- Suppliers are releasing products with a focus on features that are kind to the household budget by reducing the energy bill or the amount of spoiled food.
- Four-door French Door models, bottom mount and door-in-door designs are proving popular as brands think more about how we access food in refrigerator design.
- ‘Is there enough space for my kale?’ Before all those superfoods get blended or juiced, the refrigerator crisper compartments need to big enough with the temperature and humidity controlled to support healthy lifestyles.
Buying a refrigerator or freezer is still largely a grudge purchase, with consumers only showing interest in the category when their existing models breaks down and the milk starts to warm.
But once they arrive in stores, there are plenty of brands offering innovative new features to pleasantly surprise, including new form factors, more efficient energy use and specially regulated compartments to keep food fresher for longer.
According to Canstar Blue’s recent customer satisfaction survey of 776 adults who purchased a new refrigerator in the last three years, energy efficiency was a major purchase decision factor for two-thirds of survey respondents. Furthermore, 44 per cent said they would replace their fridge if they thought they could save money on running costs.
Two in five respondents said they don’t care what type of fridge they buy as long as it’s the cheapest.
There is still the opportunity to ‘wow’ customers with product features in this category and Samsung has been innovating with a focus on form that follows function.
“The refrigeration category is more challenging and exciting than ever before!” said Mike Lilly, head of home appliances, Samsung Electronics Australia.
“We’ve seen the innovation and design evolve with consumer demand in recent years, in particular over the past year, as Samsung refrigerators have undergone a deep shift in terms of how we engineer our products for customers, taking advanced and intelligent direction when it comes to delivering premium features and design that are meaningful for our customers.
“For Samsung, we see a pathway guided by constant innovation and improvement to meet the evolving lifestyles of our customers.”
Samsung will be launching new products in the coming months. One is the ultra-premium Chef Collection refrigerator (RRP $11,999), inspired by some of the world’s leading Michelin-starred chefs, with whom Samsung has been working closely in order to develop the product.
It has a “super large capacity” of 1,028 litres, Triple Cooling that cools sections individually, and a Chef Pan to marinade meat and seafood.
“We’re also very conscious of the growing trend in Australian homes towards more sophisticated home entertaining and eating habits. We’re very discerning when it comes to food in the home and, from our experience, are seeing customers demand refrigerators that can cater to sophisticated requirements,” Lilly said.
LG Electronics has also given a lot of thought to the design and ergonomics of a refrigerator’s layout and have settled on a two-door freezer design on its latest French Door model. It features a second door that sits within the main door.
“LG has designed its new refrigerators to meet consumer preferences,” said home appliances marketing manager Jennifer Osborne. “According to LG consumer research, the majority of respondents surveyed preferred refrigerators with two-door freezer design over a single drawer.”
“The convenience of easily locating your items isn’t limited to the top half of the refrigerator. With the two-door freezer layout, no longer is the freezer a black hole of ice, but instead a foodie oasis, where there’s no co-mingling of frozen meat and snap-frozen peas.”
In addition to the extra space provide by the Door-in-Door design, the new models also feature a Slim In-Door Ice Maker, which allows for more internal storage. The extra doors also reduce temperature fluctuations and the loss of cool air when the fridge is opened.
LG is teaming up with celebrity chef Matt Moran, already a vocal proponent of buying fresh to spread the word on how LG’s three newest Door-in-Door models’ smart organisation cater to discerning produce shoppers.
Robin Werth, senior product manager for Bosch and Siemens refrigeration appliances, said “Consumer demand for improved user flexibility, increased interior space for larger items and a greater ease of access has seen the introduction of multiple door fridges, in particular French Door and Side-by-Side models.
“In such a fast paced industry, it’s vital that retailers focus on innovation and energy efficiency as key messages and selling points.”
Energy efficiency has been greatly improved over the years for Bosch fridge-freezers. According to Werth, a modern Bosch unit can save up to 68 per cent in electricity consumption, compared to Bosch fridge-freezers made in 1996.
“An increase in consumer awareness for energy efficiency has seen a rise in manufacturers producing lower energy consuming appliances. Considering that fridges are one of the main sources of power usage in the home, it is important to see the consistent improvements being made for energy saving in modern fridges.”
Electrolux recently received Canstar Blue’s Most Satisfied Customers Award for Refrigerators, with five-star ratings in six out of seven categories, including reliability, value for money and overall satisfaction.
“Electrolux Home Products is the only refrigerator manufacturer in Australia and often hosts retailer visits to its fridge plant in Orange, 250 kilometres west of Sydney,” said Grant Stevens, category manager for food preparation. In addition to its eponymous brand, Electrolux also markets the Kelvinator and Westinghouse brands, with models designed locally for Australian consumers.
