Home Innovative Consumer Appliances – Consumer Proximate Production

Introduction

Food equipment and machinery have been an essential part of the food industry, be it restaurant chains, café, or food processors. Tools or appliances have reformed with time, place, and conditions. Presently, with the high demand for processed food products, there is a requirement for technologically advanced equipment, which can be installed or used with ease and provides at-home convenience to individuals. The most important aspect of this equipment includes efficiency, cost, space-saving, innovation, and multi-functionality.

As depicted in Exhibit 1, these new innovative appliances depend on the latest technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML), which ensure quality, safety, and hygiene. Such advanced equipment help overcome consumer challenges, such as storage, longer cooking duration, and transportation.

The busy lifestyle of consumers has a direct impact on their food habits. Cooking options are continuously changing; several research studies have stated that adults perceive time constraints on healthy dietary behaviors. Similarly, people are turning towards meal options instead of home-cooked meals. This shift in paradigm has paved the way for innovative equipment that resolves various issues. For instance, by connecting smart pantries, stoves, and refrigerators to mobile devices, companies are able to help customers improve food selection and promote healthier lifestyles.

What are the major categories and existing products?

Processing, preservation, and cooking are the three broad categories that are being focused by a majority of players in the domain of innovative and convenient appliances.

  • Processing equipment such as blenders, fryers, and stoves are being modified according to the needs of consumers; personalized blenders that can provide calorie count and nutrition benefits are also being developed.
  • Preservation equipment such as smart refrigerators, casseroles that can modulate temperature, self-heated shelves, and self-heating lunchboxes are being modified.
  • Cooking appliances such as fryers, portable inductions, portable barbecue suitcases, and crock-pots are being launched. All these equipment are further categorized on the basis of their unique features, which include space-saving, AI, portability, and energy-saving (refer to Exhibit 2).Innovative consumer appliances currently available in the market are listed in Exhibit 3 below:
    • NutriBullet Balance: It is a smart blender that has a built-in Bluetooth smart nutrition sensor, which connects to the NutriBullet Balance app. This app calculates the nutritional value of smoothies, blends, and other beverages, and can be used to set personalized nutritional goals.

    Key Feature: Can be connected to the smartphone and helps to attain nutrition goals

    • Anova Sous Vide: It is small in size and compatible with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The device provides continuous temperature control and cooking notifications. It can cook both vegetables and meats.

    Key Feature: Simple to use, can be connected to any pot, and cost-effective

    • WeMo Enabled Crock-pot: It provides remote access to home appliances, owing to which, consumers can adjust cooking time and temperature, as well as turn the appliance on and off using the WeMo app. This device has three heat settings, cool-touch handles, and built-in cord storage.

    Key Feature: Customers can control temperature and cook time from anywhere via the WeMo app

    • June Intelligent Oven: It can perform the function of seven appliances, namely, convection oven, air fryer, dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler, toaster, and warming drawer.

    Key Feature: Versatile, multi-functional, and space-saving

    • MittiCool Clay Refrigerator: It is a natural clay refrigerator, made from terracotta clay and runs without electricity. The device has won an innovation award; it is ideal for storing water, milk, fruits, and vegetables.

    Key Feature: Eco-friendly, cost-effective, and easy-to-use

    • Portable Barbeque Suitcase: Kikkerland manufactures multiple options of a versatile charcoal grill that is easy-to-use and portable, and can be used to cook steaks, veggies, and burgers.

    Key Features: Space-saving, convenient, and portable

    • BaroCook Flameless Cooker: BaroCook launched flameless cookers that are water activated and contain heating pads. These cookers are lightweight and portable and can be used to cook or heat food items.

    Key Features: Portable, eco-friendly, and energy saving

What are the currently emerging solutions sought by industry players?

With the rise in demand for consumer-friendly products, established players are actively launching equipment to improve food processing or preservation. Several entrepreneurs are also entering this field with new ideas and approaches.

A. Mitticool – A cost-efficient, energy-saving refrigerator

Challenge in the industry: To design a low-cost cooling device for developing geographies

Solution: Mitticool was invented by Mansukhbhai with the intent to provide a cost-effective solution for avoiding food spoilage.

