Editor's Picks: Kitchen Essentials

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Decades ago, the kitchen was simply a room for preparing meals. Unlike today’s multi-purpose space, kitchens were often small, separated rooms designed to conceal dirty dishes and food odors. But as trends and lifestyles changed, the kitchen became the heart of the home. Today’s kitchen is a versatile and multifunctional area where families and friends can gather, catch up and make memories together. In the kitchen, families can share the details of their day, parents can cook while helping with homework and guests can enjoy treats like the trending charcuterie board. After shelter-in-place orders, lockdowns and limited in-person dining, the kitchen is even more important as a place of comfort, fellowship and creativity. Distributors wanting to reach end users should meet them where they are: in the kitchen.

In the early days of the pandemic, people turned to their kitchens for reassurance. While disinfectants, like Clorox and hand sanitizer, were the first to disappear from store shelves, followed by toilet paper and bottled water, it was widespread flour shortages that baffled consumers. According to Nielsen data, last year’s flour sales during a four-week period ending April 11 rose nearly 162 percent across all brands compared to the same period a year prior. For example, in late March 2020, King Arthur Flour saw its online sales of all-purpose and bread flour “rise” by more than 2,000 percent year over year as photos of homemade baked goods flooded the internet. Baking became the new American pastime, and people were eager to share their made-with-love recipes on social media.

More so than any other room in the house, kitchens quickly reflect changing trends, improved technologies and shifting values. Today, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house. In a home, everybody uses the kitchen. Many families transform their fridge into a family bulletin board, using magnets to post calendars, lists and reminders, and report cards and pictures. Homeowners are once again using their kitchens as a multifunctional space, adding more storage cabinets and larger flat surface areas, and creating more workspaces to meet the needs of their modern-day family. Contemporary kitchens are now larger with comfortable areas to sit and focus on work, homework and other projects, like breakfast nooks and bar seating. 

Consumers are now investing more money in their kitchen than in any other room. Harvard University reported that Americans spent nearly $420 billion on home improvements like do-it-yourself projects in 2020, a record-breaking year. Based on a recent survey of more than 70,000 U.S. respondents, home renovation platform Houzz found that kitchen projects were the most popular among renovating homeowners. Compared to recent years, the median investment on major remodels of large kitchens increased 14 percent in 2020, growing to $40,000. For homeowners looking to sell, even a small kitchen remodel can boost a home’s value. According to a report from Remodeling magazine, small kitchen projects earn a return on investment of more than 83 percent. For every $100 spent on the upgrade, the value of a home increases by $83, on average; a much better return compared to other home improvement projects.

Post-pandemic, most U.S. consumers still plan on eating at home. According to a survey from marketing firm Acosta, 92 percent of families plan to continue eating together at home at least as often, or more often, than they do now. Almost two-thirds of shoppers polled reported that since the pandemic started, they cook at home more and eat “far more” meals at home all the time; a trend that spanned all meals. Instead of picking up breakfast or lunch on the way to and from work, people are relying on smaller appliances to make their familiar favorites. In 2020, one million more coffee and espresso makers and over half a million more electric grills and griddles were sold in the 13-week period ending June 27 than the same period in 2019, according to the NPD Group. 

Food is intertwined with lifestyles, religions and cultures. Whether vegan or gluten-free, people identify with the food they eat. In a recent Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA) seminar called “Now We’re Cooking,” Roni Wright, MAS, vice president of The Book Company, says, “There isn’t a vertical market that can’t benefit from what’s happening in the kitchen.” The session focused on the fact that client messaging can become a part of everyday life with kitchen promo. According to PPAI research, once a branded item is in the kitchen, the average retention rate is four years. Simple tools, like pizza cutters and ice cream scoopers, are common favorites that can deliver extended brand exposure. As consumers focus more on what they feed their families, kitchen promos can help both clients and end users find a sweet spot.   

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With more time spent at home over the past year, food delivery has grown exponentially. Almost one-third of U.S. households ordered grocery delivery in March 2020, and 26 percent said it was their first time, according to The
Spoon. For some, the pandemic was a time of experimentation in the kitchen, but many others missed their favorite restaurants. According to MarketWatch, the four top U.S. food-delivery apps made roughly $5.5 billion in combined revenue from April through September 2020, more than double their combined $2.5 billion in revenue during the same period in 2019. As the U.S. industry leader with 50 percent of the market share, DoorDash’s total orders for the first nine months of 2020 tripled compared to the year prior, from 181 million to 543 million. 

