Combination luck

22 Jul, 15

Philippa Turrell says it’s no longer about the traditional oven – think steam and microwave too

The inspiration for the combi-oven comes straight from the commercial kitchen, offering the addition of microwave or steam functionality in a standard or even compact footprint. Regardless of the size of their kitchen, consumers can now have more culinary techniques at their fingertips, enabling them to better emulate the skills from the Great British Bake Off, Masterchef or even mirror the creations on The Great British Menu Kitchen. Category manager of Miele, Neil Pooley agrees and says the growth in popularity of combi ovens is “a natural migration from the professional kitchen to the home.” And this is mirrored by the view of the mananaging director of SubZero and Wolf, Craig Davies who says the market for combi ovens has “increased over the last two to three years”, adding some meat on the bones when he says “around 40%” of Wolf’s oven sales are now combi-ovens.

Time versus health

Combining a choice of convection and microwave, convection and steam or even all three (in the case of V-ZUG Combi-Steam XSL), sales could arguably be divided between the time poor who may favour the convection and microwave, or the steam and convection oven, which would arguably be the choice of the health-conscious consumer. However, in terms of popularity, industry experts tend to agree that convection with microwave is their biggest seller combi-ovens type, as consumers understand the functionality more readily.

Marketing director of Baumatic Owain Harrison comments: “Currently outselling the combi steam oven, the combination microwave has been in the market for longer and consumers understand how the concept works. With a combi steam, more education is required on the ship floor to explain the many incredible features of how it is not just for people with healthy lifestyles , but has idea functions for keen cooks and bakers.”  In fact he suggests such is the popularity of the combination microwave, it outsells the standard microwave oven. “The combination oven is becoming a more popular choice to the standard compact microwave or steam oven, because of its multifunctionality and the benefits of a combi are easy to convey to consumers.”

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And product development manager of Smeg, Joan Fraser agrees, that microwave combination ovens are very popular. As she points out: “Our combination microwaves are very popular as they give flexibility and extra capacity when needed, as well as speed cooking when users are in a hurry.”

In fact, such is the popularity of the combi microwave that sales director of Caple, Danny Lay suggests they are also the fastest-growing type of combi-oven for his company: “Our fastest-growing combination oven is our collection of combination microwaves because the user has complete control with multiple functions in one appliance.”

Steaming ahead

However, some appliance experts have found that the fastest-growing sector of the combi-oven lies with the convection and steam model. With increasing focus on healthy living, and therefore healthy eating, consumers are now beginning to recognise the value of using steam as a culinary technique. And for the consumer who is still a novice at steam cooking, the combi-oven can gently ease them into using steam or combined steam and convection, without fear of wasting money on an appliance they will never use. Danny Lay of Caple agrees: “Combination steam ovens are one example where you can achieve the best of both worlds with combination steam cooking and this can make the best choice if you have never used steam oven cooking before because you can pick and choose between conventional and steam cooking methods.”

Joan Fraser of Smeg adds: “Combi steams ovens are certainly one of the fastest-growing due to the flexibility they provide. They allow the user to pick and choose between convection and steam cooking depending on the dish they are cooking”. While some cite the combination steam as the fastest-growing type of steam oven In fact, kitchen category manager of Miele, Neil Pooley goes as far to say: “Combination steam ovens are the biggest growth area for Miele in terms of cooking.” However, he also points out “Our entry level combination ovens are the most popular models as price is often a determining factor.”

Opening sales avenues

And with an increase in models, across a broader price spectrum opens the opportunity for further combi sales. Joan Fraser of Smeg points out: “Initially, growth started at the top end, but prices have become more accessible to cater for the mass market, as more brands and products enter the market.”  In fact such has been the influx of more affordable combi ovens, Zanussi has recently launched a multifunction oven with steam. Head of product line at Zanussi Sophie Davidson comments: “Over 50% of the market for steam ovens is below £839 and Zanussi aims to take a large share of this with the model, which will retail at just £599.”
So how can designers and retailers better capitalise on the sales of these appliances, which are appearing at more levels of the market than just the premium end? Well, there is the obvious sale of features and benefits, perhaps with cookery demonstrations to showcase how (particularly steam) is an all-rounder from producing tender, juicy meat through to crisp breads.  However, Craig Davies of Sub-Zero and Wolf takes it one step further and offers the advice: “Linking up with a local artisan specialist/artisan food supplier or quality restaurant can be the hook to bring more guests to you event. Showing how easy they are to use and offering guests a taste of what is created always help to boost sales, as clients will be more confident in their potential purchase.”

Design to fit

But also playing close attention to how these types of ovens can be used by a household and therefore designed into a kitchen, could also help a designer or retailer swing a combi-oven sale. Consider if the oven is to be used as a first or second choice by the consumer. Sales director of UK & Ireland for V-Zug, Rhys Davies explains: “They can be a great fixture in lots of different households; a second oven in large kitchens giving the user lots of flexibility, or the main oven in compact kitchens, combining two features within a single cavity.” In fact, such is the popularity of combining combi-oven with a standard single oven, the sales aer now beginning to outweigh the traditional double oven, which was formerly the go-to cooking appliance for the British consumer. Sales director of Caple Danny Lay explains he is already seeing that in sales from his retail customers: “We are seeing more kitchen retailers designing a single oven and a combination oven instead of double ovens in the packages they pass on to the consumer, as a double oven doesn’t offer the same flexibility and performance a combination ovens does and this demand will continue to grow.”

Bank on it

What all appliance experts agree upon is that the popularity of combi-ovens is only likely to grow, as they prove themselves to be essential for a broad church of consumers. But will the trend for combi-ovens have wider implications, perhaps reducing the need for a bank of appliances, as multiple functions take place in one cavity. But leaders in appliance manufacture and sales decry any such suggestion. Neil Pooley of Miele states: “As more combi ovens come to market, it is envitable that more consumers will select them as they seek to get the most out of a set space. This doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer products are purchased. Customers still have the same spaces but now they can fill them with a wider selection of product types and functionality.” And Craig Davies follows his line of thinking but concludes: “It may reduce the number of appliances, slightly, but the bank is here for some time yet – ovens that double as coffee systems have not yet been invented!”

 This feature first appeared in Kitchens & Bathrooms News June 2015 issue