as well as lifestyle trends and consumer demand for convenience and multifunctional items due to shrinking household space. Consumer material preferences vary at regional level, which can be explained by strong differences when it comes to cooking habits.
Kitchenware represented 56% of homewares retail value sales at global level in 2015, which is the reason why metal accounts for the biggest share among homewares materials globally. At regional level, while Latin America records the lowest share in ceramic, glass and plastic material shares are the highest across all regions. Silicone underwent criticism regarding toxicity, which led consumers to not trust low-value silicone kitchen utensils and pushed manufacturers to use premium chemicals. However, it is still enjoying great success in North America, holding a 4% share in 2015 among all materials in the region, and recorded 11% growth globally in its material share over the review period.
Sustainability driving growth and innovation
Although consumers used to disregard sustainability as part of their buying decision process, this is no longer the case. “Eco-friendly” is now a major selling point as consumers are increasingly aware of their health and the environment, especially in developed markets. Concerns over food preparation and preservation could negatively impact plastic. BPA (Bisphenol A) used in food storage generated a lot of controversy regarding its potential health effects, which led many brands such as Sistema to develop their whole range of food storage products from BPA-free materials. The New Zealand company recorded US$56 million retail value sales in 2015, growing by 39% in the 2010-2015 period and ranking 14th at global level in food storage.
Concerns are also rising in developed markets regarding disposable plastic dining items, which led some governments to tackle the issue by developing new legislation. The French Parliament, for instance, is aiming to ban disposable plastic dinnerware by 2020, which would significantly benefit homeware brands, as consumers would be forced to switch from disposable to reusable plastic dinnerware and invest in food storage.
Multi-functionality – a competitive advantage
From home furnishings to homewares, many factors have been driving the demand in multifunctional items for the home. Shrinking household space and lack of storage are generating a consumer need for stackable and multi-purpose homewares. Multi-functionality is one of the key developments in cookware and kitchenware, as multiplying features and benefits will increase the chances consumers will need the product and purchase it. Some examples include Baumstal multipurpose ovenware suitable for oven cooking and table serving and equipped with a lid to put directly in the fridge, and Golchi, claimed to be the world’s most versatile bottle that can hold hot and cold beverages at the same time and even provide extra storage compartments.
Such products involve extensive research and development in materials to ensure safety in food preservation, which only high-end brands can afford. In developed markets, multi-functionality is a means for premium homeware brands to differentiate themselves from private label lines and low-to-mid-priced brands. In Western Europe, one of the regions most affected by the 2008 crisis, homewares expenditure per household declined significantly by 14% between 2005 and 2015, which represents the strongest decline in household expenditure among all regions. As the homewares category is highly susceptible to economic disruption, with consumers’ disposable incomes falling, they consequently changed their consumption habits in the direction of lower-value homewares. This led high-end brands to work twice as hard to offer innovative and unique products to consumers. Moving forward, oven-to-table-to-fridge and extra-strong, heat-resistant materials that can be used both in the oven and on the hob will be increasingly preferred by consumers as they will see this as offering significant added value and will be willing to spend extra money for the convenience.