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issue: November 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

Tokyo Report
Japanese Consumers Warm Up To Induction Cooking


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by Wasaku Ishida, Japan correspondent, APPLIANCE magazine, and president, JARN (Japan Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News)

Japanese Consumers Warm Up To Induction Cooking

Japanese consumers are showing a growing interest in global warming issues, especially since Japan’s enactment of the Kyoto Protocol in February. That interest is spurring enthusiasm for electric appliance technologies, and appliance and HVAC producers are responding. Producers exhibited their products to the Japanese industry, and to consumers, at the Energy Solution & Thermal Storage Fair ‘05. The fair was held at the Tokyo Big Sight and showed technologies using electricity—often in traditionally gas-fueled appliances.

Induction cooking has caught the attention of Japanese consumers in a big way. Consumers are attracted to the appliances for the perceived environmental benefits of using electricity over gas, for the safety benefits of the less intensely hot cooking surfaces and for cooking performance that rivals that of gas cooking.

Exhibitors of induction cooking—termed Induction Heating (IH) cooking heaters in Japan—included Matsushita Group, which displayed its latest generation induction cooker, introduced in September. The unit is designed with a “double all metal finish” to reportedly address one of the disadvantages of induction cooking, in that it is designed to allow the use of aluminum or copper cookware. Standard induction cooking requires the use of ferrous metal (such as iron or steel) cookware. Matsushita has good reason to be enthusiastic about the induction market, since it recorded double-digit sales growth of IH appliances in Japan during its most recently completed fiscal year.

Hitachi exhibited its own “Good Design Award”-winning IH cooking appliances and had cooks preparing dishes on the floor of the exhibit hall to demonstrate the safety features of the technology. Toshiba likewise had chefs preparing dishes on IH cooking appliances, with demonstrations aimed at emphasizing the safety, convenience and economy of IH. Even Daikin, Japan’s largest air-conditioning producer, exhibited IH cooking appliances.

The interest in electric cooking extends to foodservice appliance users. In the fair’s Kitchen Zone, a food court was installed in collaboration with kitchen equipment producers, reproducing electric kitchens from fast food establishments, restaurant, stores, schools, hospital, and welfare facilities. Cooking demonstrations included a commercial steam unit cooking grilled meat or fried dumplings stuffed with minced pork, prepared with 350°C steam that was produced by electric heating.

In the fair’s Air-Conditioning Zone, manufacturers exhibited electric heat pumps, water heaters and thermal storage-assisted air-conditioners. Electric heat pump air-conditioners were presented, as well as electric chillers/heat pump alternatives to gas absorption chillers, air source heat pump water heaters, and thermal storage systems intended for electric power demand leveling.

Among the technologies drawing special attention were “Eco Cute” heat pump water heaters using CO2 refrigerant. Major electric air-conditioner manufacturers like Daikin, Hitachi, Melco, Toshiba, Matsushita, Sanyo, and Corona have large shares of the Eco Cute market. Chofu Seisakusho, traditionally a boiler manufacturer, exhibited heat pump water heaters and Toshiba Carrier exhibited commercial heat pump water heaters using HFC-410A refrigerant, emphasizing high energy efficiency levels.

 

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