Food prep & beverage makers: Prepare and serve

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It is encouraging how much product innovation and focus on design continues to take place in the food preparation and beverage making sectors. There are certain product areas within each sector that lend themselves to this activity more than others – blenders and coffee makers are the two that spring to mind.
This continued effort on the part of manufacturers has ensured that consumer interest remains high – and sales are pushing through.

Fun in healthy eating

One of the key factors encouraging sales of food preparation products – which in general are up around 4.5% year-on-year and now worth over £107 million – is healthy eating. This is a trend which has maintained steady growth and in recent seasons has seen a move to combine health with an element of fun, hence the rise in smoothie makers. This ‘tap’ sector of the market, which started with the launch of the Kenwood Smoothie Maker in 2002, and has been followed by products offering a similar function, has been driven by the popularity of the drink on supermarket shelves, most notably the Innocent brand which has definitely opted for the fun side with its eye-catching packaging and branding.

Summer remains the optimum sell-through period for this type of product, while overall the blenders market is growing, as consumers look to create their own fruit drinks as well as combine ingredients for home-made soups and sauces.

Nicola O’Dwyer, senior product manager at Breville, says the growing focus on fresh and nutritious foods has prompted consumers to make their own vegetable and fruit drinks, which in turn is boosting sales of juicers and blenders. “This trend is expected to continue as people become more aware of the benefits of introducing healthier foods to their diet,” she says.

Price considerations

Price is playing its part too. Stefan Kaczmarczyk, senior product manager at Groupe SEB, highlights growth in the under-£35 category for blenders, “with own label and large supermarkets gaining share,” he says, adding that hand blenders are also seeing good growth in the under-£25 category, representing around 60% of the market. “In food processing and juicing, the market is very polarised, with activity at the bottom and top end and in effect creating two dominant price segments – the under-£60 and the £80+. Whole fruit juicing will become the norm in the next year or so.”

There is also a growing more ‘sophisticated’ audience for food preparation products, suggests Jamie Lennox, managing director at Home-tek. “There is a secondary market for juicers with consumers who bought them in the last boom 10 years ago,” he says. “These consumers tend to be trading up and looking for products with extra features and higher quality – hence more sales at the £149 to £249 bracket.”

Functionality with style

Health was the inspiration behind the Food Fusion range of food preparation products from Morphy Richards, combining the functions of Mix, Chop, Juice, Smooth, Blend and Whisk – and naming the products accordingly. Jo Hewlett, group product manager for cooking and baking, suggests the Government’s much-publicised ‘five-a-day’ campaign to urge more people to eat five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day has helped raise awareness. “Simultaneously, we are still seeing a growth in home entertaining,” she says, “which has fuelled demand for food preparation appliances such as food processors and blenders.” The Food Fusion products each come with a recipe book by nutritionist Amanda Ursell.

This simplistic approach to food preparation products is also to be found in the latest range from Moulinex, which took as its inspiration the consumer demand for products that are easy to identify and store. The Click and Mix hand blender has four colour-coded blade attachments – green for mixing, yellow for whisking, red for chopping and blue for ice crushing – which all store neatly in a ‘tidy box’ designed to fit into any kitchen drawer (see Products to Watch).

In general, functionality of food preparation products is centred around delivering a good result as quickly and simply as possible and this has manifested itself in the provision of products like blenders with pulse buttons for controlled blending and filters for removing pulp and pith, while pre-programmed settings make the job even easier. More powerful products are also in vogue, with motors ranging from 620W to 800W.

Style and size are proving as important as function in food prep, with the latest moves including Deco style from Meyer Prestige on hand and upright blenders and die-cast metal from Morphy Richards with the Food Fusion range.

The Vita Compact food processor from Moulinex taps into the consumer’s need for appliances which take up less space.

Market polarisation

The food preparation market will continue to be vibrant but manufacturers sound a note of caution for independents’ place in this success. Stefan Kaczmarczyk at Groupe SEB says the price polarity in the market will make it tough to compete. “The major supermarkets and department stores will win on food preparation because of the price polarity. They both offer two quite differently positioned ranges,” he says.

Jamie Lennox at Home-tek agrees there is polarity but believes independents can play their part – and the supermarkets are going to find it a struggle to continually price cut. “The split is the supermarkets looking for ever cheaper products and department stores and independents looking for higher priced products with better features,” he says. “But I do also believe that there is a limit to how far the supermarkets can reduce prices and they have already started to introduce a ‘good, better, best’ strategy to help them move away from dependence on price discounting.”

