NEW YORK— It might not be easy being green, but it just might translate into significantly more greenbacks for the housewares industry.
Consumer demand for sustainable products is driving suppliers and retailers to adopt greener manufacturing, product development, packaging and distribution policies. In fact, a survey of more than 30,000 consumers from 60-plus countries released by The Conference Board in February found that consumers rank environmentally-friendly production as the sustainability feature with the biggest impact on determining their brand choices.
“Companies that offer and highlight their environmentally-friendly production will most likely benefit with new sustainability-minded customers,” the board stated. The survey also revealed that home appliance makers and retailers— along with tech companies, utility providers, financial institutions and hotels— exceed consumers’ expectations regarding their sustainability efforts.
Leading kitchen appliance makers agree there is an increase in consumer demand for sustainable products, in turn spurring retail demand.
“When your retail partners include leaders like Walmart, Target etc.— brands who have set the worldwide standard for sustainability and environmentally-responsible processes— the most prudent move is to follow their lead and make sure we meet or exceed their expectations,” noted Gourmia founder Heshy Biegeleisen. “What we share with them is the desire to leave this planet to our kids in better shape.”
“We try and ensure that any powered components— motors, heating elements etc.— are all rated for maximum efficiency and performance as well as sourced from factories who share our mindset,” he explained. “We’re not going to say it’s always possible. Still, the more insistent we are, the more word gets around in the vendor community that doing business with Gourmia means having your house in order from a green/environmental perspective.”
Leading global suppliers showcased an array of sustainable, organic, renewable, recyclable and reusable products at Germany’s Ambiente fair this year. Suppliers are continuing to spotlight eco-conscious products and marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being at home has made us spend more time in the kitchen and we have seen sales trends of consumers making easy swaps: switching to borosilicate glass containers instead of using mounds of plastic; discarding the plastic straws and opting for biodegradable or stainless steel eco-friendly options,” said Jacqueline Gonzalez, brand manager, Holstein Housewares. “Having a sustainable kitchen has become a priority.”
She added, “As a company, being eco-friendly has been a priority and part of our culture; from making choices in daily office operations to developing products and processes with sustainability in mind. A few examples of items would be Holstein’s 12-piece
cupcake maker, which is energy-efficient and multi-purpose when compared to traditional baking options, or our electric glass kettles which are made from sustainable materials.”
Zavor has seen a sales surge in multi-functional pressure cookers during the pandemic.
“We have seen an immediate consumer interest in batch cooking and in preserving like we never saw before, which we believe has to do with how sustainability applies to food in addition to the products we use to cook,” pointed out Sara De La Hera, vp/sales and marketing, Zavor. “Consumers are more aware about how difficult it has been to get certain ingredients, and how batch cooking, preserving or freezing meals has helped throughout these difficult months.”
“We at Zavor have always paid special attention to environmentally-friendly products, from pressure cookers that save 70% of the cooking time, and therefore energy, to our induction cooktops, which cook twice as fast as gas and electric cooktops, saving energy as well,” she added.
Metal Ware and its Nesco brand highlight sustainable food preservation.
“We aim to help consumers shop farmers markets and enjoy sustainable, home-grown produce all year round by having methods of safe storage that eliminate food spoilage and waste,” said Maddie Frank, sales and marketing coordinator, Metal Ware. “We’re also taking a close look at all of our processes and finding areas where we can make things more efficient, upping our efforts on both plastic and metal scrap recycling to reduce environmental impact.”
Packaging has gotten a major revamp throughout the housewares industry. “We have transitioned all of our products to recyclable material, unless there is a weight issue, to pass drop tests,” said Jim Haskins, vp/marketing and product development for Aroma. “We changed most of our products to a corrugated inner packaging because most of our items are light in weight.”
Salton is focusing on packaging materials and packaging sizes, as well as on products’ energy efficiency and reuse. “The consumer wants an environmentally-friendly, sustainable product,
and all of the major retailers have a corporate commitment to sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint,” said Jason Hutton, vp/sales and marketing for Salton. “Consumer demand and retailers are really driving this, but this also benefits us as manufacturers, because it pushes you to come up with a better product.”
Hutton explained that using environmentally-friendly materials— corrugated cardboard in place of Styrofoam, for instance— and smaller boxes benefits suppliers in terms of paying less shipping costs, and also benefits retailers because they can fit more products in the same footprint.
“We have all learned that it doesn’t make sense to just be shipping air in a box,” he noted. “Fitting the product into smaller boxes is a big deal for online retailing, because it decreases the shipping fees, and also in-store, because of the amount of space the box takes up on the shelf.”
On the product development side, Salton’s multi-functional appliances offer the consumer the benefit of purchasing one appliance that does the work of three separate appliances, which means less waste.
Hutton added, “Also, we are focusing on energy efficient cooking methods, such as induction cooking, which is the greenest way to cook because it doesn’t waste any energy. We also have seen very big growth in space-saving, collapsible appliances— a dehydrator with collapsible trays, a compact kettle with foldable handle and retractable cord— saving on the amount of packaging needed and saving consumers space. Compact kettles also allow users to only heat the amount of water they need, rather than wasting energy heating more. And our smart bag sealer eliminates waste by making plastic bags reusable. All of these efforts are part of our commitment to sustainability.”