The latest releases have reduced energy requirements yet augmented capability.
The newest small kitchen appliances from China reflect strong demand for reduced energy consumption but efficient performance from the main overseas markets.
The electric cooker segment, for example, is underscoring faster operation and subsequent decrease in overall power usage, which are translating into more inquiries.
For coffee makers, capsule models are growing in popularity. Such types do not require the built-in grinders of automatic items, thereby reducing electrical utilization. The fewer parts minimize manufacturing costs as well, keeping prices of capsule products 30 to 50 percent lower than those of automatic drip versions.
In addition, many of the latest small kitchen appliances boast multifunctionality, requiring less energy and space than several specialized units. Select releases combine rice, electric pressure and slow cooker functions. Similarly, some new coffee makers can also be used for tea.
China companies are exerting efforts to improve visual appeal as well. The available range of colors, designs and shapes has increased in previous months.
Bread makers range
Electric cookers variety
Coffee makers selection
Exports to rise
Bread makers are among the most popular products in the breakfast category of small kitchen appliances. They typically consist of a pan with a center-mounted paddle in a small special-purpose oven that has a control panel.
The majority of bread makers have specific cycles for different kinds of dough such as those for straight white and whole grain bread, pizza and shaped loaves. Many are also equipped with a timer for semiautonomous operation. Select high-end units allow the user to program a custom cycle.
One of the most recent innovations is the facility to automatically add nuts and fruit from a tray during the kneading process. Some models are suitable for other food, including pasta.
Bread maker recipes are often smaller than standard oven variants, and can be based on the capacity of the machine's pan. Products intended for the US and the EU are mainly 1.5 pound-capable units, although releases for 2, 2.5 and 3 pound loaves are also offered.
PP, PC, PA, PBT, PVC, aluminum, iron, stainless steel and copper are the usual materials.
Typical low-end designs support up to 1 pound loaves and have cool-touch housings, a 1hr keep-warm function and two operation buttons. The built-in menus include basic, whole wheat, quick, dough and bake settings with LED indicators.
Further, nonstick pans and kneading blades, nonslip feet, and accessories such as spoons and cups are standard. Power supply for 15min in case of current loss is among the common capability. Prices are between $20 and $25.
In the midrange, models are usually automatic and support 1.5 to 2 pound loaves. Eight preset programs, a timer with 13hr delay, 60min keep-warm functionality, and settings for light, medium and dark crust are typical.
A dishwasher-safe removable nonstick pan and kneading blade, measuring cup and spoon are included. A large viewing window, LCD, and the capability to retain settings for up to 10min after power loss are built in. Quotes are $26 to $35.
High-end bread makers augment the features of less expensive models via stainless steel housings and accents, tempered glass covers and control panels, automatic controls and 12 operation presets.
Such units can be used for bread weighing 2 to 3 pounds. They come with twin pans, and may boast fruit and nut dispensers. The majority bears GS, CE, EMC, SAA, UL, EETL, CB and RoHS approval. Prices are $36 to $55.
The electric cookers segment accounts for a significant portion of small kitchen appliance exports from China. Products include rice and slow cookers, which are typically available in mechanical and electronic configurations.
Mechanical models come in cool-touch PP housings and anodized aluminum inner pots. They adopt a steamer tray for vegetables and dumplings, automatic keep-warm and reheating functions, and sealed constructions that optimize efficiency. The capacity is 2 to 7L, and most are at 4 to 6L.
Intelligent versions utilize fuzzy logic controls to adjust temperature and cooking time automatically after user selection of mode or rice variety.
Slow cookers are priced about 5 percent more than rice cookers despite bearing nearly similar specifications. The former come with automatic, high, low or simmer and keep-warm settings. Regular and tempered glass lids are common, although select units employ stainless steel tops.
The product type, functions, materials and design determine quotes of electric cookers from China. Inexpensive models go for $6 to $15, and usually have housings combining tin and PP, and 1L aluminum inner pots. Mechanical control knobs, and heating, steaming and keep-warm functionality are standard.
In the midrange, units are fitted with PP and ABS shells, and are available in mechanical and intelligent configurations. They perform more functions than affordable versions, and allow roasting, steaming, stewing and braising.
Prices are between $16 and $35. Microcomputer-controlled types that boast multiple functions are listed 5 percent higher than mechanical ones. Three heat settings, 12hr timer presets, stainless steel housings, and 1.5 to 1.8L anodized aluminum or alloy inner pots utilizing inner and outer nonstick coatings are options.
