Niche Players Provide Product Panoply At K/BIS

By Alan Wolf On May 19 2003 - 6:00am




Homebuilders and major appliance retailers on the prowl for niche products found an embarrassment of riches at last month's Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS), held here at the Orange County Convention Center.

Helping to propagate the myriad high-end kitchen and laundry assortments proffered by specialty suppliers was a concerted effort by the Big Four majap makers — namely Whirlpool, Maytag, Electrolux and GE — to muscle in on their premium turf. (See TWICE, April 21, p. 1.)

But the niche marketers responded in kind by cornering the show floor with such novel white goods fare as Fisher & Paykel's new "intuitive" top-loading washer, and an all-in-one compact kitchen, complete with sink, two-burner cooktop and compact fridge, from W.C. Wood.

What follows is a sampling from the K/BIS cavalcade:

AM Appliance Group: The U.S. arm of Italy's Merloni expanded its Asko and Eurotech lines. The highlight of the former was the new D3000 series dishwasher platform. With room to hold 12 five-piece place settings plus pots and pans, Asko's D3000s feature a patented "Super Cleaning System," direct spray nozzles for hard-to-clean cutlery, pots and pans, and germ killing 170-degree water temperatures. The units are even more efficient than their predecessors, using less than 4 gallons of water in the course of a normal cycle, and 222 kWh in the span of a year.

Five range hoods were the focus on the Eurotech side, including the 36-inch Arcevia, constructed from stainless steel and glass and replete with three-speed fan, two filters and two 20-Watt halogen lights.

Dacor: The Diamond, Calif.-based kitchen appliance vendor introduced the first range for its ultra-low-profile-look Millenia line of products. The 30-inch electric unit employs touch controls, making it the first-ever knob-less range, the company said, as well as a heat limiter on each element to prevent empty cookware from melting or damaging the cooking surface.

The company also unveiled a new 30-inch dishwasher, under its commercial-style Epicure banner, which can hold more than 20 place settings, making it the largest commercial-style dishwasher for home use on the market today, Dacor said. Features include a hidden electronic control panel atop the door, specially designed tri-hydro wash arms to further increase water flow, and uniquely insulated walls to ensure exceptionally quiet performance.

Danby: Danby's new apartment-sized refrigeration lineup features diminutive 24-inch-wide by 60-inch-high models with capacities ranging from 8.8 to 11 cubic feet. The platform includes a single door push-button defrost fridge, five frost-free top mounts and two all-refrigerators. Standard features include reversible door hinges, adjustable wire or glass shelves, gallon container storage and the company's patented CanStor beverage can dispenser.

Dynamic Cooking Systems (DCS): The Huntington Beach, Calif.-based commercial and high-end residential cooking equipment makers unveiled new 27- and 30-inch single and double wall ovens and warming drawers with enhanced oven capacity and slimmer profiles. Both units offer the company's glass-sealed broil element, which allows for direct radiant heat when broiling. This prevents accidental baking rather than broiling by cooking more quickly and at a higher temperature than convected heat.

For the great outdoors, DCS offered its BGA series grills with patented grease management systems, ceramic radiants, double-sided grilling grates and battery ignition.

Equator: The Houston-based vendor showcased its energy- and space-efficient ConServ refrigerator, which stands over six-and-a-half-feet high but measures only 23 inches deep and wide. Also among the offerings was its regular contingent of compact and full-size dishwashers, combination washer/dryers, compressor-free compact fridges and mobile electric buffet carts.

Fisher & Paykel: The New Zealand-based cooking and laundry business introduced its next-generation washer, dubbed IntuitiveEco. Like its EcoSmart forebear, the IntuitiveEco offers the ergonomic advantages of a top loader with the high energy and water efficiency of a front loader, thanks to its high-spin, direct drive motor. Unique to this unit is a "How Dirty" option that automatically senses fabric types and sets appropriate wash profiles once a soil level is selected.

Also spotlighted was SmartLoad, which was presented as the first full-sized top-loading clothes dryer. The unit, which compliments the company's EcoSmart top-loading washer, features reverse-tumble drying to reduce creasing and tangling, and a self-cleaning lint screen and reservoir that can go 30 cycles before changing.

Majestic: The Vancouver, Wash.-based distributor/marketer of specialty laundry products heralded its All-In-One combination washer/dryer, in both vented and condensing (non-vented) models. The front-loading units offer a stainless steel tub and drum, 14 customized wash cycles with simplified controls, variable spin speed, leak-free lint clean-out, and a longer-lasting 110 (versus 12 volt) AC motor.

Sub-Zero/Wolf: The luxury refrigeration resource showcased its recently introduced stainless steel finishes and two additional glass door models. The finishes, carbon and platinum stainless steel, will be available beginning next month, while the 36- and 30-inch-wide glass door refrigerator/freezers are already available at retail.

The company's recently acquired Wolf Appliance affiliate spotlighted its stainless steel duel fuel range, which features two convection fans, four heating elements and eight cooking modes. A 36-inch size is available now, a 48-inch double oven ships this summer, and 60-inch double and 30-inch single units ship in the fall.

Wolf also announced that the majority of its products have been certified Sabbath- and holiday-compliant by Star-K Kosher Certification.

Viking: The Greenwood, Miss., manufacturer added new range sizes and refrigeration options at the show. Topping the line is a 72-inch-wide, all-gas range. The unit features a full range of Btus on every burner, from an extremely low VariSimmer to 18,000 Btus of cooking power. What's more, its two 36-inch-wide ovens offer heavy-duty door hinges and six functions, thanks to its unique combination of dual bake burners and an infrared broil burner. Finish options include stainless, black and graphite.

On the opposite end of the size scale, Viking has added several new surface options for its popular 24-inch-wide ranges and rangetops, including all-griddle, all-char-grill and all-wok companion piece surfaces.

In refrigeration, the company has added a 42-inch-wide side-by-side built-in model with a full-width, moisture-adjustable produce drawer, and full-width, waist-level deli drawer that's available in both the Professional and Designer series.

Outdoors, Viking has added a ceramic grill/smoker constructed of 18-gauge spun stainless steel, and a pair of backyard beverage centers in 24- and 41-inch-wide sizes.

W.C. Wood: The 73-year-old refrigeration resource from Ottawa, Ohio highlighted its line of stainless steel refrigerators and freezers that ranges from 5- to 17-cubic-feet in size, and can be installed in combination to create a side-by-side configuration with up to 34 cubic feet of storage. The company cited four Wood-brand chest freezers and four upright models that are at least 10 percent more efficient than the Department of Energy's 2003 standards.

Other Wood offerings include electronically-controlled, low temperature operation dehumidifiers and 30-inch-wide, stainless steel compact kitchens, replete with sink, two-burner cooktop and compact refrigerator.

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