Food retailers rethink housewares as more shoppers cook fresh food at home.
Cooking at home has gone from a recessionary trend to an ingrained daily routine for many, and a creative outlet and stress reliever for some.
Mainstream shoppers have reset their buying patterns for the long term, if not permanently, in the food aisles, particularly when it comes to fresh food, researchers say.
When asked what major changes they've made in food consumption, more than 75 percent of shoppers said they're buying more whole fresh ingredients, fresh fruits and vegetables, and making healthier food choices, according to consumer panel research produced by the Phoenix-based Riedel Marketing Group in conjunction with the Chicago-based International Housewares Association (IHA). Use of stovetops, conventional ovens, slow cookers, blenders, juicers and steamers are on the rise.
Two upscale specialty food retailers that do a significant housewares business in cooking equipment say their customers are focused on the types of cookware they use to satisfy their health, environmental and even social responsibility needs.
"It all relates to healthy, easy and fresh cooking," says Kathleen Taggart, director of Draeger's Home, the housewares side of San Francisco-based Draeger's Market, pointing to the appeal of Spain-based Lékué's colorful platinum silicone steamer cookware to the health-conscious.
At Gourmet Galeria in Jungle Jims International Markets in Fairfield, Ohio, General Manager Bea Goldberg says eco-friendly cookware is big. "We don't carry anything that is straight aluminum," she says. "People are trying to get away from that because they believe it causes dementia."
Jungle Jim's carries Cuisinart's Green Gourmet nonstick hard anodized cookware line that's PTFE/PFOA petroleum-free, and Swiss Diamond's nonstick coated cast aluminum line. Other popular materials are carbon steel cookware and cast iron from Lodge, a made-in-America brand.
Le Creuset is popular because it's made of cast iron with an enamel interior that provides a nonstick surface. "People don't have to worry about teflon [which some believe releases toxic fumes if it overheats]," Goldberg says.
As evidence of healthy fresh cooking, sales of juicers have been consistently up at Jungle Jim's. Goldberg says auger juicers are on the uptick because the method is believed to retain the nutrients of the juice longer.
One Step Further
Food retailers can take a cue from those buying at specialty retailers. Supermarkets have an advantage over housewares competitors in that food is the main attraction to tie in profitable cooking items like those promoted on TV from companies like Allstar Products Group, which markets a line of Perfect Pan items (for making brownies, meatloaf, tortillas and pancakes), retailing for $10.99 to $14.99.
"We work with innovative designers, melding inventors' creativity with our own expertise in developing and marketing solutions for today's consumers," says Scott Boilen, president of Hawthorne, N.Y.-based Allstar.
Earlier this year, nonfood executives from three major chains — H-E-B, Bi-Lo/Winn-Dixie and Weis Markets — participated in a panel discussion during the IHA's annual conference to discuss how to better integrate housewares. While no specific strategies were detailed, the panelists made clear that micro- rather than macrodata is needed for housewares space allocations.
Unlike many consumer packaged goods categories, housewares categories lack the standardized syndicated UPC-scan data collected on most CPG categories at retail. This is because there are many small houseware suppliers that distribute to many independents and through numerous channels, making it difficult to track sales.
The Global Market Development Center, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., is developing a category hierarchy model for grocery retailers to better determine the role housewares and other general merchandise categories play within the store. The model allows retailers to benchmark to top performers in the many subsets of housewares.
"It all relates to healthy, easy and fresh cooking."
—Kathleen Taggart, Draeger's Market