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issue: December 2007 APPLIANCE Magazine

Appliance Line
Solutions for Healthier Lives

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Tim Somheil, Editor

Appliances facilitate healthier living—no matter how you define "healthy."

Tim Somheil, Editor

“Healthy” food can be defined by its nutritional profile, the extent of its processing, the method of its preparation, and the additives and contaminants it contains (or does not contain). Whatever they think it is, consumers’ interest in healthier food is growing.

The HomeTrend Forecast Riedel Marketing Group surveyed its HomeTrend Influential Panel in July and found that this group made substantial changes in their diet in the last year. More than half—52%—said they made major changes in the types of foods they were eating in the past year or so. Just a half-year earlier, in December 2006, only 33% of the panel reported that they had made major changes in the types of foods they were eating.

Riedel’s panel of HIPsters is designed to represent a specific consumer segment with a very high level of influence on the overall market. Others call them Viral Consumers or Trend Spreaders. If this group of consumers is changing its diet significantly and within a relatively short time frame, the rest of the population may be poised to follow. That could have a big impact on the success or failure of the 20,000 new food products that will be introduced in 2008.

Of the panel members who were making changes, almost all were making changes intended to make their diets healthier: eating more organic foods, and eating more fruits and vegetables.

Appliances for Healthier Eating

This group is also buying more appliances to prepare these healthier foods (or they’re digging out food-preparation appliances they already own but rarely use). Many panel members said they started using appliances such as food processors, food choppers, juicers, or slicers to prepare fruits and vegetables.

An October Riedel survey found that 29% of its panel had started using a new food-prep product that they weren’t using three months prior. These panel members reported buying blenders to make smoothies, vegetable steamers, and woks. If these trend-spreading hipsters are, in fact, a major influence on mainstream consumers, it may be good news for electric housewares makers in 2008.

Lack of Food Confidence

A different set of survey results released earlier this year points to a host of other food-related issues weighing on the minds of consumers. U.S. consumers have lost much of their confidence in the safety of supermarket food. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI; Arlington, VA, U.S.) reported in “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, 2007,” that the number of consumers “completely” or “somewhat” confident in the safety of supermarket food dropped from 82% last year to 66%—the lowest point since 1989’s widely publicized scare over pesticides on apples and grapes.

But confidence in restaurant food safety is even lower, at 43%. Combine that with worries over energy costs, and the result is that more home cooking is going on and shopping habits are changing. FMI reported 69% of survey respondents ate out less and cooked at home more. Data show 40% purchased fewer food items overall; 30% bought more canned, frozen, or boxed food; and 21% purchased prepared meals from the grocery rather than go out to eat. More consumers (62%) used leftovers to make other meals. Consumers shop fewer times per week, making an average of 1.9 trips to the grocery in 2007, down from 2.1 in 2006.

More than nine out of 10 shoppers (92%) believe food cooked at home is healthier than meals eaten out; 41% believe home-cooked food is “much healthier.” Almost eight in 10 shoppers (78%) have home-cooked meals three or more times a week.

An interesting FMI finding is that consumers don’t agree about what a home-cooked meal is. To some consumers, home cooked means a made-from-scratch meal that takes an hour or longer; others call it “home cooked” if it means turning on the oven or microwave for longer than two minutes.

Appliances Make Food Safe

Regardless of what a home-cooked meal is, there is certainly more opportunity to control meal ingredients and preparation when cooked at home.

Consumers can now even bring commercial-grade microbial intervention technology into their homes. The CulinaryPrep home appliance was launched by Creative Culinary Marketing Solutions in August. It makes use of the Grovac Process, in which food is placed in a plastic drum with a neutralizing solution, while air is evacuated using a vacuum pump. The food is tumbled in the drum to facilitate removal of impurities, such as salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. Grovac cites numerous university studies showing significant microbial plate count reduction when used on lettuce, chicken, beef, and oysters.

But basic kitchen appliances, the kind already found in every home, are also powerful tools for keeping food safe. Any refrigerator set to 40°F or below will minimize the growth of bacteriological and viral contaminants already present in food. Proper cooking in a microwave or other cooking appliance will significantly reduce these contaminants.

It’s important for consumers to know that they already have very effective food safety equipment in their homes.  


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