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Left to their own devices: kitchen gadget makers put an increased focus on form, function and a nice design.

KITCHEN GADGETS CONTINUED TO BE hot in 2006, with growth that again outpaced most other housewares categories. In 2006, sales of gadgets increased 7.2 percent, from $978 million in 2005 to $1.04 billion in 2006. In 2005, the category grew about 5 percent.

With Americans' interest in cooking showing no signs of waning, gadgets represent an easy, low-priced entry point into the trendy world of gourmet food prep for many consumers. Vendors are responding to the interest, and trying to capture sales dollars, by offering a slew of products that marry form and function better than the competition.

Silicone is the biggest story this year, as manufacturers continue to explore practical, new uses for the popular material. Softer, more flexible versions of silicone are being used to make colanders; strainers; and other bulky, awkwardly shaped cooking items collapsible for easier storage. ISI's new silicone mixing bowls have a sturdy base and sides that can be squeezed together to form a makeshift spout. "We saw that silicone was a trending material in the industry, and we felt that due to its properties of high heat-resistance, flexibility and ease of cleaning, there was an opportunity to explore different applications for it in the kitchen," said Amanda Luke, product manager at OXO. The company introduced a silicone colander with a stainless-steel frame that can be immersed in boiling water but also becomes flat to save space.

Speciality tools also have a big presence this year, as major manufacturers increasingly invest time and money into staying on top of niche food trends. For Lifetime Brands, the KitchenAid cherry/olive pitter was popular at the International Home & Housewares Show, said Adam Krent, vice president of design at Lifetime Brands. "Since its use is so specifically task-oriented, we really wanted to create a design that beth improved the overall experience of the user and resolved the 'pitfall' issues of existing competitors' design," Kent said.

Consumers are looking for "multifunctional" items, said Mathieu Lion, chief executive officer of Mastrad, the company behind the Orka brand. "Customers want the best of all worlds," Lion said. "Consumers desire kitchens stocked with tools that make their lives easier."

Cuisipro, for example, has introduced many multipurpose items, such as its new handheld storage grater. The egg-shaped gadget sits in the palm of a hand.

Relative newcomer Art & Cook is all about form and function. Each of the company's carefully designed kitchen tools has a colorful handle that's filled with pockets of pressurized air, and is designed to be more ergonomic and less stressful to consumers' hands.
KITCHAN TOOLS & GADGETS
Channels of Distribution

Other 1.5% 1%
Catalogs 3% 2%
Specialty stores 30% 26%
Supermarket/drugstore 19% 24%
Mass merchant & clubs 40% 40%
Department stores 6.5% 7%

Retails Sales 2006 % CHANGE 2005
($ millions) $1,049.86 7.2% $978.89

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Title Annotation:KITCHENWARE REPORT
Author:Bockelman, Christine
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Apr 16, 2007
Words:477
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