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Housewares Retailers Welcome Millennials Into The Kitchen

NEW YORK— According to “Millennials at Home… In The Kitchen,” a report by Albing International Marketing LLC, while the Millennial generation studies with a global perspective, they also lean toward products that have a close-to-home connotation, and their preferences in the kitchen reflect this. 

Millennials also look for kitchenware that offers multiple functionality yet can fit in often small living spaces, promotes healthful lifestyles while benefiting the planet and, as the housewares industry has become aware, are purchased as a perceived deal. Retailers have taken note and are merchandising to the tastes of this demographic— ages 20 to 32— but not in an obvious way. 

Today’s trends in international cooking stem from an increase in international travel, national cooking shows demonstrating cuisine from all around the world, and social media, which makes it easier for people separated by far distances to connect. As such, Millennials show a larger affinity for global gastronomy than any generation before, the AIM study noted, and the housewares industry seems to be responding by giving them the tools they need to re-create foreign dishes at home. Major retailers are stocking shelves with unique kitchenware designed to facilitate global cuisine trends, such as Africa-inspired tagines, French-inspired madeleine pans, Latin calderos, rare global spices and, of course, Asian-inspired kitchenware, such as woks and bamboo steamers.

This trend can be seen in stores that target the first-time home or apartment shoppers, such as Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters, where Malaysia-inspired Tenun and Ikat fabrics and patterns line furniture and dish towels, as well as cookbooks that flaunt cuisine from Jerusalem to petit French kitchens. With a myriad of international cooking products at various pricepoints, retailers have created end-caps specifically with international cooking in mind. 

While Millennials like a taste of foreign culture in the kitchen, they also yearn for a taste of home. According to the AIM study, Millennials seek a “warmth factor” in their kitchens and 57.5% of Millennials chose “comfortable” as a word to describe their dream kitchens. Millennials look to achieve this with kitchenware that has a traditional and vintage feel, the study noted. 

Retailers are responding by capitalizing on trends such as the mason jar. Invented in the 1800s as a means of preserving foods and found in many grandmothers’ kitchens, the glass containers can be found in retailers marketed as drinking glasses, food storage solutions, utensil crocks and candle holders, as well as for their original purpose, canning. 

For Millennials, concern in kitchen purchases goes beyond the look, feel and function of new kitchenware. This demographic is also conscious of the impact their purchases make on the larger community and world. The AIM study noted that this is the generation that was taught to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in elementary school and completed mandatory community service hours in high school. As such, items associated with charitable contributions, marketed as environmentally friendly, organic or green are popular with shoppers of this generation. Items with a “Made in the USA” connotation are likely to strike a positive chord with the Millennial who is proud to support their neighbors, the study said. 

Finding products with these connotations in major retailers isn’t all that difficult. Many retailers offer sufficient product on their shelves to pull together a “Made in the USA” statement, and brands are quick to make the callout on packaging. Brands touting environmental benefits such as natural, recycled or alternative materials are likely to be seen favorably by the younger consumer as well. Bamboo products large and small, for example, flaunt inherent benefits in the organically grown, renewable material while both soda makers and water purifiers can be marketed as earth-friendly alternatives to individual plastic bottles.

With purchases promoting a healthy environment, Millennials also yearn for kitchenware that promotes a healthy lifestyle. According to the AIM study, Millennials are knowledgeable of nutritional guidelines and 65% say they would like to eat healthier foods. Retailers have taken note of this trend not only by offering housewares that promote healthy eating, such as vegetable peelers, fruit corers, lettuce savers and the like, but also adding color to bring attention to the natural colors in the fresh ingredients. Health-minded housewares statements often glow green from items like salad spinners, dressing shakers, oil misters and the like. 

Storage is also a key factor for the Millennial generation whose dreams of their parent’s kitchen and limited storage space often render their own kitchens inadequate, the AIM study said. Of Millennials surveyed, 42% said that if they could change one thing about their kitchen, it would be to have more storage space. Millennials respond by looking for items that are collapsible, nesting or stacking items, or shrunken-versions of larger products without sacrificed quality. 

While a majority of Millennials want their storage to be “out of sight,” the AIM study noted that 33% of respondents would like storage that is within sight, but attractive and well-designed; i.e., not an eye-sore on the counter. Items that offer multiple functions or prevent clutter are likely to provide solutions for the Millennial who wants more space.

While Millennials are subtly setting trends in the housewares market, no trend may be more impactful than the one made with their wallets. Vendors said they don’t often design with Millennial preferences directly in mind, but they do understand that Millennials don’t want to break the bank, and that they’re likely not buying without doing their research. 

A recent study by Prosper Insights & Analytics on Media Behavior & Influence found that 67% of nearly 5,000 surveyed Millennials said they leave retail stores empty-handed, only to compare prices and purchase from another retailer using a laptop or desktop computer, a practice known as showrooming. Similarly, the AIM study noted that Millennials are looking for ways to bend the cost curve without compromising quality. They are deal-driven and capable of finding the products they want, or something close to it, for a fraction of the price. 

Retailers are responding to the new age of buying habits by offering deals such as “buy one, get one,” or offering to price-match. Circulars from major retailers tout free gift cards or add-on items with certain purchases. Retailers are also encouraging customers to connect on social media, sign up for email blasts with discount offers, or earn rewards points for purchases. 

Ultimately, vendors said, to maintain the interest of Millennials, new products start from the drawing board with a particular price/value proposition in mind.