13605 Wed, 01/23/2008 - 3:34pm
By Allison Zisko
The Asian influence on cutlery will continue in 2008, but will become more nuanced, vendors said.
“Consumers are excited about developing their own skills. This comes from the santoku craze,” said Bob Reichenbach, president of the cutlery division of Lifetime Brands. “Key trends include specialty knives, Damascus steel, and a unique assortment of prep sets and specialty santokus.”
Dominique Dobson, national demonstrator coordinator for the housewares division of Kai USA, which manufactures Japanese blades, agreed. “I believe we will see the trend [toward Asian knives and styling] continue and additional ‘Asian-style’ knives join the santoku in the market.”
Kai will also focus on developing knife shapes that meet consumers’ needs, rather than the other way around, which is how the business worked in the past, Dobson said.
The cutlery category has segmented itself into three tiers, according to Ethan Hamme, national sales manager for Messermeister. Low-cost, basic knives make up the bottom tier. The top tier is comprised of higher-cost innovative steels or knives from Japan. The midprice category, he said, remains driven by “solid traditional values,” which come mostly from German manufacturing.
“The key trends are the continued use of high-end tool steels used in making Damascus-look patterned blades and a return to varied natural handle materials such as wood and bamboo,” he said.
Vendors agreed that 2008, already marked by an uncertain economy in an election year, will be challenging, and have scaled their expectations accordingly.