Gourmet appliances get pride of place in modern kitchens, making cooking simple, easy and fun Image Credit: Corbis

I magine a Porsche toaster, manufactured by Siemens and that looks like a spaceship. It automatically adjusts itself to the bread’s thickness, has an LED display that counts down until the toast is ready and has 11 degrees of browning. Think of Vera, a cordless Bugatti kettle that you can programme to be ready when you need it and set desired water temperature. Or, perhaps a multicooker designed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver that steams, sautés, melts, boils and simmers — all unattended? And if that weren’t enough, it even has a stirring arm.

Pegged at $200 million (about Dh734 million), the Middle East home appliances market means business, where savvy consumers look for the latest, coolest and trendiest waffle makers, wireless blenders, portable micro refrigerators, gourmet bread makers and Swarovski crystal-studded coffee machines.

At the beginning of the month, Braun launched its latest kitchen innovation — the Multiquick 7 Hand Blender. It’s a first because the brand decided to launch it in the UAE before its global launch — a clear indicator of the rise in demand for gourmet appliances in the region.

“High-end kitchen appliances offer a combination of performance and convenience. They are also incredibly compact and have the ability to replace other kitchen appliances with multifunctional capabilities. And with the large array of functions offered in one gadget, these devices also help save space in the kitchen,” says Ashraf Khairallah, Marketing Director, De’Longhi Group, Meia.

Where kitchen is king

Today’s kitchen is a far cry from the hot stuffy room of yesteryears. Powered by technology and inspired by edgy designs, it has to look good.

The gourmet kitchen needs gourmet appliances, points out Rajiv Suri, Group CEO, Retail, Jashanmal Group.

“Gourmet kitchen appliances easily set themselves apart from other products due to their high-end quality and chic designs. Their state-of-the-art technology is a welcomed addition to any kitchen,” says Suri. Jashanmal’s gourmet kitchen appliances include global names such as De’Longhi, Kenwood, Bugatti and Bertazzoni.

An obvious reason for the increase in demand for gourmet kitchen appliances is the transformation of the kitchen space. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the ‘hierarchy of the home is changing’ with builders being asked to design super kitchens that start at a modest 1,500 square feet and go up to 5,000 square feet in size.

For Mark Elmore, Head of Industrial Design, Fisher & Paykel Appliances, the kitchen has to be a space where you can play with your kids, work, hold family meetings and entertain.

“The kitchen is no longer just a place to cook, but a prominent part of the house that needs to keep up with the latest trends. We are seeing how end-users are investing in professional appliances that satisfy their tastes in terms of style, convenience and safety,” says Suri.

The new domesticity

Another driving force behind this unabashed consumerism is domesticity. In her recent bestseller, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, journalist Emily Matchar tracks a trend where an entire generation of educated, career-oriented women are falling prey to a “collective nostalgia and domesticity mania,” which she terms new domesticity. It seems only logical then that the new domestic goddess will value an arsenal of the coolest domestic gadgets.

“We belong to a culture where there is a tendency to eat traditional foods. Thus there is greater need for machines than can help in the tedious processes of food preparation,” says Khairallah.

The blitzkrieg of food and lifestyle shows on television also plays a huge role in raising awareness about products. Consumers know what they want and the features they need in their gadget by staying up-to-date with product reviews and blogs, points out Khairallah.

Life savers

While many would like to spend their days baking, pickling, gardening and finger painting with children, the truth is that for most people 24 hours is not enough. “The more hectic our lives become, the more valuable is time spent cooking with family and friends,” says Dr. Markus Miele, Managing Director of Miele, a German home appliance brand.

“There is strong consumer interest in products which make life easier and which improve food preparation skills. People tend to buy kitchen appliances that will allow them to cook and prepare their favourite dishes in a timely manner,” says Suri. A great example is the Cooking Chef from Kenwood that has incorporated induction cooking with all the standard features of a kitchen machine, making it the first total kitchen machine.

There is no denying that changing lifestyles drive product innovation. One of the strongest trends is the rising interest in bean-to-cup coffee machines, says Suri. So, the Bugatti Diva Espresso Machine with over 14,000 Swarovski crystals, produces fabulous coffee using freshly-roasted beans.

The Y factor

There’s a growing breed of urban men who spend big bucks on exotic foods and hours in the kitchen. Celebrity Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor says it is cool for men to cook now, unlike earlier when men would be shy to do so or talk about it.

Miele reports that 70 per cent of its products’ purchase decisions are made by men. Closer home, Michel Romanos, Section Manager Home Department, Galeries Lafayette, points out that “most guests are interested in high-end kitchen appliances and we get male customers in greater numbers.”