Green is this spring's hot color in the housewares industry. Companies aren't pushing shades of lime, avocado or emerald, however. Their sights are set on the environment and the use of natural or biodegradable materials.
"The biggest trend is the green or environmental movement," says Lisa Casey Weiss, a lifestyle consultant for the International Housewares Association. "This has gotten the most play, and many manufacturers see it as a focus for now and the future."
Cookware suppliers are using chemical-free materials. Biodegradable materials such as cork, bamboo and cornstarch are used for kitchen accessories. (Whoever dreamed of a dish rack made from cornstarch?) Some manufacturers are rethinking their packaging, either to reduce the amount of materials used or to produce easily recyclable containers.
Several other trends are shaping up as 2,100 exhibitors prepare to unveil their new lines at the International Home and Housewares Show 2008 this month in Chicago.
A natural offshoot of the "green" movement is increasing interest in healthful eating. "Consumers are looking to have a healthier diet for their children, for themselves, for an elderly parent," Casey Weiss says. "We're looking for food choppers, juicers, mandolines and slicers to create healthier meals at home."
Housewares collections will feature more products for outdoor entertaining, as the trend of turning backyards and patios into living space strengthens. "Maybe consumers have maxed out of their space indoors," she says, "so the outdoors can be an extension of the indoors by adding porches, fire pits or even second kitchens. There is more entertaining outdoors."
These trends were evident in a mini-preview of the Chicago housewares show that took place recently in New York. On a visit to the show, we zeroed in on new food- or cooking-oriented items. Some of these products are already in kitchenware shops, specialty stores and home stores such as Linens 'n Things; others will be available in the next month or so.
Chantal Corp. goes green and healthful with its Copper Fusion and Pure lines. The enamel coating in Copper Fusion pots and pans ($90 to $250) mimics nonstick coatings but is a natural material that contains no chemicals (enamel is made from ground glass). The enamel covers copper fused between two steel plates, which distributes heat evenly and ensures even cooking. The ergonomic handle stays cool during cooking and can be replaced if it wears out before the pan. The pots and frying pans, which have clear, tempered lids, can move from the stove to table to freezer and are dishwasher-safe.
Chantal's Pure line of ceramic baking and tea accessories ($6 to $49.50) is made from clay and can withstand high baking temperatures. By using only a clear glaze, the company is able to cut energy consumption during the firing process. (Pure products are available online at chantal.com.)
A collapsible shopping cart is a necessity in a city like New York, where residents walk from an apartment to the grocery store. Narita Trading Co. (naritatrad ing.com) added features to its Thermore Cart ($49) that turn it into a soccer mom's dream. The cart has a fold-down seat, a 300-pound capacity and an insulated bag to hold hot or cold foods.
For cooks who need to conserve space in the kitchen, FoldTuk (foldtuk.com) bakeware collapses to 1 inch high. Made from a ceramic compound that withstands heat to 500 degrees, the bakeware ($15.99 to $21.99) is safe for both conventional and microwave ovens and includes lids for storing foods.
They may be small, but a set of stainless-steel spoons ($14.99) from Progressive International Corp. (progressiveintl.com) has some nifty features. The five double-ended spoons stack together - and because they are magnetized, stick together - for easy storage. One end of the spoon is for dry measure and small enough to fit into a spice jar, the other for liquid.
There's a new wrinkle in the world of slow cookers. Select Brand's 6.5-quart cooker ($60) has a cast-iron insert to use on top of the stove to brown meat and then slip into the appliance for long, slow cooking. The insert and its lid also perform double duty as a Dutch oven.
A knife rack from Linden Sweden (lindensweden.com) scores points for clean, handsome design. Available in both countertop and wall-mount versions, the rack ($39.95) stores at least four knives in something other than the usual wood block. A magnetic strip holds the knives in place vertically on a square background, while a frosted acrylic cover keeps the knives in view yet serves as a safety feature.
Picture a chef's knife with the requisite shiny, stainless-steel blade. Now picture that same knife with a pearly white blade. That blade is made from ceramic, a material second only to diamonds in strength and hardness, and holds an ultra-sharp edge. These knives - in a variety of sizes ($39.99 to $79.99) from Jaccard Corp. (jaccardweb.com) - will hold an edge 10 to 15 times longer than stainless-steel blades and won't cause the edges of sliced fruit or vegetables to brown.
Linda Giuca writes for the Hartford Courant.