Functional or fad?

Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group has released data from a consumer survey of the most popular items in one of the most trend-focused home channel categories -- small appliances.

The group noted that in the year ended August 2008, the categories with the largest percentage growth in unit sales across specialty kitchen electrics were jar openers, electric kettles, popcorn makers and tea makers. The biggest unit declines were chocolate fountains, electric rotisseries, pizza ovens and roaster ovens.

Electric kettles were the largest category in all specialty kitchen electrics tracked by NPD in the 12 months ending August 2008 (23 percent of units, 19 percent of dollars). The category grew by 21 percent in units and 28 percent in dollar sales. According to the NPD Group’s National Eating Trends, per capita or per person consumption of tea in the home has been steadily increasing over the past five years.  

On the other end of the spectrum, chocolate fountains had the largest percentage of unit and dollar declines in the specialty kitchen electrics category, resulting in a 51 percent unit sales decline and a 48 percent dollar sales drop. Chocolate fountains were a big trend in recent years, with the largest growth among these specialty categories in the 12 months ending August 2007, nearly tripling dollar sales of the previous year and quadrupling unit sales.

“It’s noteworthy that specialty kitchen electrics such as popcorn makers, tea makers and electric kettles are showing such substantial growth in the past year,” said Peter Goldman, president of NPD’s home services. “Despite economic turmoil, consumers are seeking comfort and convenience to enhance their stay-at-home lifestyle. Tea and popcorn makers certainly fit the healthy living trend as well.”

Goldman added that in a rougher economy, consumers likely won’t be looking for the latest fad, “or a product that does not offer real value to their everyday lives.”

“Electric jar opener growth is a good example of this and can be attributed to an aging population,” he added. “In this regard, we anticipate seeing more successful specialty appliances geared toward this population as the opportunities there continue to grow.”

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