There was a time not so long ago when the kitchen was a relatively simple place. With a standard domestic cooker, there were few meals that couldn’t be conjured with time and a little ingenuity. That said, there was also little inventiveness in home cooking at that time, and for many years a staple diet of meat, potatoes and vegetables with bread and steamed puddings needed little in the way of fancy equipment.
As time has gone on, our kitchens have filled up with gadgets and gizmos that expand our ability to experiment at home. This development has picked up pace in recent years, and while innovation in cookware and kitchen gadgetry started off at a relatively slow pace, it has gradually gathered speed. These days, not a week goes by where there’s not a new piece of culinary paraphernalia that we don’t know how we lived without. This encourages most to have a designer kitchen.
Gone are the days when a sturdy set of pans is enough for any cooking eventuality. Even the humble frying pan has diversified into the need for an egg pan, an omelette pan, a pancake pan and a host of other variations.
Likewise with so-called counter-top cookware, there are so many specialist ones these days that it’s hard to keep up. When Breville introduced their sandwich toaster in the 1970s, it was one of the first items of its kind – an item that really only had one use. These days, if you go into any cookware shop you will find popcorn makers, muffin bakers, waffle irons and all manner of other single-use gadgets that serve no other purpose than the one for which they were manufactured.
In pursuit of the café experience
With a burgeoning middle class and an increasing amount of disposable income, more of us are now able to eat out more frequently. Combined with the growth of aspirational cookery programmes on the television that sell the image of food and drink as a lifestyle rather than just sustenance, people are seeking out new ways to recreate the experience they get in their local bistro or that they see on their television in their own homes.
One area where there has been an explosive growth in the past few years has been in the sale of counter-top coffee makers. The Independent reported in September 2012 that in the previous year, the market in single-cup coffee makers had grown by a massive 148 per cent in just one year.
Only a few years ago, coffee aficionados would have had to settle for a French press or a filter percolator to make their coffee with none of the fancy froth of a café cappuccino. These days, a number of brands have started to sell capsule machines with high-bar pumps and ranges of bespoke coffee capsules that let people make their favourite café drinks at home. The exclusivity of these machines is such that once you’ve committed to your brand, you can’t go back. None of the capsules are cross-compatible and once you’ve chosen, you’ve chosen for the duration.
Space vs. convenience
As more and more gadgets come onto the market, there’s an increasingly fierce fight for the limited space on our kitchen work surfaces. Every day, a new item of kitchen equipment comes into the shops and vies for our attention, offering us time-saving, high-performing, life-changing benefits if only we buy it.
But can the market in kitchenware continue in its current direction? As we’re living in more cramped spaces with tiny kitchens with less space for items that serve only one purpose it’s likely that the single-use gadget will become a harder sell. However, with the gift market providing an avenue to promote items that someone might not choose for themselves, there is still scope to get these highly diversified products off the shelves and into peoples’ homes.
The way we cook, eat and drink at home has changed hugely in the past few decades and that change is gathering pace. It’s likely to become more of a challenge to market products to consumers that have less space to spare for a huge number of gadgets.