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issue: April 2004 APPLIANCE Magazine

European Report
The Return of the Bread Maker


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By Paul Roggema, European Correspondent, APPLIANCE Magazine

It has been around for many years, but recently the bread maker widened its presence in the European market. It can be seen now in any white goods store and recipes are turning up in cooking magazines. What is happening here?

“The bread maker has been around for about 20 years, with fluctuating popularity, but sales are really reaching new highs,” explains Gerard van Loon, director of Product Development of Princess Household Appliances in The Netherlands. “Especially the German market is booming. Remember that in the German-speaking and Scandinavian countries, bread is a main food, where in Italy and France it is a side dish for other foods. We enjoy good growth in the Italian market.”

According to Mr. van Loon, bread baking is “fun” cooking. “People like to have fresh, sometimes warm bread, at any moment, without having to go shopping,” he says. “Special recipes can be tried: just for taste (raisins or nuts) or for health reasons, allergies, or diets. Also, ethnic needs can easily be met.”

From a manufacturer’s perspective, it takes preparation to write the users’ manual. While the appliance is identical, the recipes vary per country, so careful research is needed. At first, customers tend to buy all the ingredients separate. After a while, many switch to pre-mixed products. The trend is that the mix manufacturers get together with the hardware companies to improve the total process.

Basic functions are mixing, rising, sometimes re-mixing, and, of course, baking. Motor and heating components do not vary much among models; the main differences are in the control unit. More expensive models offer more programs. However, a customer can always use the manual option and adjust the timing of the three stages (temperature is mostly fixed). The trend is away from standard (programmable) chips toward custom design.

In styling, the white box used to be the only available choice. Now, Princess, for example, offers different looks, more like conventional cookware.

Princess (a mid-size player selling 4 million units yearly) has its bread makers manufactured in a Chinese joint venture, in the Shunde region, where most bread maker manufacturers are located. The high-end brand for bread makers is Panasonic, whose sales have been affected by the price erosion in the market. In Germany, for instance, the mass retailers aggressively sell Chinese imports.

 

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