For those wanting healthier meals, meal kit services offer a variety of simple recipes and ingredients to create hassle-free meals. The meal kit delivery services market grew 300 percent between 2017 and 2018, reports Statista. Today, eight percent of Americans reportedly subscribe to at least one meal kit delivery service. The leading meal kit service is HelloFresh, tripling its number of customers between 2016 and 2019 and more companies are thinking of creative ways to reach customers at home. In September, industry supplier Maple Ridge Farms launched a lineup of gourmet gifts with Italy-imported ingredients, like pasta, pasta sauces, antipasto and more. Each gift is paired with a fire-branded wooden serving board. “We’re devoted to providing an amazing brand experience with every gift,” says Tom Riordan, president of Maple Ridge Farms. “This new collection allows everyone in the home to share the gift, while creating exciting, new memories.”

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This spice holder is hand-crafted of New Zealand pine and is customized with laser engraving. It holds five distinctive spices: amchur, aji panca, Fleur de Sel, sumac and turmeric. Each spice is served in a 38-gram portion size, attractively packaged in a glass test tube with a cork lid. Your client’s brand is also featured on the lids and laser-engraved on the wooden spice holder.

LeTourdeSpice, Inc. / PPAI 762815, S1 / www.letourdespice.com

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Designed with an ergonomic handle, this eight-inch bread knife is perfectly balanced with just the right weight for ultimate control when slicing. The ultra-sharp wavy tooth edge of the stainless-steel blade allows it to masterfully slice through loaves of bread and baked goodies with clean cuts that minimize crumbs. The blade is tapered to a razor-sharp edge, for cutting melons, fruits and vegetables. Each blade is crafted with a gunmetal titanium finish to perfectly support a gorgeous laser-etched logo, too.

Beacon Promotions, Inc.  /  PPAI 113702, S10  /  www.beaconpromotions.com

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Classic and stately, this Slate and Bamboo Cheese Board Set will make any kitchen more inviting. This set includes a bamboo wood tray, removable slate serving block, cheese fork, spade and two flat knives. This FDA-compliant set is also available in an imprinted gift box.

Evans Manufacturing  /  PPAI 110747, S10  /  www.evans-mfg.com

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This high-quality bamboo spoon is a sturdy addition to any kitchen. The 12-inch utensil comes with a lacquered finish and can be imprinted with a laser-engraved logo or design for a customized gift. This eco-friendly spoon is great for serving salad or other dishes. Any time customers sit down to dine, your client’s brand will be seen. 

Active Life Promos  /  PPAI 436753, S1  /  www.activelifepromo.com

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Keep up with family meals and grocery lists with The Kitchen Champion. The weekly tear-off pages have a practical planner-like format, with lots of space for writing in every family member’s daily commitments and appointments. The right side of each spread features check-off market lists for easier grocery shopping and fewer forgotten items. Each page also features a simple recipe or handy tip, like how to make a two-ingredient chocolate mousse and ideas for repurposing used coffee grounds. Hang it on the wall or on the fridge—it’s magnetic. 

The Book Company  /  PPAI 218850, S5  /  www.thebookco.com

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Delight everyone with stunning boards from Beautiful Boards. In this book, recipients will find boards for anytime family meals and snacks, seasons and holidays, breakfast and brunch, desserts, and entertaining and special occasions. Boards are no longer just about cured meats and cheeses, a board can make mealtimes, special occasions and holidays extra memorable. Beautiful Boards showcases 50 delicious, inspiring, family-friendly and easy-to-recreate snack boards.

The Book Company  /  PPAI 218850, S5  /  www.thebookco.com

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With six cooking functions and an extra-large capacity, the West Bend Digital Air Fryer oven is a multi-purpose solution for everyday use. Everything recipients cook will be crispy, done quickly and made easy from start to finish.

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com

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Easy to grip, Activ Shakers hold ice water or other fluids on the go and are perfect for general kitchen mixing help. Use these for mixing gravies, puddings and more with no mess and easy, complete mixes every time. They also provide a fun, clean way for little hands to help in the kitchen at mealtimes. Add the liquid, then dry ingredients and pop the lid securely closed, then shake for a perfect mix every time.

The Allen Company  /  PPAI 113879, S5  /  www.allenmugs.com

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Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB.

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