It’s almost a given (or cliché) that all the nifty new small appliances and sparkling housewares on display at the International Home + Housewares show hold appeal to young adults. To today’s millennials who’re getting hitched, setting up a home, starting from scratch.
But walking the vast Chicago show floors this past weekend (March 10-13), we also found lots of products and marketers that have the booming, 50+ audience front and center in their sights.
“The majority of our customers sure fit that 50 plus demographic,” noted Dustin Skeoch, co-founder of Cedarline Culinary and importer of the Australian-spawned Bellini Kitchen Master. “We know because they’re engaging with us on Facebook. These are people who love to cook, who love good food and have some expendable income. At the same time, they don’t like kitchen clutter and complications. They appreciate products that can handle lots of tasks, that keep meal preparations simple and don’t require a lot of cleanup.”
And Skeoch says, “As people move into the ‘empty nester’ years and downsize their living spaces, they’re looking to further simplify their appliance collection. They want to do more with less.”
His pride and joy is an apt case in point. The Bellini Kitchen Master often gets lumped in the one-pot meal making/multi-function-cooker category with the red-hot (and much copied at IHHS) Instant Pot. You know, that handy-dandy, 10-in-1 multi-tasker that does slow cooking, pressure cooking, steaming, baking and more.
But the Bellini is actually a much rarer, motor-charged species. It’s a combination of food processor and heat-applied cooker that lets you toss in hardly prepped ingredients, then work through a complete recipe for a soup or stew or side dish in a single, blade-equipped stainless-steel bowl, with dialed-in chop speed, heat temp and time duration settings for each step.
The bargain of the thermal blender breed, a Bellini now sells direct and from Amazon for $399, versus $999 for All-Clad and Kenwood variants and $1400+ for the best known Thermomix. Even Gourmia, a value brand that likes to knock off the competition at lower prices, was at the housewares show market-testing an “about $700” thermal cooker prototype which tweaks the Bellini’s design with a touchscreen control panel, Wi-Fi connectivity and control app.
A load of Crock Pots: More exciting was Gourmia’s new retort to the InstantPot – dubbed Cool Cooker. An “11-in-1” multi-cooker that ups the ante with a unique refrigeration element. “If you want to come home to a pot roast that’s medium rare, a conventional slow cooker isn’t right for you, because the ‘keep warm’ feature isn’t precise enough, the meat still overcooks,” explained Gourmia’s chief product designer Ben Itzkowitz. “By adding a refrigeration unit and Artificial Intelligence in the Cool Cooker, we’re giving you the opportunity to safely store food in the unit in the morning, before you leave for work, and program or remotely trigger it to then start the cooking in the afternoon. The meal is finished just when you get home.“
That chill-out action also will come in handy when making yogurt in the CC, “as yogurt needs to be refrigerated as soon as the cooking is done.” Targeted to land by year’s end, the 6.5-quart capacity, voice-and app-linked Cool Cooker will be priced to fly, “won’t be a crazy $500 thing,” promised the designer.
And what’s up with Queen Instant Pot? In a few weeks, its Canadian based parents will be birthing a new, more robust model for the Potheads called the MAX. It ups the capacity (to 6 quarts) and raises the maximum pressure cooking punch (quoted in pounds per square inch or PSIs), to 15, so the new thing cooks faster and can handle canning. The MAX also promises more finely controllable and consistent temperature setting to enable sous vide style cooking – that trendy and precise way of cooking meat, fish, veggies, etc. packed in a sealed plastic bag and bobbing in warm water. The Instant Pot Max is targeted for late May or June release, priced around $200.
Air Fryers Blowing Up: TV infomercials have done a good job of pitching air fryers as a healthy, zero or low oil cooking alternative to deep frying. Actually compact convection ovens that swirl hot air around the food, the devices are great for crisping the outside of food – like batter dipped fish and chicken and french fries – while keeping the innards all tender and juicy. And while the crunch is similar, an air fry portion of French fries is just 70 calories, versus 350 for a deep-fried McDonald’s serving.
“But for those with limited counter or pantry space, a dedicated air fryer isn’t the most practical buy,” suggested a product specialist at the Black & Decker booth. A better idea? New B&D toaster ovens which add convection/air fry cooking – performed inside on a special mesh metallic rack. Coming first, this summer, is the large capacity B&D Crisp N’ Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven ($79.99), a wide mouth thing also capable of hosting a 12-inch pizza or eight slices of toast. “Cuisinart and Breville are also offering combo toaster oven/air fryers, but theirs are $199 and $350, respectively,” we learned.