“Lyndon Craig, who heads up the company’s Sydney design studio, maintains responsibility for refrigerator design and this local design and manufacturing expertise supports the claim that our refrigerators are designed and built for local conditions and variable climates,” Stevens said.
The company’s most recent focus has been on improved crisper design, found in the latest Electrolux and Westinghouse bottom mount and through-the-door water and automatic icemaker models.
“This involves controls that ensure constant temperature levels and stable humidity; the opposite of which contributes to the $1,500 worth of food that research has found the average Australian family wastes each year.
“To address this problem of wasted food, particularly for families on budgets, Electrolux believes it is important for retailers to emphasise the importance of crispers in maintaining the freshness of fruit and vegetables.”
Fisher & Paykel has also addressed the issue of food wastage in its ‘Ka-Runch’ campaign.
Brand manager Kara May recommends retailers sell not just on price but the cost-saving benefits available to consumers.
“The GFC may be behind us, but its legacy is that Australians are still cautious about how they spend their money and are looking for value as well as quality.
“This is where there is a strong case for investing in an energy efficient refrigerator with the right technology to help keep food as fresh as possible for as long as possible, to avoid wasting money by unnecessary energy costs and food spoilage.
“Too many people hold on to their 10-year-old model thinking it’s saving them money, but what many don’t realise is that they can consume a lot more energy than a basic new fridge leading to increased running costs.”
Fisher & Paykel’s ActiveSmart technology accurately senses how often the door is opened and automatically regulates the operation of the fridge. ActiveSmart refrigerators include a Humidity Control System that creates the perfect microclimate in each produce bin.
Miele is advancing the fully concealed appliance trend with its new K 30000 integrated appliances, which can be installed individually or side-by-side, seamlessly blending into kitchen surroundings.
Category manager Louise Paynter said Miele continues to experience strong growth in the refrigeration category, driven by the breadth of range as well as design aesthetics, which match its cooking appliances.
“As today’s kitchen is often integrated within an open plan living and entertainment area, the design of refrigerators plays an increasingly important role. We are seeing consumer preference for quality and long lasting appliances that complement the design of their kitchens,” she said.
Acknowledging the other key trends across the category, Miele’s K 30000 integrated refrigeration range features improved energy efficiency when compared with their integrated predecessors. The top-of-the-line KFNS 37432 iD (RRP $3,299) boasts a 3.5-star energy rating.
“As the price of fresh produce continues to rise, consumers are also increasingly drawn to refrigerators that will maintain freshness for longer,” Paynter said.
Miele has also addressed food storage with the inclusion of the new PerfectFresh Pro drawers that feature innovative new compartment covers with special perforations to maintain the precise climate inside the humidity-controlled drawer.
Liebherr, distributed by Andi-Co, is confident that the popularity of integrated appliances will continue to grow because of the multitude of design options it gives the consumer.
“In a general market offering that is ‘same-same but different’ Liebherr truly offers a unique opportunity to the retailer to sell the client what they need,” said George Alikakos, Andi-Co national sales and marketing manager.
“Freestanding stainless steel, integrated and undercounter options mean clients can replace or remodel to their hearts’ content. Price is not a dictating factor if you have a custom solution to satisfy the needs of the consumer.”
The brand is strongly promoting its BioFresh Technology, which it says, “leads the way with fresh fruit and vegetables lasting up to three times longer than a normal fridge crisper bin”.
“We have seen people coming into our retailers and asking for the ‘BioFresh Fridge’. In this environment where we want to eat fresh and save on waste, our BioFresh feature saves the consumer money whilst reducing monetary cost in throwing away spoilt food,” Alikakos said.
If money is no object when it comes to kitchen design, Gaggenau’s Vario Cool 400 series, distributed by Sampford IXL, is described by the brand as in a class of its own.
“If exquisite ingredients, cooking and enjoying great food and fine wine with family and friends is important to consumers quality of life, it stands to reason that they will want cooling solutions to provide optimum conditions to retain freshness and flavour, which Gaggenau provides with the VarioCool range,” said brand manager Frances Lynch.
Vario Cool modules are available in two optional door panel finishes, stainless steel or aluminium, or can be fully integrated into the cabinetry.
The opposite of concealing a fridge is to make it a centre piece, like Smeg’s eye-catching retro FAB refrigerators. Smeg is now adding the FAB5 freestanding refrigerator to this much-loved collection. The baby of the retro FAB family of refrigerators and dishwashers, the FAB5 stands just 730 millimetres high and 404 millimetres wide and has a capacity of 40 litres. It will be available in panna, red and black.
