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Innovation Emphasized As Prime Directive At International Buildiers’ Show

In an effort to lure more want-in rather than wear-out appliance shoppers — as well as a means to justify recent across-the-board price hikes — majap makers placed an ever greater emphasis on innovation at the International Builders’ Show (IBS), held here earlier this month at the Orange County Convention Center.

High among the highlights was Sharp’s new AX-700S superheated steam oven, which uses a combination of steam, heat and superheated steam to drain away overall fat content in certain foods while preserving their vitamin and mineral content.

“Steam cooking is one of the healthiest ways to prepare food, and superheated steam takes it one step further,” said Joy Daniel, associate director of product development for Sharp’s appliance group.

The AX-700S, introduced last year in Japan, is equipped with preprogrammed settings that automatically determine the time, temperature and optimal mix of heat, steam and superheated steam to cook foods in four cooking categories — roast, grill, steam and convenience foods.

For example, “A chicken prepared using the super-roast function is extremely moist and flavorful, with crisp skin and a tender inside, but no fat is added during the cooking process and the superheated steam drains away fat,” Daniel said.

Sharp has also developed a cookbook exclusively for the AX-700S that features 50 recipes which are less than 300 calories per serving.

The AX-700S superheated steam oven will be available in early summer for at a suggested retail price of $1,400.

Also drawing attention was Sharp’s freestanding Insight Pro microwave drawer, model KB-6015K, which offers a unique placement option for one of the most frequently-used cooking appliances in the kitchen. The 30-inch-wide stand-alone microwave drawer provides consumers with an alternative to traditional countertop units.

The microwave drawer first appeared last year as an integrated unit within the Insight Range, a smooth glass ceramic cooktop, conventional oven and microwave drawer neatly arranged in a single chassis.

Appropriate for open-plan kitchens, islands and tight spaces, the microwave drawer offers a variety of installation options, such as beneath a countertop. The unit also incorporates Sharp’s patented sensor technology and features a smooth floor for easy clean-up.

Offered in black, white or stainless steel finishes, the product will be available in late February at a suggested retail of $900, while new additions to the Insight and Insight Pro Ranges (models KB-3411, KB-3425 and KB-4425) will be available in March at suggested retails of $1,400 to $2,350.

Meanwhile, LG Electronics U.S.A. (LGEUSA) chose IBS as the platform from which to debut its first U.S. dishwasher line. LG touted the program as “one of the quietest dishwashers on the market.” The company also described its tub capacities as among the largest in the United States, accommodating 16-place settings versus the standard 12 or 14.

“LG is committed to delivering a broad variety of premium, high-quality and high-performance home appliance solutions to consumers,” said Teddy Hwang, newly named president of digital appliances for LGUSA. “With the introduction of our dishwasher line, we are staying true to our word.”

Featuring a sleek exterior that has become LG’s design signature, the dishwashers are available in semi- and fully-integrated exterior versions in finishes that match other LG appliances. The semi-integrated models feature digital display controls on the outside door, while the controls are hidden on the fully-integrated units atop the outside doors.

The products also feature a 10-inch top rack and 14-inch lower rack (or 12 inches on both the upper and lower racks); a soil level sensor that determines the number of rinses required; and a zone cleaning option that limits washing to the upper or lower deck to conserve water.

Other features include strong, normal and soft water-jet levels to allow for delicate tableware; a sanitary rinse cycle to kill bacteria; and high-efficiency drying which combines condensation and fan drying for faster dry-time and reduced spotting.

Available this quarter, the line comes in a variety of finishes including smooth white, smooth black and stainless steel, at suggested retails ranging from $699 to $1099.

LG also unveiled at IBS a remote monitoring laundry system, based on power line communication (PLC) technology, which allows consumers to keep tabs on their laundry cycles with a small, remote monitor. The interface displays the current wash cycle and remaining time, while a buzzer indicates the end of each cycle. The monitoring kit can be placed within the home in any electrical outlet, and works in conjunction with modified versions of LG’s front loading laundry units, which can be stacked to save space or place side by side.

The remote monitoring laundry system will be available next quarter at a suggested retail of $1,350 for the washer and $950 for the dryer (both in titanium finish).