Food-Waste Disposers: Same Old Grind?

Plus: Best Buys in Economy, Midrange & Premium Models

The market for food-waste disposers is about to change with the arrival of Moen in 2016.

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Change isn’t a term that typically is applied to food-waste disposers.

If you’re in the market for such an appliance, chances are good that today’s food-waste disposers will be familiar to you, even if you haven’t shopped for one in a decade.

However, a new player will enter the market in 2016, and we’re curious to see what effect it will have—although it might take a while.

SAME NEW. According to data from Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, shipments of food-waste disposers over the 12-month period that ended in June 2015 reached 7.4 million. That’s a 16 percent increase over the 12-month period that ended in June 2013.

This increase occurred despite the fact that today’s market is almost identical to what it was in 2013. Our research determined that of the 64 models of food-waste disposers that were on the market at press time, 87.5 percent of those (56) were on the market 2 years ago—with the same specifications—including all 11 batch-feed food-waste disposers.

That inertia is because food-waste disposers are thought of as “a commodity product,” says Wes Grimm of Anaheim Manufacturing, which makes food-waste disposers for a number of brands. “There hasn’t been a need to [change].”

That isn’t to say nothing has changed, however. InSinkErator dropped the prices on all of its premium Evolution series food-waste disposers by at least $100 in the past 2 years.

Meanwhile, GE added an extended parts warranty to its otherwise-identical line of disposers. Previously, the company provided only a 1-year warranty on all of its disposers. Now, seven of its nine models include an additional warranty on all moving parts that ranges from a total of 2 years for the Disposall GFC520V ($99) to 7 years for the Disposall GFC1020V ($199).

Kenmore, however, made the biggest change by revamping its entire lineup in 2014. According to spokesperson Christine Whitemarsh, the changes involved improved performance specifications, additional sound dampening and better aesthetics.

In reality, aside from switching to a gray or black exterior from one of chrome, what changed is that Kenmore changed suppliers and, thus, technology. Kenmore’s new models have a permanent magnet motor, which uses sheer speed to grind up food waste. Previous models have an induction motor, which produces variable speed to accomplish the same task. Food-waste disposers that have an induction motor top out at 1,725 revolutions per minute (rpm). Kenmore’s current models range in grinding speed from 2,600 rpm to 2,800 rpm. (Consumers Digest found that food-waste disposers that have either type of motor are effective at food-waste disposal.)

In other words, when Kenmore says its models now produce 50 percent more grinding speed than its previous models, what it really means is that these food-waste disposers now use different technology that doesn’t allow for direct speed comparisons. Fortunately, you won’t pay much more for Kenmore’s “improved” specifications. Its current five-model line runs $100–$300, compared with $99–$289 in 2014.

ENTER MOEN. The staid nature of the food-waste-disposer market might be about to get a little less sedate. In December 2014, Fortune Brands, which owns the Moen line of bathroom and kitchen fixtures, bought Anaheim Manufacturing. That acquisition, Grimm says, will lead to innovation among food-waste disposers.

“We have some pretty amazing resources that Anaheim didn’t have before,” he says.

What changes that are to come won’t be known for a while. Moen is expected to release its own branded line of food-waste disposers in March 2016. (Anaheim’s primary and long-standing lines of Waste King food-waste disposers will remain, Grimm says.) However, despite being the first new brand in the market in at least 5 years, Moen’s models are essentially the same as are other Anaheim-produced food-waste disposers. The only real difference is one of design.

Cassy Osborne of Moen says the innovation will be one of marketing at first. Moen uniquely can provide “a total package”—kitchen sink, faucet and food-waste disposer—Osborne says, although she isn’t aware of specific packages that combine all of those products into a single purchase.

As for the food-waste disposer itself, Osborne says Moen will move slowly. “Under the sink is a little outside our realm,” she admits. “As we learn more and grow our knowledge, the innovations will grow from that.” She couldn’t give us a timetable for when consumers might begin to benefit from Moen’s knowledge.

“We love to introduce new products to the market,” Osborne says. “You can’t always rush that.”

That’s the same message from InSink-Erator, which last shook up its product line—and the market—in 2006 through the introduction of its Evolution line. Two years ago, the manufacturer told us that it was working on new models that would deliver improved performance and sound reduction. That work continues “in various stages of development,” according to Carol Baricovich of InSink-Erator, although she didn’t say when consumers might see any new products.

Whether meaningful change ultimately comes to the food-waste-disposer market remains to be seen.

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