Smeg has more new product arriving in 2015. “For the first time Smeg will have a range of professional standard refrigerators and wine coolers, in both built-in and underbench configurations, that will echo the refined aesthetics of the rest of the Smeg range of kitchen appliances,” said national marketing manager Jim Kalotheos.
The exact number of models and features of the Professional refrigeration range are yet to be specified, however, the brand has been able to share some of the product features to expect.
“There will be both 90-centimetre and 75-centimetre widths with stand-out features including a large multi-zone drawer at the bottom that can operate either as a refrigeration compartment or a freezer space.
Panasonic refrigerators hit the three major trends in the category: freshness, energy saving and functional design.
“Australian consumers are becoming increasingly food wise and demanding products that reduce wastage, save energy, and are better suited to busy lifestyles. Consumers are looking for products that support the trend towards fresher and healthier eating habits,” said Belinda Toner, product marketing manager, whitegoods and home appliances.
At the top of the range are Panasonic’s 554-litre Bottom Mount Fridge models, which are fingerprint resistant and available in stainless steel and white.
“These models feature Vitaminsafe technology, using blue and green LED lights in the vegetable crisper to activate the natural defences of fruits and vegetables, which keep them fresher for longer,” Toner said.
The crisper also has a ‘direct vent’ handle that locks securely to shut out cold air, ensuring fruit and vegetables retain their nutritional value. “The extra-large crisper compartment offers generous storage for large items like celery and kale,” Toner said.
Panasonic’s Econavi technology keeps energy consumption under wraps, by using a sensor to monitor total energy use, adapt to the consumer’s lifestyle and save energy through efficient cooling.
The message from Sharp is that it is usable space, as well as overall size, is important when it comes to selecting a refrigerator.
“Many refrigerators quote large capacities, however, their usable space is sometimes inferior. We recommended retailers not only focus on the statistical capacity of the fridge but the usable storage of the fridge too,” said Mark Beard, national communications and branding manager for Sharp Corporation Australia.
“Sharp’s designers and engineers have concentrated their efforts on the practical use of space to create greater storage and less wasted space in our fridges.”
Sharp’s current refrigerator range consists of Top Mount and French Door models: the Supreme series, the Premium series and the Essential series.
“The kitchen area remains the central hub of most homes, whether it is for family meals or entertaining family and friends. Consumers are looking for a refrigerator product that portrays their own style and personality with trends such as innovative finishes and LED touch control panel.”
Hisense has recently launched 10 new models in the fridge/freezer category including chest freezers, top and bottom mount models, and pigeon pairs.
“Overall when you look at trends it really is about providing better value for consumers beyond price. It’s about features, it’s about innovative items,” said Hisense national marketing manager Andre Iannuzzi.
One example of this is the Hisense Electronic LED Temperature Control Panel to controls the temperature zones and manages the refrigerator settings.
“It’s about making sure that we give consumers something that they can use every day rather than just something that has been consistently provided, which is a cooling product. It is actually giving them a lot more features and bang for their buck.”
Innovation is also a key focus for Mitsubishi Electric, according to deputy general manager Raja Gounder.
“Technology and innovation is the next big thing. With the explosion in food media in this country, more Australians are cooking for lifestyle and less for necessity,” Gounder said.
“There is now more importance on the quality of ingredients within the nation’s kitchens. Technology and innovation can provide your customers solutions that keep food fresher for longer, easier to use and produce high quality results.
“French doors featuring multi draw layouts will continue to be strong, newer technology such as inverter compressors and new refrigerants will allow you to offer your customers new innovations like rapid freezing, soft freezing and advanced fruit and vegetable storage.”
Due in December 2014 is Mitsubishi Electric’s MR-L710, a four-door French Door 710-litre model (RRP $3,200) which is “designed for larger living”.
Haier marketing manager Georgia Way said it is important to qualify a customer’s needs when selling in this category.
“What features do they actually use? What is most important to them: price, style, practicality, bells and whistles? Do they just need a functional, stylish appliance they can depend on every day?”
Way said Haier has the widest range of affordable fridges and freezers in the mass category, including French Door, side-by-side, top mount, vertical fridges, vertical freezers and chest freezers.
Retailers that can demonstrate how a new appliance can save them money over time will be one step closer to closing the sale, Way said. “For example, a chest freezer is a great product for the cost-conscious consumer as it provides extra storage space for supermarket specials and budget bulk buys, enabling savings in food purchases.”
Changhong now has 18 refrigerators and freezers in its current range, including French Door, top mount, pigeon pair and bar refrigerators; and upright and chest freezers.
Changhong’s French Door model has an independent cooling system for both the fridge and the freezer. These separate cooling circuits control the compartment temperatures, helping to keep food fresher for longer and to prevent odour transfer. It also comes with a 10-year compressor warranty.