The coffee masters

Coffee continues to be a really vibrant sector, worth around £47.3 million and backed by the continued trend of the drink as a lifestyle statement – a trend which does not look like it is about to die away any time soon. That has encouraged manufacturers to continue with product development, resulting in some exciting moves this year.

The latest from Tefal is the Quick-Cup (see Products to Watch), which heats water in three seconds and can be used for a variety of hot drinks. The idea is to offer a ‘green’ alternative to the kettle, which according to Alex Meir, senior product manager at Groupe SEB, is one of the least green kitchen appliances. “Many people are aware of global warming and want to do their bit to reduce energy consumption,” he says. “But it can be difficult to know where to start or what to do. The Quick-Cup is the first product of its kind to offer a practical solution to energy consumption in the kitchen.”

The coffee capsule system continues to prove popular and has seen several new products. Nescafe and Krups joined forces on the Dolce Gusto, the biggest launch for the coffee maker brand to date, and featuring a 14 bar pressure pump which automatically adjusts depending on the drink being made. Promotional support during the year includes TV ads, in-store demos and a free starter kit with white cappuccino cup and saucer, latte macchiato glass, variety of pack capsules and quick start guide and recipe cards.

The new generation

De’Longhi is involved in two launches this year. One is a tieup with Nespresso. The Lattissima (from the Italian latte for milk) is the first of its kind for domestic machines, featuring twin heating and pump functions – one for coffee (using Nespresso capsules) and the other for the milk. Fabio De’Longhi, CEO of the De’Longhi group describes the Lattissima as “a new generation of coffee machines” while his counterpart at Nestle Nespresso, Gerhard Berssenbrugge, says the product was developed with a clear objective in mind: “To offer our customers the opportunity to quickly, easily and conveniently use fresh milk to prepare their own cappuccino or latte at home,” he says. “The Lattissima answers a growing demand for espresso-based milk drinks in the global coffee market.”

The other De’Longhi launch is the PrimaDonna – beautifully-named for all those fashionistas out there who can’t live without their morning caffe latte. This will memorise your favourite drink to ensure the perfect Italian coffee in the morning. A bean-to-cup machine, it has a hefty price tag of £999.99, but for consumers looking for a style statement, that’s probably incidental.

That is certainly the case for Siemens, according to product category manager Florian Phister. “We have found a niche at the top end of the market and proved there is room for higher-priced designer products, such as the Siemens coffee centres. Styling is an important area.”

The trend for coffee will undoubtedly continue, as more consumers experience the taste of real espresso or milk-based drinks at train stations, airports or high street cafes and restaurants. Amanda Hinde, product manager at Russell Hobbs, says the growth in takeaway coffee has raised consumer expectations about the quality of coffee we drink and how to make it. “The requirement for large cup volumes and high volume demand has seen a growth of the more powerful espresso machines,” she says. “In general, the trend is for ‘real’ freshly made coffee coupled with the use of coffee beans or freshly ground coffee.” New from Russell Hobbs this year is the Caffee Torino range of products featuring a combi filter coffee/espresso maker (£49.99) and a ‘fast brew’ filter coffee maker (£49.99). The company has teamed up with the Nairobi Coffee Company to offer 50% off the first order of coffee by redemption. “This is to introduce the exciting coffee drinking culture to a new audience,” says Amanda Hinde.

Fast boil and … filter

This remains the ‘never say never’ category in beverage makers and within the whole SDA category. It has a near 100% household penetration and yet design and product development continues.

Energy saving seems to be one of the strongest trends – and it will be interesting to see what impact the new Tefal Quick-Cup product has on kettle sales in the short and long term. In promotional terms, manufacturers are supporting the call to only boil as much water as you need. According to Russell Hobbs, on average a kettle uses the same amount of energy to boil one litre of water as it takes to run a fridge for eight hours.

One interesting area for development has been water filters. Several models have included cartridges for some time, with some direct links between kettle manufacturers and developers of water filter systems such as Brita. One of the latest launches, with a clear design bent, is the retro-style La Cafetiere Aqua Optima kettle (£49.99), featuring a ‘double life’ filter cartridge which the company claims is the longest life water filter cartridge on the market, lasting for 60 days rather than the usual 30. Other features include 360° multi-directional base with cord storage and fast boil, while the cartridge allows the kettle to filter and boil simultaneously.

The impact of the water filter on modern life can now also be seen in the new range of fridge freezers from Electrolux (see Products to Watch), where the company has tied up with Brita to produce the first range with built-in water filter.

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