It acts as a clay-based refrigerator that can store vegetables and fruits as well as cool water. Mitticool was designed to cool products naturally without electricity or any other artificial form of energy.

The product received multiple innovation awards, such as National Award for Most Innovative Products by the Indian Ministry of Rural Development, True Scientist Award during the 4th National Award Function, Delhi, and Net Geo Eco-Hero Award by National Geographic Channel, New Delhi.

Mitticool generated a great buzz and received recognition worldwide. A small company, Mitticool, was established to produce this clay-based refrigerator as well as other products, such as clay non-stick pans, glasses, bottles, and pots.

Mitticool products are exported to the UK, Africa, and Nairobi, and the company is also looking to set up a manufacturing unit in Africa.

B. Digital Appliances – A modern innovation to provide ease-of-use

Challenge in the industry: To design multifunctional, interactive appliances that save time and are convenient and digitalized.

Solution: Interactive pantries with smart shelves, digitally operated crock pots, and smart blenders were developed. These pantries consist of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth operated equipment that can be managed and monitored via smartphone applications. Several supermarkets include smart shelves that consist of RFID tags, which can determine the item count and the number of items that need to be purchased.

Players such as LG and Whirlpool are working on smart refrigerators that can connect to the oven to set the right temperature and cook time for the meal.

Players are also working on smart jars equipped with scanners that alert when food gets spoiled and should be disposed of.

Many smart appliances, such as WeMo Enabled Crock-pot and BaroCook Flameless Cooker, help customers improve food selection, and promote health-conscious lifestyles.

What are the prospects observed in the domain?

Many innovative consumer appliances are still in the pipeline phase. Some examples are listed in the Exhibit 4 below:

Set to Mimic: The device comprises a glass, a plate, and a microchip. The transparent gel patch with a microchip is placed on the head, while the plate and the glass can communicate wirelessly with the brain, to re-create any taste or smell from experience by tapping into the person’s memory. The product could be used to promote healthy food habits, and it would be boon for diabetic people and also the ones suffering from food allergies.

Portable induction: Inductive intelligence has produced portable inductions or base units, which identify the packaging material of food products and sends the appropriate amount of energy required to heat the contents. The products are still in the pipeline phase and are not marketed yet.

Eco-Cleaner: It is a portable dishwasher concept that utilizes ultrasonic waves to ionize food particles on the dishes and converts the food/grease to reusable compost for plants.

Biorobot Refrigerator: It is a concept that utilizes a special gel-like substance that suspends and cools food, once inserted. The device can be mounted on a wall and does not have a motor; the non-sticky gel does all the work and has no odor. The design of the device draws heat energy from the surrounding air and converts it to cool the contents contained. It also has microscopic robots embedded in the device that identify the necessary temperatures for each item being stored and adjust local heat and cold accordingly.

What is the impact of these innovative consumer appliances?

These state-of-the-art appliances ensure ease-of-use and convenience and save time.

  • Technologies and equipment can be applied to acquire a healthier and nutritious approach for meals.
  • The main focus is to provide a customized and personal experience to consumers.
  • Most players are developing eco-friendly and sustainable equipment that can help reduce the carbon footprint and promote a balanced ecosystem.
  • These innovative appliances also help equipment manufacturers to drive consumer interest.

Who are the key players in this segment?

  • Samsung is at the forefront of the emerging smart appliances market.
  • Electrolux is another leading player in the food industry; the company has an Electrolux design lab competition each year to discover and promote new ideas.
  • Hatco Corporation is manufacturing built-in self-heating stone shelves, which can be embedded in the kitchen. These shelves help in keeping the food warm.
  • LuchEaze is a start-up that produces automatic and completely cordless self-heating lunchboxes. These boxes can produce a hot meal, exactly on the meal schedule, and operate on battery, with no requirement of an external power source. They automatically start to heat food 2 hours in advance of the scheduled mealtime.
  • NitroBrew is a start-up that produces a tabletop nitro brewing system for beers, coffee, and other beverages. The system comprises a kettle, a charger, and a small air compressor. There are no cylinders or tanks to refill or cartridges to change. It can easily be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Other established players such as LG and Whirlpool are also launching smart products (ovens and refrigerators), which can be connected to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and have an app to control cooking time and temperature.

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