By Andrea Lillo
The comforts of home, especially during these times, are proving where consumers want to indulge, as they cut back spending and entertain more at home. That results in more baking, and bakeware manufacturers find their products a bright spot in this economy.
And products that allow the chef to customize meals—whether it’s to accommodate both the vegetarian and the meat lover in one dish, or cook individual servings or appetizers—are heating up at retail.
“People are moving back to the home to cook, and baking becomes a big part of that,” said Mike Otterman, president of Focus Kitchen/Chicago Metallic. Having seen positive sell-through in the fourth quarter overall for the company, one “breakaway product” from last year was the company’s Slice Solutions, a pre-sliced brownie baking pan that launched in August. “It allows for a more interactive baking experience,” he said, as each brownie can be customized within the pan, due to a metal divider, as well as have crispy sides for all the brownies in the pan.
At the International Home & Housewares Show, Chicago Metallic will introduce its Lasagna Trio, which has three separate channels, each the length and width of a lasagna noodle, allowing the cook to make three different types of lasagna. It also comes with a special serving tool. Part of Chicago Metallic’s “savory SKUs,” the Lasagna Trio will be joined by the Fusion Roaster, which allows poultry to be cooked evenly inside and out, and the Meatball Maker, which incorporates a deep-well rack to hold meatballs in place while baking and fat to drain away.
People want more comfort foods at home, “and our product ties into that trend,” said Mike Gerardi, brand manager for stoneware at Le Creuset. With the company’s stoneware, consumers can both bake and serve meals in one piece, he added. One product that has done particularly well are the covered pieces, in such larger sizes as 4.5 quarts. At price points around $70 to $80, “They’re affordable luxury,” he said.
In addition, the opposite is also true for Le Creuset, as smaller serving pieces, due to the tapas trend in restaurants, are hot at retail, Gerardi said. Already the company offers a petite au gratin and a petite round casserole—the petite round casserole even had a price increase last year and the company sold more of them, he added. “People will buy multiples and collect colors,” he said, and they still retail for less than $20. At the International Home & Housewares Show, the company will premiere a 4.5-inch petite tart dish (along with a 9.5-inch tart dish), and a petite pie dish. These pieces allow the cook to “customize within the family,” Gerardi said, such as if someone is a vegetarian, or to offer individual meals, such as pot pies.
One area that is usually overlooked but performs well is compact bakeware for countertop ovens, said David Dalquist, president of Nordic Ware. Countertop ovens are more elaborate than when they were introduced, he said, and these smaller bakeware pieces allow consumers to make smaller portions of meals, whether that’s in the countertop oven or the full-sized one. Nordic Ware will introduce three items for this category at the Housewares Show: a loaf pan, a muffin pan and a covered brownie pan.
“Mini portion” items have also been trending at Lifetime Brands, said Barbara Alonge, president of the Casa Moda division, such as mini cake and cupcake bakeware. In addition, “anything that is a little out of the ordinary” has worked for Lifetime Brands, as novelty bakeware has been strong. Holiday themes, as well as everyday shapes, will be added to the Create n Celebrate line at the Housewares Show, including layer cake pans with embossed shapes.
Nordic Ware has seen double-digit growth with specialty pans, Dalquist added. “Retailers are demanding more shapes to differentiate themselves,” he said. The company now brings in 15 new shapes a year.
Dalquist added that, due in part to the eco-friendly movement, consumers are looking for bakeware that will last, rather than the “semi-disposable bakeware” customers are used to. “Kitchens are full of low-cost bakeware and that wears out,” he said. “The consumer has gotten used to that.”
For Robinson Home Products’ CIA Masters Collection, better materials are the reason people buy bakeware. “Consumers are willing to pay a premium price for upscale bakeware that will last a long time,” said Laurie Licht, brand manager for Culinary Institute of America, and less so for disposable pieces. The Masters Collection has seen strong sales in this economy. She also sees eco-friendly non-stick coatings trending, as “consumers become more concerned with the environment and their health.” The Masters Collection uses a PTFE- and PFOA-free non-stick coating from Whitford.