Upscale electric cookers usually go for $36 to above $50, and have stainless steel shells and a polished or fingerprint-resistant finish. The inner pots are mostly made of anodized aluminum with more than three layers of imported nonstick coating, although alternatives adopt stainless steel and a 3-layer base. These components range in thickness from 2.5 to 4mm and can hold 1.8L.
Select high-end models incorporate fuzzy logic controls, digital touchpads, large LCDs that show cooking status and 24hr preset timers.
Demand for electric pressure cookers has risen in previous years because of their energy-efficiency characteristics. Adding to the features of upscale rice cookers, they allow delayed operation and memory capability in case of power loss. Most are between $25 and $50.
The main materials for the electric cooker segment are plastic, stainless steel and aluminum. Low-end and midrange products utilize domestically purchased plastic and steel. For the former, PP and ABS are frequently sourced in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces.
High-end units often use inputs obtained in other areas. These include plastic from Chi Mei, Formosa and TPP in Taiwan and South Korea. The 304and 18/8 types of stainless steel can be procured in the latter location and Japan.
Continuing the trend of the previous years, China's coffee maker industry is dominated by automatic drip-type versions. These account for about 70 percent of exports in the category. Espresso and capsule models represent the rest.
The efforts of most companies are directed toward enhancing performance and appearance. Easy-to-use products with swing-out filter holders, nonstick heating plates, temperature-resistant glass carafes and thermal protection are prevalent.
Certain designs have a space-saving integrated grinder and a removable water tank for better convenience. Further, some new upscale drip models incorporate stainless steel accents, anti-drip valves, guide-light water level systems, automatic stay-warm functions and warming plates with a nonstick coating. Handle-fitted permanent filters, and thermostat and thermo fuse overheat protection are also installed.
Typical low-end versions have a capacity of 0.5 to 1L, ABS or PP housings, timers, swing-out filter baskets and LED lamps, and generate 850W. The majority is in simple designs and performs basic functions. Prices are between $5 and $7.
Midrange drip products go for $8 to $11. Standard inclusions are 1 to 1.5L reservoirs, ABS shells, removable drip trays, tanks and lids, LED indicators and an auto shut-off feature. The power rating is 850 to 1,000W.
Models in the high-end segment are usually made of ABS or stainless steel. Removable drip trays, 1.8L tanks, LCDs, 2hr auto shut-off capability and a 12-cup capacity are typical. Switches with indicator lights, keep-warm functionality and detachable filters are available. Quotes are $12 to $17.
In general, espresso machines are offered only as upscale units. They come in various configurations, including steam- and piston-driven, and semi- and fully automatic. The last two are dominant. In this category, the materials, functions and constructions determine prices. Rates are $50 to $550. Less expensive versions sport plastic, aluminum or cold-rolled plate housings and locally sourced pumps.
Select designs incorporate thermal carafes instead of hotplates. Midrange products have these components in double-walled plastic with a chrome finish, and built-in blade or grinder mills, cord storage and auto shut-off functionality.
Automatic espresso machines are usually targeted at the premium segment. Supporting a capacity of 1.8L, they utilize stainless steel shells, thermostatic water temperature and microcomputer controls, 15 to 20 bar pump pressure, froth enhancers and detachable water reservoirs. Power ratings of 1,300 to 1,500W, LCDs and 250 to 300g bean boxes are common. Some automatic versions boast Italy-sourced pumps and go for $300 to $600.
Buyer interest in capsule coffee maker is on the rise. These convenience-focused types are $50 to $90, or midrange in the espresso machine segment. The housings are in compact dimensions, enabling suitability for home and office applications.
In general, China's small kitchen appliances industry experienced an upward export trend in 2010.
Under the pressure of rising material and labor costs, and the appreciation of the yuan, numerous companies raised prices in the past year, resulting in reduced orders.
The majority of small kitchen appliance manufacturers are OEM-driven, and do not have strong R&D capability or financial backing. For better competitiveness, these small and midsize makers are improving model functionality and appearance while lowering quotes, developing in-house brands and enhancing aftersales service.
Large operations, which are typically skilled in feature innovation, focus on widening their product range. A number of companies also plan to establish factories overseas for better control over distribution and supply.
Homezest Electrical Mfg Co. Ltd
Ningbo Jeechain Science & Technology Co. Ltd
Ningbo Merol Coffee Machine Co. Ltd
Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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