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issue: June 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Electric Housewares
Healthy Housewares


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by Erin Biesen, Assistant Editor

As the world grows more health conscious, the world of housewares innovates to help keep consumers eating right and breathing easier.

AeroGrow International, Inc. has introduced the AeroGarden, which is the first kitchen appliance that allows consumers to grow fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs all year.

Obesity is a continual struggle and consumers are looking for ways to battle the bulge with quick and healthy solutions in the home. At this year’s International Home and Housewares Show, held in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. March 12-14, it became apparent that companies are filling the need for health-promoting appliances in the market.

Waring’s Waring Pro is a pulp-eject juice extractor that allows consumers a healthier option when it comes to juice beverages.

Curing Cooking

Consumers eat too much unhealthy fast food, so housewares makers are creating cooking appliances to help consumers make delicious, healthy food at home.
One of the more unique products at the show was the AeroGarden from AeroGrow International Inc. (Boulder, Colorado, U.S.). After being introduced to the concept of aeroponics, John Thompson, Michael Bissonnette and several others had an idea to create a condensed aeroponic garden that could fit on a countertop to grow fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables year round.
“Aeroponics is a technology where the plant roots are grown dirt-free–actually suspended in air instead of soil. The rooots are able to take oxygen out of the air just like our lungs do,” explains Thompson, director of marketing and investor relations. “Then they grow down into a rich nutrient solution made of seaweed and mineral salts. As a result they grow much faster.”
In order to bring gardening down in size and into the home there needed to be a variety of usability tests. The company tested prototypes in consumers’ homes to see how consumers kill their plants, and identify ways that the AeroGarden could make in-home gardening feasible. The company came up with a computerized “Smart” Garden Technology that alerts consumers to the steps that need to be taken, such as adding water and nutrients. It also has a built-in timer to automatically turn lights on and off. “Consumers set the microprocessor with a little pushbutton to select the type of plant they are growing and it automatically adjusts the light cycle and the nutrient flow cycle to maximize growth of that plant,” Thompson tells APPLIANCE. “It is not necessary to know how to grow anything. Consumers literally drop in one of the pre-seeded growth plugs, add a gallon of water and plug their garden in, and the plant starts to grow. Three weeks later you are harvesting lettuce.”
The dimensions of the countertop unit are about 15 inches wide and 7 to 8 inches deep. With the lights on the lowest setting, it is about 22 inches tall; at the highest setting it is about 18 inches. Seed kits for the AeroGarden include cherry tomatoes, chili peppers, gourmet herbs, salad greens, cascading petunias, and an aromatic basil assortment called International Basil. The company expects to come out with more seed kits in the future.
Another healthy option that consumers are looking at is juicers. Waring (Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.) is offering the Waring Pro® Juicerator with Pulp Eject System. The two-speed machine has an 850-W motor. The high-speed setting, for juicing hard fruits and vegetables such as carrots and apples, operates at about 13,000 rpm. The low-speed setting is for softer fruits and vegetables such as oranges and strawberries and operates at 6,500 rpm.
The unit is made for large-scale juicing and processing. The feed shoot is about 3 inches wide, so the machine minimizes slicing and chopping by taking a whole apple or stalk of celery. The unit has a transparent polycarbonate lid and pulp collector. The pulp collector holds 10 cups of processed pulp and the juice collector cup hold 50 ounces of juice.
“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends five servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit daily,” says Joan Gioiella, Waring product manager. “Juicing provides a simple solution to getting these daily dosages.”
Sanyo’s (Chatsworth, California, U.S.) Rice Cooker and Steamer ECJ-F50S allows consumers to cook rice, steam vegetables and make stews. The machine is a 5-cup rice cooker and steamer that has fuzzy logic control settings for cooking a variety of dishes. “The ECJ-F50S rice cooker
has an extensive menu selection, extra-thick inner pot for even heat distribution and a uniquely-designed steam plate that holds vegetables or up to 8 eggs upright for steaming,” says Derek Hines, marketing product manager, Small Appliances.
Sanyo designed the titanium-coated inner cooking pot to have added thickness at
3.5 mm, and gave it a round bottom to maximize the distribution of heat. The machine offers an LCD clock with a 24-hour programmable timer so that consumers can set a specified time for the meal to be done.
Steam-cooking appliances is a growing category, and companies are modifying their appliances to fit varying market needs.

