Retailers are finding ways to add more high-impulse specialty products to their stores.
As consumers spent more time at home than ever during the past two years, housewares has proved to be a hit category, with double-digit increases across many segments. Even as consumers wade back into normal routines, the category continues to offer upside for retailers.
“People are still testing new and inspiring recipes and are looking for tools that make the experience easier,” says Margaret Boyle, associate sales manager for El Paso, Texas-based Helen of Troy’s Oxo brand. The brand’s sales team reports a solid increase in sales of its products.
According to Leana Salamah, VP of marketing at the Chicago-based International Housewares Association (IHA), while every housewares category saw growth during the pandemic, cookware and bakeware were standouts. “Not only were consumers cooking more at home out of necessity, but comfort food came back in a big way,” notes Salamah. “Baking became a source of comfort.”
The pandemic-era baking frenzy has inspired Oxo to expand its bakeware utensils.
Banana Bread and Beyond
That was good news for category sales. “Interest in making banana bread skyrocketed, and we saw an upsurge in our Oxo angled measuring cups sets and Oxo Good Grips nonstick baking pans,” observes Boyle.
Sales of grilling products also continue to accelerate. “Outdoor living in general is huge right now, and consumers have gotten creative with ways to extend the use of their outdoor space beyond the traditional seasons,” says Salamah. “I’ve seen a lot of new products that make grill cleanup easier and facilitate nighttime grilling — lots of grill lights, and even utensils that light up.”
Oxo was one manufacturer that expanded its bakeware and grilling product portfolios based on consumer feedback during the pandemic. The company also launched a Chefs in Residence program to offer recipes and tips — along with tools — that make meal prep easier.
Retailers are finding ways to add more high-impulse specialty products to their stores. Acme Markets, an Albertsons banner based in Malvern, Pa., rounds out its in-line section of Goodcook products from Bradshaw Home with a clip-strip program of specialized products from Blueoxo. The chain recently outposted Blueoxo’s Viovia branded cheese graters and strainers in the pasta set. Viovia hand spiralizers, gripping cutting mats and reusable bowl covers, along with Kolorae reusable storage bags, were also featured in the aisle.
Acme Markets capitalized on increased consumer interest in private label food storage products with an end cap display.
Convenience Makes a Comeback
A focus on convenience in the kitchen will become increasingly important as students return to school, adults go back to the office, and activities outside the home resume. “With those three levers being dialed back up, time pressure returns,” notes Joe Derochowski, VP at The NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y., who is also an adviser to the home industry.
A return to normal also translates into increased demand for products designed for carrying meals, from bento boxes to insulated lunch bags. According to manufacturers, it’s a great opportunity for supermarket retailers. Portable beverageware is also a key opportunity for retailers. NPD data shows that during Q4 2021, sales of portable beverageware surged 23%, while IRI data shows bottle sales across all outlets up more than 22% for the year.
Meal prep and storage products are another growth opportunity. “Meal prepping continues to be a time- and money-saving solution for people,” affirms Eric Stryker, category management manager for OXO. “Our selection of POP containers and our recently introduced Prep And Go sets provide consumers with everything they need to meal prep and store a few days’ worth of lunches for the week, or packing up food to go.”
IHA’s Salamah has noticed more food prep focused on fresh produce. “Beyond the pineapple corers and the apple wedgers, I’m seeing vegetable ricers and shredders and storage solutions that extend the life of fruits and vegetables,” she says. Oxo recently introduced the Good Grips Scoop and Smash Avocado Tool, which features a tapered design that keeps food from sticking.
Derochowski says that sales of storage and organization products have also benefited as consumers, stressed from spending more time at home, looked for ways to organize their kitchens. “We’re entertaining more but we are still eating more meals at home, so there’s greater need for storing leftovers,” he adds.
IRI data for the week ending Jan. 23 shows sales of household kitchen storage products ahead 9.3% across all outlets, and sales of private label storage products up nearly 19%. Acme recently devoted an end cap to a “buy two, get one free” promotion on its Signature storage containers.
Higher food prices and the growth of smaller households are also factors driving the food storage category. “It’s hard to cook for one-person households, and food storage options help,” observes Derochowski. Sales of vacuum sealers spiked 15%, according to NPD.
Retailers can expect more interest in appliances that make leftover-oriented meal prep easier, such as slow cookers and one-dish cookware. “Whether it’s prep, cooking, serving or cleanup, there’s an opportunity for products that help consumers save time and make the process more convenient and efficient,” says Derochowski, who thinks retailers should be taking a close look at how they can add more of those products into their stores.
As consumers embraced the work-from-home lifestyle, at-home prep of flavored and specialty coffee drinks exploded, fueling a boost in sales of the tools needed to create those gourmet beverages. Last year, consumers spent $2 billion on coffee makers and accessories for in-home brewing, and drove sales of espresso machines, French presses and cold-brew makers to double-digit increases. Accessories, including portable hot-beverage items, will continue to be a strong growth area for retailers. Derochowski also sees water filtration devices as a product category worth consideration, since consumer interest in these products remains high.
For her part, Salamah believes one of the biggest opportunities in the category is the return of at-home entertaining. “After 15 months of honing new cooking skills, consumers are ready to put them to use in gathering their families and friends back at their homes after this protracted separation,” she notes. “That represents an enormous opportunity for tableware, barware, textiles and prep-to-table items. In addition, it represents a major opportunity for kitchen electrics that facilitate gatherings — think raclettes and fast-cook pizza ovens.”
With more consumers mixing and serving cocktails at home, barware continues to be a solid housewares segment for retailers, and many are finding ways to add bar accessories to their liquor departments. Acme, for instance, features a floor stand from True Brands, the Seattle-based supplier of beverage lifestyle accessories, stocked with bar tools and wine gift bags in the grocer’s liquor department.