Upgrading cookware and gadgets as the kitchen takes centre stage amid Covid

Kitchens are now becoming more open and almost getting merged with the living space, and transitioning to become some kind of a family zone. Picture Source: Godrej Interio
A warm stove, a simmering pot and mom cooking delicacies. This image gushes forth as part of our fondest childhood memories when we think of kitchens. But Covid has reset the kitchen dynamics and converted this hitherto woman-dominated space into a family zone, one where everyone participates, makes, bakes, grills and dines and has a say and an input.

The pandemic has brought home cooking back in fashion, says Indian celebrity chef and entrepreneur, Sanjeev Kapoor. “whatever food is cooked at home, even if it is junk food, is far better and healthier than outside food. In the earlier times, the kitchen was next to a temple – and rightly so. Looks like during Covid, the importance of this space is getting restored,” he adds.

Trappings of a good kitchen 

Ideally, a kitchen must be well-lit and well-ventilated. Says Kapoor, “Light, air and space make for a decent kitchen. One needs to create food that is not only tasty and healthy, but also looks good. So one needs enough space and work area. Besides the kitchen should leave some room for upgrades as things change very fast and the space must allow adaptation.”

New-age kitchens are headlined by modern contemporary aesthetics with sleek straight lines, greater storage space and appliance integration. Traditional ornate designs are passe and people don’t want too much of a colour burst, so a pop-up against a neutral backdrop is considered a welcome idea. Minimalist ethos is catching up as people crave for feeling of space and prefer an uncluttered look.

According to Subodh Mehta, Senior Vice-President, B2C, Godrej Interio, “Interestingly the average ticket value of the kitchen has gone up by 25-30 per cent. There is far more interest in the kitchen today as the entire family participates and everyone has inputs and perspectives on what it should be like. The share of home cooking has gone up significantly during Covid times, and if you are cooking so many meals in a day, you don’t want to repeat. Hence, even the variety of food cooked in the kitchen has grown substantially with restaurants and corporate canteens going out of the picture.” Kitchen makers like Godrej Interio now tend to “co-create the kitchen with the client”, personalising the design based on eating, cooking habits and design preferences of the user, capturing finer nuances such as whether the primary cook is left-handed or right-handed etc.

Kitchen innovations: What new to expect

There are solutions for better cooling in the kitchen. A new product consisting of a chimney with an air-conditioner is being introduced. Says Mehta: “You can’t really run the fan at great speed in the kitchen, and putting an air conditioner is also not feasible as the space generates a lot of heat. It’s best to do localised cooling such that the raft of the aircon comes on the people cooking the food and this is done with the latest innovative product of chimney-cum-air-conditioner.”

Cool drawers for spices is another feature. Everything cannot be stored in the fridge, and spices tend to get spoilt in hot and humid weather. To address this problem, a provision of cool drawers with low temperatures is being made in modern modular kitchens. These columns maintain an environment that is not as cold as the refrigerator but good enough to maintain ambient temperature for storing spices.

Kitchen design is becoming more efficient so far as storage space is concerned. There is special focus on utilising vertical space as homes tend to shrink in size. Tall pantry and vertical-ladder units are a solution to optimally use the space as people, especially during Covid times, want to buy less frequently and would rather stock up all their groceries.

There is greater focus on hygiene and wellness and bigger sinks are in. Kitchen makers have recently introduced deep sinks with auto water heater. Since Indian cooking is full of oil and spices, one can just leave the utensils in this sink, water will come up to a particular level, heat and auto stop, clean and rinse. Bigger or double sinks and touchless faucets are also finding their way into the kitchens. For example, Kohler’s Oblo invisible sensor faucet with a concealed sensor inside the spout for accurate, consistent activation is a premium product for hands-free hygiene.

Price matters

What does it take to get a kitchen done from scratch? The price can vary anything from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 20 lakh, depending upon the size of the kitchen, nature of design and finishes used. If you were to put mid-end floor tiles on to your kitchen floor, it would cost approximately Rs 130-140/sq ft.

Says Manish Rao, Business Head of Renovation, Housejoy: “Let’s assume the kitchen is of size 100 sq ft. The floor tiles will cost approximately Rs 12,000-15,000 and wall tiles Rs 120-130/sq ft (Rs 11,000-15,000 for wall tiles). Just the tiling part will cost Rs 30,000. If you are considering adding more shelves to a modular kitchen for storing groceries, the cost in terms of laminates will be Rs 1,000/sq ft approximately per shelf.” It is easier to make a modular kitchen with built-in appliances from scratch but the task becomes tedious when you have to transform an existing regular kitchen to one with built-in appliances.

Gadgets for efficiency

Devices that facilitate speed and efficiency are becoming a must-have purchase for the kitchen. Dishwashers are reportedly out of stock at some retail outlets.

Tata CLiQ’s kitchen appliances category has improved 4x with customers actively looking to upgrade appliances and major growth is seen in mixer grinders, blenders and juicers. Says Kishore Mardikar, CMO Tata CLiQ, “Customers are now investing in better-quality kitchen appliances, with over 50 per cent increase seen in the average selling price. As most consumers are now at home along with families, convection microwaves have also shown a huge jump.”

Multi-brand retailers such as Croma have observed a steep uptake in demand for products that aid convenience for all the DIY tasks like microwaves, food processors and vacuum cleaners. According to Rajeev Singh, Group Business Manager (Home & Entertainment), Croma, in the microwave/ OTGs, there has been a growth of almost 100 per cent, largely owing to the ease of cooking or baking with them -- something that was at a forefront during the lockdown period. Gadgets that make kitchen work easier and faster, like food processors, have gained momentum. With the WFH phenomenon, kettles have been a fast-moving product, with umpteen cups of tea and coffee being consumed at home, instead of the workplace.  

