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WAFFLES WHENEVER: The popularity of waffles any day at any meal has sparked creativity in this small appliance niche.

Credit it to Instagram and its Waffle Wednesdays food snaps, or just the ongoing popularity of breakfast any time of the day--whatever the reason, waffles and the products that make them are a constant among foodies and in the kitchen electrics category these days.

The popularity of brunching with friends has driven significant growth in the demand for waffle makers, said Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications at Cuisinart. Likewise, "the growing trend of foodie Instagram influencers and the aesthetically pleasing photography of Belgian waffles topped with vibrant fruits and other toppings" is giving the category a boost.

Cooking at home in general is on the rise, according to David Rosenfeld, head of marketing for Gourmia. He also credits the globalization of the kitchen and the diverse recipes being shared on social media platforms with bringing more styles of waffles and waffle-related meals into U.S. homes. Finally, he points to food trucks for helping the waffle trend. "Food trucks are a place consumers can be introduced to waffles as part of a savory entree, such as chicken and waffles, or as a new twist on a common pairing, such as the ice cream and waffle taco."

Kim Misrahi, marketing and brand manager for Kalorik USA, said Millennial are trying to facilitate more homemade but convenient meal making. So they may be using a healthy or protein-rich waffle mix for the batter, but are preparing the product with their own appliance.

Although considered very much a niche category among suppliers, most companies offer more than one style of waffle-making device. That's because there are subsectors within the waffle-maker category: regular and Belgian style. Some of the difference is in the recipe itself--Belgian is a lighter batter, but Belgian waffle makers typically have grids with deeper pockets.

Both versions are marketed in single or double or even four-slice sizes, square or round, and in flat or rotary styles.

Gourmia's newest introduction, said Rosenfeld, "makes twice the number of waffles without increasing the amount of space taken up by the appliance." It is a two-sided, flippable device. "While the cook-at-home trend is blossoming, kitchen space is not," he said.

Cuisinart's most popular unit, said Rodgers, is the 4 Slice Belgian Waffle Maker. Its high level of output makes it ideal for larger families, she said, while still offering cooking consistency, which helps meet consumer expectations.

Among the newest innovations in waffle making is how the batter is poured. With traditional flat-style waffle makers, the batter is poured across the grid, which can make for uneven spots or excess batter spilling over the sides.

Kalorik USA tackled that with its Easy Pour unit, which features a sloped surface and a spout on the outside. The batter is measured and poured into the maker and is distributed evenly across the surface.

Misrahi said Easy Pour, a gia award finalist, is the company's most innovative waffle maker and has garnered a lot of attention from retailers looking to shake up the category. The company also recently launched a rotary style, bringing its offerings to six.

"We do a lot to stay on top of product and consumer trends," said Misrahi, noting they are moving toward more compact designs and time-saving products.

Cuisinart has also turned waffle making on its side with its vertical unit. It's a more mess-free, convenient way of making waffles, said Rodgers, but it also is a slimmer product, so it takes up less counter or cabinet space.

Calphalon, which recently entered the small appliance marketplace, included a waffle maker that folds for vertical storage and allows customization with five levels of browning. There are also companies offering waffle makers that create unique shapes or that represent licensed characters from Star Wars to Mickey Mouse, adding a bit of fun to a meal.

Recognizing that consumers are increasingly seeking multifunctional products, De'Longhi has addressed the category with an All-Day Grill that has removable waffle plates so it can also be used for pancake making or frying eggs or bacon.

"Consumers love how versatile it is," explained Dean Brindle, vice president, category strategy and product development for De'Longhi Group North America. "Consumers understand that they can use the grill in the morning for breakfast... and then use it through the rest of the day to grill, make and press sandwiches and even make dessert. Consumers no longer want a product that just does one thing," he said.

While social media has done a good job of bringing waffle innovation into people's kitchens, suppliers are also looking for ways to keep their products before both retailers and consumers.

Misrahi said they've begun working with chef Jamie Gwen, who will be highlighting waffles in her recipe development for Kalorik.

Gourmia's Rosenfeld said the size and affordable price point of most waffle makers makes them a great gift that retailers can promote "and unlike other very mature and saturated segments, waffle makers represent a segment that retailers can look to for incremental sales, rather than cannibalizing sales of an existing segment."

By Joanne Friedrick

Caption: Above: Cuisinart's 4 Slice Belgian Waffle Maker is the company's most popular model.

Caption: Right: Kalorik's Double Belgium Waffle Maker cooks two waffles at once.

Caption: Left: Cuisinart's vertical model turns sideways for easy storage.

Caption: Right:The two-sided flippable Belgian waffle maker from Gourmia is designed to save space.

Caption: Above: De'Longhi's Livenza All Day Grill has removable waffle plates.

Caption: Left: An innovator in the category, Kalorik's Easy Pour model was a gia design award finalist.

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Title Annotation:housewares innovation
Author:Friedrick, Joanne
Publication:HFN Home Furnishings News
Date:Dec 1, 2018
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