Dialing for Coffee: Capsule-based single serve coffee makers have their good and bad points. Convenience – yeah! Extra trash and relatively high cost per cup – boo. Black and Decker showed off another ease of use way to save us caff-fiends time, money and refuse. Called Easy Dial, it’s an automatic coffee maker ($49.99) blessed with an oversized, 80-ounce capacity water holding tank and dial-able brewing option. The concept is that you, as a single person or couple, can fill it up with H2O only once every three days. Then dial in just the amount of water you need exported for one morning’s java fix. Of course, you’ll still have to add the right amount of fresh grind each day but can avoid some bleary-eyed trips to the water tap.
Grill We Must: For boomers giving up their suburban home for an apartment, a cleverly designed, countertop electric like the Philips Smokeless Grill lets you grill juicy burgers, fish and roast veggies almost as well as outdoors on the trusty Weber. The Philips uniquely deploys an indirect infrared light heat source that eliminates the chance of fat sizzling on a heating element and smoking up the house. At this IHHS, Philips also showcased a new, battery operated rotisserie attachment that sits on top of its indoor grill, so you can bar-b-que a chicken or small roast without getting the condo association in a tizzy. The rotisserie rig folds down flat and adds another $160 in cost to the Philips grill’s $329.95 price tag. Steep but worth it, if you love those grill marks and flava. usa.philips.com.
Party Favors: How party crazy are Americans? We kept tripping over gadgets at the housewares show designed to make party hosting easier and fun. Think dedicated hot dog/sausage cookers (some with a companion bun steamer) that can handle as many as a dozen dogs at once, plus multiple standalone and stovetop pizza ovens and several high-capacity popcorn makers.
Even more fun was the Nuni Toaster, a $99 appliance that does nothing but crisp corn and flour tortillas, up to six at a time, for your next fiesta.
Also cool – the soon-coming Bartesian Cocktail Maker, an automated $299 bartender machine that stocks four bottles of booze plus a vat of water and mixes them with one-serve flavoring pods to make popular cocktails like a Margarita, Cosmo and Sex on the Beach. Each drink can be customized for alcoholic potency. And the system self-flushes the lines between orders to avoid flavor co-mingling. Pre-orders accepted.
More committed to throwing parties for the kids and grand-kids? Please ‘em (and re-live your childhood) with the Little Snowie 2 Ice Shaver, a seriously fun, snow cone making machine. Features a heavy-duty high-speed motor, holds a half gallon of ice cubes that convert to (nine) 8-oz cups. Comes with a sample pack of six syrup flavors. $199.
Eco-Echoes: Other home ‘n houseware show exhibitors were playing to 50 plusers passion for preserving our planet’s resources. It’s a major selling point for the TurboPot line of advanced cookware – high-performance pots, pans and tea kettle designed to be the fastest cooking and most energy efficient for gas range (only) use. The innovation comes with the line’s integration of aluminum fin channels across the bottom of the pots – a design element akin to the “heat sink” on electronic products. But here it’s used to increase the effective surface area exposed to the gas burner flame, shortening cook times, eliminating cold spots and reducing the gas consumed by at least 25 to 50 percent. Noted chefs and restaurant chains were the first to buy into the TurboPot. Now you can, too. $48-$98 direct.
This tree hugger also spotted a cute indoor composting system for kitchen scraps dubbed Urban Composter. It’s ideal for downsized apartment dwellers who haven’t totally lost their green thumbs. A nozzle on the closed compost pail encourages users to extract the nourishing juice and pour it on houseplants. When the lid is open, the microbial solution-sprayed mash reportedly smells like “beer fermenting.” Can you deal? Available for $40-$50 direct.
Now that you’re back to living in the city, boomers, why drive to the grocery store when you can walk? And for wheeling those purchases home? Get yourself a colorful, lightweight, cloth-bagged Rolser Shopping Trolley. It’s an object d’art which carries that weight and exudes a sunny, youthful persona. Some models fold down to a satchel-sized thing complete with handle. Designed in Spain and making for a standout display (in multiples) at their show booth, Rolsers are eons removed from those clunky, old-school metallic cage shopping carts often mistaken for walkers. $65-$300 at Amazon.com or direct.