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Majap Makers Make Beeline For Kitchen/Bath Show

Ah springtime, when a young man’s fancy turns to fancy new appliances.

There’ll be plenty of the latter here this week, when the annual Kitchen/Bath Industry Show & Conference (K/BIS) bows at the Orange County Convention Center this Thursday, April 10, for a four-day run.

The show, which has become the pre-eminent majap industry event for new product introductions, won’t disappoint as manufacturers pull out all the stops to draw dealer dollars in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Among those looking to inject new sizzle into a static industry is GE Appliances, which is placing heavy emphasis on its high-end Profile line. In refrigeration, Profile’s Arctica platform blossoms with bottom mount options and innovative technology in the fresh food and freezer compartments to help preserve foods. The line’s ClimateKeeper system combines upfront electronic touch controls with actual temperature read-out, multiple electronic sensors and a multiflow air system to keep temperatures consistent and help keep foods fresh.

Another technology-driven GE entry is the Harmony laundry pair, whose top-loading washer communicates electronically with its companion dryer to preset dry cycles, based on selected wash options, for more efficient drying action.

This year’s K/BIS is particularly critical for Electrolux, which will use the forum to bow its first flagship line in North America. The platform, which reflects a worldwide effort to consolidate brands around the Electrolux nameplate, was a “major, major undertaking,” explained design manager Rick Ritterling.

Based on input from Electrolux’s global design resources and extensive consumer insight development, the collection incorporates shared international aesthetics that are tempered by local tastes, and myriad features intended to “surprise and delight” consumers, Ritterling said.

The significance of the launch is underscored by the presence here of Electrolux chief executive Hans Straberg, who makes the trip from Stockholm.

At the same time, the company continues to nurture its Frigidaire line by taking a back to the future tack. Mirroring the latest auto industry trends, the new Frigidaire Classic series fuses fresh, modern concepts with such past-generation design cues as a high gloss finish, as “People feel comfortable with what they grew up with,” Ritterling explained.

Elsewhere, Maytag is unveiling the Neptune TL, described as the first agitator-free, top loading washing machine; Samsung will tout a new line of “built-in” refrigerators designed to fit seamlessly into any kitchen to create a custom look; and Danby will unveil a new assortment of mid-sized refrigerators ranging from 8.8 to 11 cubic feet.

Also at the show, the Internet Home Alliance, a network of companies advancing the home technology market, will debut its Mealtime Pilot. A cross-industry collaboration involving alliance members Whirlpool, Sears, Icebox, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, the pilot is a real-world test of a connected kitchen solution that enables consumers to use network-enabled appliances to simplify kitchen and meal preparation tasks.

The pilot will be conducted for six months in 20 homes in the Boston area to study consumer attitudes about remote access and control of kitchen appliances and devices. Participants will manage kitchen and meal preparation tasks from an oven, Web-enabled refrigerator tablet, Web-based entertainment/command center and WAP cell phone, enabling them to send remote instructions to their kitchens.

Results of the pilot will be released in early 2004.