Meal Making in the Microwave

 By Andrea Lillo

Pressed for time -- and/or patience -- consumers are increasingly turning to their microwaves when it comes to meal making -- and that includes cooking in the office.

Manufacturers have seized the opportunity, releasing a number of new lines and items for this appliance.

Gibson Overseas launched its Sunbeam microwave cookware in March, which includes a rice cooker, omelet pan, egg boiler, bacon pan and a popcorn popper. "We started with the most familiar food items to get people more comfortable with cooking in the microwave, not just reheating," said Sal Gabbay, president.

Gibson is already expanding the line to include pasta cookers and veggie steamers that will make it easier (and healthier) to microwave-cook at home and at the office. At the International Home + Housewares Show, items such as the bacon cooker received attention, but "the biggest hit was clearly the color, something sorely lacking in the category right now," according to Gabbay. The line is accented in bright Sunbeam red and packaged for easy merchandising at discounters, drug stores and supermarkets. Prices range from $2.99 to $8.99.

Sistema US also launched a microwave line at the Housewares Show in response to consumer requests for microwave solution-based products, said Simon Kirby, president. New products, such as microwave plates and vegetable steamers, have microwave-specific designs, like raised corners on the steamers so the lids can be handled without gloves, steam holes in the vegetable basket to ensure the quickest cooking time, and a vent valve on the top. The collection, an extension of Sistema's Klip It line, launches Oct. 1.

Sistema US brought out the new line because it saw the category as having either very expensive items on the market or cheap ones, but "nothing that really met the high demands of most consumers, at an affordable price," said Kirby. Prices will range from $8 to $16.

The Aladdin product line from PMI "is directed primarily for on-the-go and office use," said Colleen Kennedy, PMI's Aladdin product manager. "Microwave steaming and cool-touch containers are two features that enhance the microwave cooking method, and consumers are looking for the added convenience, performance and efficiency that these features bring to their every day."

The $10 to $20 range does well for this category, depending on the item, added Kennedy. Aladdin's new line includes a Three Collapsible Bowl Set and a Two Mini Collapsible Bowl Set, the Collapsible Salad Set, and the Collapsible Steamer Set, which has a steam vent and built-in steamer tray to keep veggies crisp and bright when microwave-steamed. For soup and leftovers, the Artist Series bowl features a double-wall bowl "so that the bowl is cool to the touch when removing from the microwave after heating up lunch."

Mastrad also introduced several microwave products at the Housewares Show. Its rice and grain cooker can make rice, risotto, wheat, bulgur wheat, quinoa, lentils and more, and has a convex bottom to optimize steam circulation for quick, even cooking. Its new Chips Maker allows consumers to make their own potato chips -- or other vegetable or fruit chip-- in minutes.

HFN Staff | News & Commentary

HFN provides detailed information on the key home classifications: Housewares, Tabletop, Floor Covering & Rugs, Furniture, Home Textiles, Lighting, Home Decor, Mattresses & Bedding, Gifts, Major Appliances and Consumer Electronics as well as Business, Finance and Retail.

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