Of all the demographic types of those who have returned to the kitchen to cook, children, aged 4 and up, have been the most overlooked and underserved group up until now.
Mintel, a research company, lists kids-oriented products as one of the major innovations in 2009 in its most recent report on βU.S. Cookware,β published last year. That's when Tailor Made Products, a plastic-housewares manufacturer, based in Oconomowoc, Wis., launched under the Curious Chef brand, what it claims is the first complete line of kitchen utensils designed for children.
βWe discovered there was an unmet need in the market,β said Megan Manis, account manager for Curious Chef.
The line consists of 49 uniquely designed cooking products. The company will introduce 19 new items with price points that range from $1.99 to $9.99 at the International Housewares Show this week.
The recession played to the company's advantage in launching its new line with more families cooking at home and looking for low-cost activities to do with their kids, said Manis.
Wegmans Food Market, Rochester, N.Y., was the first to pick up the line and promoted it during the holidays on an endcap display, she noted. Manis said the sell-through at Wegmans was great.
Kroger Co., Cincinnati, will sell the Curious Chef products at stores this summer and merchandise items in the kitchen gadget section on an endcap display and as open stock. Items to be sold include: rolling pin, whisk, spatula, 3-quart bowl set and prep bowl set. In addition, Kroger will sell gift sets that include: five-piece pizza kit, six-piece cookie kit and 17-piece measure and prep kit. Kits are priced at a suggested retail of $19.99.
Manis said the company expects that cooking utensils for kids will grow from a niche segment into a category. Curious Chef has designed new floor displays targeted for the grocery channel. The kids' cooking line is an obvious natural for supermarkets that draws mothers with children who frequently shop for food, Manis noted. The products' low price points and good product quality are appealing to grocery buyers, she said.
The company has concentrated on making the items safe for children. All items, which are imported from China, conform to the safety requirements of ASTM F963 and CPSIA lead and phthalate limits and are BPA-free.
Other manufacturers that have dabbled in kids-oriented kitchenware, including themed baking sets and licensed products (Hannah Montana, Marvel and Transformers) are: Meyer, Mastrad, Lifetime Brands and Wilton.
βIn a funny way, many of our products are targeted for children. We provide the color, sweetness and fun that is part of children's parties,β said Eric Erwin, executive vice president of marketing and product development, Wilton Enterprises, Woodridge, Ill. Wilton does have some products that are specifically created for mothers to bake with their kids, such as the gingerbread house-making kits sold during the Christmas holiday. βThat's a great example of new family traditions that many moms do with their children year after year,β Erwin said.