Blueair introduced the AirPod, which is an air purifier that can fit on a desk or shelf. The AirPod creates a “Personal Clean AirZone,” according to the company.

Breathing Easy

Bringing air purifiers down in size, Blueair (Stockholm, Sweden) is introducing the new AirPod Air Purifier for consumers to create their own “personal clean airzone.” The purifier dimensions are 6.3 inches by 4.3 inches by 13 inches and it weighs less than 1.7 pounds, making it compact and portable. “We developed a new air cleaner concept in which the filter is a part of the external design,” says Johan Wennerström, research and development manager. “Ordinary air cleaners have the filter inside the unit; with this concept we don’t need the enclosure and can make the unit smaller.” By simply attaching the filter to the fan unit the frame of the filter became part of the enclosure.
Since the purifier is not enclosed it weighs less, and in order to design a smaller model the company looked to PC type fans. It also put a lot of focus into making the filter with a low pressuredrop, but maintains high filtration efficiency.
“The filter technology is the same as we use for our other units; we call the technology HEPASilent. Particles get a charge before they enter the filter and, therefore, the filter captures the particles with both mechanical and electrostatic forces, making the filtration efficiency higher,” Wennerström tells APPLIANCE. The company is going to have the unit Clean Air Delivery Rated by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers to verify the air purifier’s performance.
Blueair also allows consumers to personalize their air purifiers by picking filter designs and docking station accent colors. Currently there are three different designs and colors.
Hamilton Beach/Proctor-Silex (Glen Allen, Virginia, U.S.) designed the TrueAir® to create an air purifier with effective performance and affordable to operate. Reportedly the purifier is 99 percent effective at removing particles as small as
0.5 microns, using a filter that never needs to be replaced. “The patent-pending media is a synthetic membrane that surface loads and releases due to proprietary treatments,” says Edie Wine, senior product manager, Home Environments. “The filter’s design allows for easy removal of the particulates captured by the filter. Simply vacuum the filter and the filter is like new.”
The purifier’s magnetic front pops off to let consumers vacuum the filter two or three times a year. The unique design of the flat front helps to dampen the noise level. According to Wine, other purifiers have louvers that can create additional noise as air passes over.
An additional feature of the purifier is an air quality sensor that actually monitors the air and ramps up the fan to clean the air as-needed. “It is actually a beam that senses the number of particles that are in the air and we designated how many particles equals good, medium and poor,” says Wine. “When consumers vacuum their rooms they hear it ramp-up and realize why they bought the purifier. It is that believability factor that consumers constantly know it is working.”

The TrueAir Ionic Air Purifier incorporates a sensor that monitors the amount of particles in the air and will ramp-up on its own to clean the air.

Healthy Expectations

Appliances such as air purifiers will continue to change to keep up with consumer insight behind the products. Wine of Hamilton Beach/Proctor-Silex sees the future being a permanent filter technology so consumers can stop hunting for the correct replacement filters. Wennerström thinks that energy efficiency, design and noise level will be the major issues that companies will be addressing.
Cooking appliances will continue to focus on the healthy trend in the consumer world. “One of the driving forces behind the housewares industry is growing consumer demand for nutritious food and beverages that taste great,” says Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications for Waring. “Looking ahead, I think we will see continuing interest in juicing and related products because of the increased focus on health benefits and the desire for consumers to customize their own beverages.”
Steam cooking appliances are continuing to push their way through for an additional healthy consumer choice. “Steam is becoming more prominent as a healthy method of cooking,” says Hines of Sanyo. “In light of this, we believe rice cookers/steamers are positioned for growth that will continue to outpace many other product categories.”
Healthy cooking and clean environments will be easier as electric housewares continue to innovate.

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Sanyo Fisher Co.
Waring
Blueair
 

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