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IFA 2017 - Highlights and thoughts

Berlin 6.9.2017 - Will radio waves be the next standard in ovens? Will vacuum blending really take off? How about inductions hobs to be controlled by recipes that are projected and controlled on the worktop surface? Most impressive this year were Miele and their Dialog oven, Grundig with a projected interface and Electrolux/AEG were doing a good job with presenting their ovens with sous vide and blast chilling. IFA2017 was also about connectivity again. For cooking appliances this remains a challenge. Read further how IFA2017 was experienced by a consumer focused food innovation designer.
Most impressive this year were Miele and their Dialog oven, Grundig with a a projected worktop interface and Electrolux / AEG were doing a good job in presenting their sous vide and blast chill combination.
Induction and connectivity
The opportunities with induction hobs are really endless. Most brand have the function to recognise the heating setting for a specific pan, so that you can move this pan from location to another without having to set the heat again. Features to control the specific food in the pan seems to be harder to realise. Over the years I have seen sensors connected to pans to control the temperature of the food, but this never became popular. Grundig now presented a function I saw 15 years ago at MIT Medialab: Recipe projections on the worktop surface with which you can interact. You can control pans by following the programmed recipes. Everything is fully integrated, you can not even see the induction hob, it looks like a normal ceramic kitchen worktop. I am very curious how this will continue and how Grundig can make sure to keep cooking intuitive.

Professional functions at home
Sous vide, quick chilling, vacuum sealing and moist control are functions restaurant have been using for years. Making these available at home can surely be useful. The techniques help to keep food fresher, help to lower food waste and maintain nutrition and flavour best. For me Electrolux/AEG offered the best products or presented these features in the most convincing way.
A technology that not even restaurants have is the Dialog oven from Miele. Radio waves different from the microwave frequency can heat up food from the inside. Miele showed this by cooking fish in a block of ice, without melting the ice. How is that for controlling the temperature? More relevant is that they cook pulled pork in 2,5 hours! The oven will be sold in Germany and Austria first. Let's see how successful this will become in the future.

Yet another revolution in juices and smoothies?
For Blender and Juicers we have seen the evolution to power blenders and slow juicers. The marketing stories of needing a certain motor speed to make a healthy (green) smoothie. The communication is often convincing but nutrition wise there have been a lot of lies. And it really depends on the specific ingredient to know which appliance will bring the best result. So now we have the vacuum blender. Will this be the new standard ? A convincing demo, but I think people that just bought an expensive blender or slow-juicer will not replace them just yet by another device that promises even more health.
Grundig - interactive projection on worktop surface
Miele - Dialog oven uses radiowaves to cook food from the inside out - fast and energy efficient
Kuvings - will a new technique once again disrupt the juice & smoothie market with questional claims?
Technology push vs consumer centric
The IFA is about consumer electronics, companies that showcase at the fair are often more technology driven than consumer focused. With a Television I can understand that buyers of the newest gadgets are excited about a thinner flat screen, or connective devices that control everything that happens in your house, but what about cooking appliances? Do we want to cook on a screen or rather stay more physically in touch with the ingredients? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle, to define solutions it will be good to understand which user scenarios would benefit from a sensor or a connection to for example your tablet or smartphone.

Do brands know their target group?
A challenge for cooking brands is that the coolest features are implemented in their most expensive products. The target group for high-end appliances that can actually afford these products is probably 45+. Younger generations that actually grew up with screens might be interested in for example Grundig's worktop projection that can display (Instagram) recipes, but they might not have the budget, yet... The generation with money to build in a kitchen from an expensive brand might still struggle with understanding what moist features can do for the recipes they are used to cook at home. I see a mismatch there.

Final thoughts about IFA this year
I have my doubts about connected devices and intuitive use. I personally get the greatest pleasure from cooking if I really get in touch with the material and I mean the ingredients. Seeing, smelling, chopping, tasting… I want to think for myself and judge by seeing and smelling, not by looking at a screen, not a sensor that tells me when to add another ingredient, or when I have to flip over a steak. Sure there are scenarios where I just want to throw some ingredients into a device and come back later when the dish has finished itself, but then a simple soup from an inexpensive soup maker will do fine.
One thing is sure: There are interesting dilemma's around connectivity and cooking, intuitive use and programs that take over… I believe that companies need to really look at their target group well and have a good overview of user scenarios to judge if certain connectivity or other smart features are really an improvement for the cooking experience.
Please let me know what you think
If you enjoyed this article or have feedback, I would much appreciate your thoughts and comments. It would encourage me to continue sharing my ideas. Please get in touch via Email, LinkedIn or Twitter. I am looking forward to get connected!
More about my work as Food Innovation Designer can be viewed on the homepage.
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