15848 Mon, 01/05/2009 - 1:23pm
By David Gill
Beginning with the margarita makers launched two years ago, the market for products that make or store and dispense alcoholic beverages has proliferated into an important niche within the small-electrics universe.
The margarita segment is now represented by products such as the Margaritaville line from Jarden Consumer Solutions and the Margarator from The Helman Group. Now, the concept of producing margaritas in one’s home has extended into products that make other cocktails, and that take proper care of beverages such as wine and beer.
Waring now markets an electric martini maker, which produces either shaken or stirred martinis with a variety of ingredients. Krups has been offering its Beertender, which functions as an at-home tap for draught beer and is designed to work exclusively with the Heineken Draughtkeg.
Waring, Cuisinart, Jarden and other manufacturers have plunged with full force into wine territory with products that keep multiple bottles of wine at their proper temperature. The wine segment has also been extended with the WinePod, which allows people to make wine in their own homes.
Several factors have brought about the creation and expansion of this category. First, American consumers have become increasingly interested in products that help them entertain at home.
Recently, this consumer desire has begun an even steeper upward curve thanks to the decline in the U.S. economy. The latter has engendered what Phil Brandl, president of the International Housewares Association, has called the “consumers’ flight to home. We typically look at consumer lifestyles and among the primary ones we see is nesting,” Brandl said.
The nesting trend includes several aspects, in particular a heightened interest in home entertaining. “Consumers are building ‘islands of entertainment’ in their homes,” said Asoka Veeravagu, director of business development for Jarden Consumer Solutions, who leads the company’s Margaritaville brand.
Products such as the Margaritaville line have also become what Veeravagu termed “social centerpieces. When you fire [a Margaritaville] up, it draws a crowd.” Based on this element, Jarden has broadened this line with products. “We now offer the Fiji, which has more capacity and makes more types of drinks such as daiquiris and smoothies,” Veeravagu said. “We also just introduced the Tahiti, a three-jar model that includes an ice chute that moves from jar to jar, allowing it to make three drinks in one cycle.”
A second driver in this category is Americans’ growing interest in gourmet food and drink products, wine in particular. “While consumers are spending more time at home, their appreciation of luxury has not diminished,” said Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications for the Cuisinart and Waring brands, “and they will continue to invest time and money in good quality wines and related products.”
The two brands have now progressed beyond the Waring martini maker to products for wine. The Waring brand now also includes a cordless wine opener and several wine chillers. Cuisinart has recently debuted the Dual Zone 15-Bottle Private Reserve Wine Cellar, which has an electronic thermostat that guarantees that wines are stores at their ideal serving temperatures.
In the case of wine, a further draw for manufacturers is the sheer size of this market. “Wine is a $1 billion industry,” said Vera Bevini, director of Jarden’s new business development unit. “It is five times the size of the coffee market and represents 10 percent of the market for all alcoholic beverages in the U.S. By 2010, the U.S. is expected to overtake France as the number-one wine market in the world.”
The most recent product to emerge from Bevini’s new business development unit is the Skybar—which Jarden describes as an “accessory” that maintains multiple bottles of wine at their optimal temperatures, and dispenses the wine.
Reflecting what Rodgers said about consumers’ interest in luxury products, Bevini said, “Skybar is about luxurious and engaging products.” It is also a lifestyle product, meant to be placed in the living room rather than the kitchen. “We wanted to take the consumer from the kitchen to the living room,” Bevini said. “The living room is where you entertain.”
From the storing and dispensing of wine, this category has now stretched to include products that help consumers actually make wine. Recently, a 3-year-old company named ProVina launched the WinePod, a 4-foot-high appliance that allows individuals to make wine in their own homes.
The WinePod includes an automatic press that presses and removes grapes, and sensors that measure the end point of the fermentation process by recording the amount of sugar in the wine. To Greg Snell, chief executive officer and co-founder of ProVina with Vladimir Firer, the WinePod is the result of a trend toward the customization of beverages. “People have the desire to customize and personalize their experiences,” Snell said. “These products provide an at-home bar experience, and people are also more comfortable with having systems that integrate technology with beverages.”
The future growth of the WinePod is unclear, according to Snell, partly because of the weak economy. “The driving factor will be our ability to proliferate our channels of distribution,” he said. “If we can do that, our prospects will be brighter. We’re also beginning to win wine competitions, which will help drive sales.”
For other manufacturers in this business sector, the economy’s flagging state and the demand for more home-entertainment appliances mean that the beverage category has good prospects in 2009. “As a result [of consumers’ appreciation of luxury and gourmet items], wine-related products offer solid growth potential in the coming year,” Rodgers said.
This holds true for margarita-making products as well. “Consumers are foregoing vacations and turning their backyards into an oasis of entertainment,” Veeravagu said. “In that context, they are looking for tools to throw parties, and this makes these products even more relevant.”
Such products also fit well into the trend toward tailgating at sports events, Veeravagu added. “We’re adding a portable version of the Margaritaville this coming spring,” he said. “Consumers told us they wished they could have one of these with a battery and a charger, and that they wanted to use it while tailgating and at parties held by other people.” Jarden will formally launch this version at the International Home & Housewares show in Chicago in March, and plans to introduce five other models later in 2009.
While the difficult economy has played a role in boosting this product segment, the increase in entertaining at home is expected to keep growth robust for these products even after the economy turns around. “You still want to be with friends,” Bevini said. “You deserve to be able to make your own drinks. People want to enjoy their wines. These are the small luxuries they feel they deserve.”