Wellness appliances/gadgets that promote health

Wellness gadgets such as air fryer, which offers a healthier alternative to deep-frying, or a slow juicer that comes with slow crushing action that doen't produce heat, are taking up bench space in kitchens all over the country. Experts advise opting for kitchen appliances that cut time but don't compromise on health. Says Sanjeev Kapoor: “There are three things in my kitchen that I literally use every day – slow juicer, air fryer, nutri blend. In fact, I just finished my workout and had a protein shake and it took me just 30 seconds to make it. Five years ago, this was something of a conversation starter and a discussion topic, but today there is a definite need for appliances that promote good health. We launched the cold-pressed juicer at the right time at Wonderchef, just when it was needed, and it was a runaway success.”

Appliances with better, advanced features that promote well-being are now available in the market. Take the case of the microwave which was a gadget for warming food and frozen snacks, and was merely used to quicken the process and do uncomplicated cooking. The latest edition of the microwave offers all-in-one features right from baking, tandoor, making curd, air frying, making continental dishes, and doing Indian cooking. According to K G Singh, Vice President–Marketing, Whirlpool of India, “Home cooking has been a rage owing to the lockdown with people trying their hands on different cuisines in the absence of restaurants. Therefore, convection microwaves (premium brands cost Rs 17,500-33,000) are picking up the most in terms of sales because of their all-round features and the ability to cook different varieties of food.”

Even while buying refrigerators, there are high-end variants that help prevent bacterial growth, retain food freshness for weeks and facilitate vitamin preservation. Newer formats such as bottom-mounted refrigerators, four doors and other models offering best cooling performance such as rapid ice making, food preservation, high energy ratings are available in the market.

While most of the above are discretionary purchases, some like water purifiers are becoming indispensable to the kitchen. Upgraded versions of RO or reverse osmosis machines are in demand. Says Mahesh Gupta, CMD, Kent RO: “Online sales have gone up rather than offline and there is a demand for ROs in a price range of Rs 12,000-18,000.” Here too, there are innovations, such as alkaline over neutral water purifiers, which maintain a pH level of 7-10.

Any new demand or supply of gadgets on the lockdown block? Indeed, says Tata CLiQ’ Kishore Mardikar, “There are waffle makers, bread makers, multi-purpose sandwich makers and multi-purpose cookers.”

Cookware and crockery

There is a trend of shifting towards cast-iron cookware, terracotta products, Stoneware, kansa and copper ware. Food expert and restauranteur Zorawar Kalra recommends the use of only cast-iron pots and pans in home kitchen. Says Kalra: “Non-stick pans should be avoided. We use glass instead of plastic for food and water storage. Copper is the best conductor of heat so if you use copper vessels for cooking food, due to the even distribution of heat, food comes out tastier.”

Pick up any material, but the important thing is to invest in a high-quality variant of that material. Says Sanjeev Kapoor: “There are trade-offs with every kind of cookware and therefore, one kind of material cannot do it all. For example, stainless steel has been there with us, but aluminium is a far better conductor of heat. Coated aluminium is far better as it is non-toxic and can also be anodised. You have to pick and choose. If you want to cut down on fats and oils, there is no better cookware than non-stick. However, a low-grade non-stick cookware can be flaky or cheap aluminium can be toxic. Go for the highest quality available in each of these materials and it should be fine then.”

People are taking interest also in how to brighten up their dining experiences. Many say that the best memories are made when gathered around the table. Says Lyndsay Smith, Head, Westside Home: “There is much interest in dressing up tables. The lockdown has certainly changed people's lifestyle. With families dining together at home, we have seen a demand for table dressing, placemats and coasters. Apart from this, core kitchen items such as glassware, serve ware and storage items too are in demand.”

Finally, the kitchen is becoming a space for fun and adventure, with everyone participating and experimenting with the look and feel of this space. The good thing is that kitchens are bringing families together - as they say, good food and a warm kitchen is what makes the house a home.  

What revamping your kitchen would cost you 
Item of expense   Price (Rs)
Making a modular kitchen from scratch From Rs 2 lakh for basic to Rs 20 lakh for premium modular kitchen 
Flooring Tiles cost Rs 70-250 per sq ft, marble 150-500 Rs/sq ft, depending upon quality and brand
Wall tiles 
Rs 60-160/sq ft, but mid-end wall tiles will cost Rs 100-130/sq ft
Kitchen Window Windows made of UPVC for Rs 12,000-15,000, Aluminium for Rs 10,000, Regular wooden for 4,000
Wooden laminates/shelves
Rs1,000-1,500/sq ft (For 100 sq ft, it will cost minimum Rs 1.5 lakh)
Baskets for pullout  Basic for Rs 500 in steel. These days wooden baskets are in vogue, one piece costs Rs 3,500  
Kitchen slab Granite, anything the Rs 400-1,200/sq ft range
Kitchen sink Rs 8,000-22,000 of size 18x24 inch/48x18 inch
Rs 3,000 (local), Rs 8,000 (Jaquar), Rs 20,000 (Kohler)
Electrical Appliances  
Rs 38,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh 
OTG:  Rs 5,000–11,000 
Premium Convection Microwave Rs 15,500-33,000
Rs 11,400-22,800 (single-door); Rs 19,500-60,000 (Two-door, frost-free);  Rs 27,000-36,000 (Three-door); Rs 70,000-1,00,000 (Side-by-Side)
Reverse Osmosis (RO) unit:  Rs 12,000-18,000
Source: Market Research from a cross section of manufacturers, retailers, contractors

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