Continued interest in low-fat foods is spawning sales of nonstick cookware, grill pans, steamers, pressure cookers, double-boilers and stir fryers.
Sales of this type of cookware are picking up at O'Malia Food Markets, Carmel, Ind., especially at a store where a cooking school has operated for 10 years. "Pressure cookers and double-boilers are getting popular again," said Terri Stiegman, director of the cooking school. "Lighter meals are what people ask about in cooking classes." Stiegman said demand has increased for saute pans with nonstick surfaces, along with All-Clad stir fry and bistro pans that are used at the cooking school. The All-Clad line, which carries retails up to $300 for a stock pot, can be used at high temperatures for quick cooking. What makes the products attractive is that, because little or no oil is needed, the amount of fat in food is reduced.
Due to shelf space limitations, not all chains are offering broader everyday lines, frequent in-and-outs and promotion shippers of cookware.
But those that have the space are focusing on products like nonstick cookware, Oriental woks and steamer cookware.
Nonstick square 12-inch by 12-inch grill pans that don't require oil are among the top-selling cookware pieces at a southern California chain, according to the chain's cookware buyer, who didn't want to be identified. The items are priced from $12.99 to $40. "Pressure cookers are making a strong comeback," the buyer said, adding that the average retail is $100 for a 6- to 6.5-quart model.
The buyer also noted that double-boilers are regaining the popularity they had several years ago. "The vegetarian crowd likes to use them for cooking beans and other legumes, which stick or burn in traditional saucepans," the buyer said. The chain retails double-boilers from $23 up to $200 for All-Clad styles in stainless steel with a copper core. It cross-merchandises cooking implements at seafood and produce sections to spur impulse movement.
Magazines articles and TV cooking shows about healthier eating are also fueling demand for healthier cooking implements. The buyer predicted that consumers increasingly will look to supermarkets for these products "instead of the specialty kitchen shops." The All-Clad line at O'Malia's ranges from a $60 skillet to a $250 chef's pan. Most sales fall in the range of $200 to $300 since consumers usually make multiple purchases.
O'Malia's, which discounts the pans 25% to those attending the cooking classes, also carries nonstick cookware priced from $20 to $30 in the housewares sections of stores. The move toward low-fat cooking prompted the Associated Wholesale Grocers Valu Merchandisers' nonfood division, Kansas City, Kan., to revamp cookware planograms so that a new assortment of healthy cookware and bakeware could be carried.
"This fall we will introduce about four new Bakers Secret bakeware products with drip pans to catch grease," said Bill Dunkle, cookware buyer. Retails will range from $3.99 to $6.99, or about 20% to 30% higher than traditional bakeware.
Carrying cookware designed to meet the needs of health-conscious consumers is becoming more interesting to Hartville Foods, Hartville, Ohio, according to Jenny Cline, manager of general merchandise and health and beauty care. Though it carries some selections, it would like to expand its offerings. "If we had more customer requests for cookware we'd bring in nonstick skillets priced under $12.99 as a test," added Cline. Cline said she'd be interested in "carrying something that's hot in skillets, but our supplier hasn't offered any yet." Sales of wire steaming baskets priced at $3.69 are fair at Hartville, said Cline. The retailer also promotes nonstick skillets as an in-and-out once a year.
Space constraints at Rice Food Markets, Houston, limit the amount of cookware stores its stores stock. "If we had the space we'd definitely try carrying more pots and pans and grill pans for stove-top cooking. Most of our stores, however, have barely enough room for what we need in groceries currently," said Vern Buford, director of grocery merchandising and buying. Buford predicts that retailers will adjust their planograms to meet the growing demand for "healthy" cookware.
"Concerns for healthier diets definitely will influence the type of cookware supermarkets will bring in," Buford added.
"Our assortment isn't that big now, but I'm sure it will be in the future, including cookware for table-top grilling and steaming," said a nonfood source at Big V, Florida, N.Y