For much of the 20th century, businesses dictated pretty much everything to consumers, from styles to trends to pricing to priorities, through top-down advertising messages.
Brands told consumers how they should outfit their homes, feed their kids, stock their pantries, and more, regardless of how consumers lived their lives or whether or not these brand decrees met their needs.
Fast-forward to the 21st century, and all that changed with the advent of online technology and social media.
Through blogs, as well as social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and more recently Instagram and Pinterest, consumers gained a voice in the marketplace.
Amidst this “Brand Revolution” where consumers, via social media, have a seat at the marketing table and share their needs and priorities with businesses, we’ve now started to see the overall impact on key consumer-facing industries, such as housewares.
Recently, I attended the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago where I saw first hand how brands have become dramatically attuned to the needs and priorities of the end consumer and increasingly shape their product offerings around rising lifestyle trends.
I’ve included here my trend-spotting from the Home + Housewares Show that demonstrates this new Brand Revolution:
Tapping Into Healthy Eating Trends
The housewares industry fully understands that the healthy eating trend continues to gain momentum, and this year’s show revealed brand after brand demonstrating everything from devices to gadgets to appliances that help consumers prepare both good-tasting and good-for-you foods.
Spiralizing Hits its Crescendo
Consumers continue to hear they need to eat more vegetables, and the new “spiralizing” trend makes it easier to sub in vegetables such as zucchini and butternut squash instead of pasta.
The 2016 Show highlighted spiralizers, manual, turn-crank, and electronic varieties, with increasingly sophisticated designs and settings that turn vegetables into everything from ribbons to linguine to spaghettini.
Gluten-Free Offerings Grow
With a growing number of consumers switching to a gluten-free diet, businesses have responded with products and food offerings that allow these consumers to enjoy the foods they’ve always loved. This year’s show revealed a way for those on a gluten-free diet to once again eat homemade bread via bread machines that offer new temperature settings that make breads gluten-free.
The Rise of Healthy Beverages
Today, consumers extend the healthy eating trend to beverages – looking for ways to quench their thirst without added sugars and artificial flavors.
End of the Soda Era
In past years, the Housewares show featured machines that helped families make their own at-home soda, but today the mantra proves to be: “Hello sparkling water.”
As a result, machines now focus exclusively on the endless ways to enjoy sparkling sugar-free beverages.
Juicing Slows and Grows
While juicing continues to grow in popularity, housewares brands began featuring new varieties of juicers.
These new devices move slowly, generating no heat as they remove the pulp and extract the juice, to ensure the process captures all available nutrients.
Plastic Takes a Back Seat
Consumers continue to focus on health concerns, including how they carry their beverages while on the go.
Even with BPA-free plastic, consumers’ distrust mounts and the industry now offers up new varieties of beverage carriers, including glass-lined water bottles with protection from breakage and ceramic coffee to-go mugs.
At-Home Caffeine Goes High End
As a caffeine-addicted nation, Americans want their high-end daily coffee and tea drinks but balk at paying retail prices, and increasingly look to home appliances to get the quality they now expect.
Brewing Up Consumer Choices
In response to consumer trends, brands now offer up an assortment of choices that allow consumers to make any and every variety of coffee at home.
These new machines now allow consumers to create whatever type of coffee they choose, from cappuccinos to K-cups to brewed coffee, all in one machine.
Moreover, consumers can become their own personal barista as we see the growing popularity of milk-enhanced drinks, as well as the use of coffee-house techniques to coax the most flavor from grounds.
Rise of Artisanal Teas
At the same time at-home coffee skills increase, tea drinking hits a new level of artistry.
The days of simply boiling water in a kettle, or worse, heating up a tea bag in the microwave, prove to be over, as brands now showcase both teas and heating mechanisms suited for every variety of tea.
The 2016 show featured water heaters and tea steepers that allow consumers to heat water to the perfect temperature for every type of tea.
The Home Chef Goes Professional
Whether due to the popularity of cooking shows or the rise of the celebrity chef, one trend proves clear, consumers now demand professional grade gear when whipping up creations at home.
Juxtaposition - Dicing vs. Better Knives For Home Chefs
The Housewares show demonstrated that consumers want it both ways. The ability to slice and dice by machine, as well as by hand.
Brands demonstrated new dicing devices, both stand-alone dicers and food processor attachments, that allow the home cook to achieve that perfect quarter dice easily.
Moreover, knives continue to improve in quality, even for everyday use, for home cooks not content to let a machine do the chopping.
Single-Use Gadgets Continue to Proliferate
For the home cook who wants every option and refuses to multi-task, brands continue to offer up an endless number of devices that do one thing well, from mango slicers to ginger peelers and graters to garlic slicers to strawberry corers to corn strippers.
Copper Makes a Comeback
In a nod toward the ceiling-mounted racks of the 1960s filled with gorgeous copper pots, the copper craze has returned.
The 2016 Housewares show featured copper everywhere, from cookware to drink cups to products simply copper-colored.
Helping Home Cooks Work Smarter, Not Harder
Even though consumers have elevated their cooking expectations, they don’t want to spend their lives in the kitchen and look for kitchen gear to make their efforts easier.
Induction Coming to Countertop Ovens
Panasonic revealed its new countertop oven that promises to take less time to heat up and cook foods faster.
Portable and placed on the kitchen counter, the induction oven radiates heat and can cook an entire chicken dinner in 20 minutes, resulting in a finished entrée that’s both crispy and juicy.
This oven cooks foods so efficiently and effectively that the traditional oven may soon be reserved just for Thanksgiving dinner.
But in an era where de-cluttering proves on the rise and countertop space becomes even more precious, this oven may be more suited for Millennials who want high-end kitchen gear even while living in small urban apartments.
Blending Up Speed And Functionality
Blenders continue to resonate with consumers and now brands whip up a variety of options including Immersion Blenders with multiple functions, mashing, mixing, blending, and whisking, to take on every possible cooking technique.
Next up, High-Speed Blenders combine foods at such a high rate of speed that they generate heat, and can turn raw ingredients into a pureed soup with the push of a button.
Capitalizing on Creative Trends
Visual sites such as Pinterest and Instagram have transformed how today’s consumers prepare food.
With gorgeous images and endless recipes, kitchen creativity abounds.
Waffle-izing Takes Off
No longer limited to fries, “waffle-izing” makes everything look and taste better so brands now showcase devices that can make any kind of food into a waffle pattern, from hash brown potatoes to pancakes to eggs to falafels.
Large-Mug Cooking Heats Up
Back in the day, consumers heated up soup in large mugs, but today anything goes as social media continues to get consumers excited about mug cooking.
Brands have caught up and now show 20-ounce mugs with specialized lids that can cook anything in a microwave, including brownies, cupcakes, mini pies, mac ‘n cheese, banana bread and overnight oats.
Related Article: Build Your Tribe: How to Make an Audience Loyal to Your Brand
Marketing Takeaways for Businesses
So how can more businesses tap into consumer needs and deliver products that resonate with rising trends?
Look for ways to engage with consumers via social media. Build relationships, ask for input, and create opportunities for ongoing interaction.
As today’s consumers look to blogs for firsthand recommendations on topics ranging from food to fashion to lifestyle to travel and more, begin building relationships with bloggers and engage them to share their insights and experiences with your products.
Often businesses think of their products in a specific way not realizing that consumer preferences have changed.
Turn to social media as a way to stay up-to-date with what’s trending with consumers and stay flexible.
Your product may answer consumer needs your brand team never imagined.