You know that consumer interest in avant-garde food ingredients has hit the mainstream when McDonald’s launches a test program of menu items that include kale. Welcome to an era in which the attention of typical Americans has intersected with that of health-food aficionados. From seaweed to kefir, from amaranth to hemp seeds to millet, it seems that our desire for healthful eating is expanding at an unprecedented pace.
“As consumers take more responsibility for their health, food as medicine is becoming increasingly dynamic,” said James Russo, who is the senior vice president of global consumer insights at Nielsen, in Forbes in February 2015.
Debra Mednick, who is the former executive director of home-industry analysis at market-research company The NPD Group, credits this health kick, even among young people, for the renewed interest in blenders.
Mednick tells Consumers Digest that the countertop blender has become a leading category in small home electrics in both unit sales and dollar volume.
Therefore, it’s unsurprising to us that our research found that innovation and expansion among these four countertop food-preparation appliances—countertop blenders, immersion blenders, food processors and stand mixers—is most prevalent among the countertop-blender category.
“Of these appliance categories, most new product development and sales velocity for the past couple years has been in the [countertop] blender category,” says Greg Sleter, who is the executive editor of HomeWorld Business magazine.
Fortunately, Consumers Digest’s research also shows that prices of countertop blenders held steady over the past 2 years, and in several cases, they even were reduced.
SPIN-NOVATION. From our research, the most notable countertop blenders to be introduced recently are a line from Blendtec and a model from KitchenAid.
Blendtec’s debut of its Designer 725 ($650) marked the first blender that we could find that has a touch-screen control panel, which facilitates the swiping technique that’s ubiquitous to smartphones. We found this to be intuitive with regard to the adjustment of the blender’s speed in 100 increments. The two other models that are in the Designer series—the 625 and 675—also include the touch-screen control panel and touch-slider speed control, but they have only six and eight “spaces,” or speeds, respectively.
Don’t Get the Shaft
“This Designer 725 innovation was driven by our electrical engineering team,” says David Throckmorton, who is Blendtec’s director of engineering. “They knew that by using capacitive touch, they could give users improved controls over a dial or knob.”
A function that we find interesting on the 675 and 725 is the “Add 10” icon; just tap it to add 10 seconds to any blend cycle. In our hands-on evaluations, however, we rarely had the need to “Add 10,” because we found that preprogrammed cycles do a splendid job no matter what you throw at them—unpeeled apples, whole unpeeled lemons or limes, whole peeled oranges, frozen bananas, large frozen strawberries and notoriously tough kale leaves.
KitchenAid’s Torrent ($600) is what the manufacturer calls “the first blender for home use to employ an interlocking magnetic-drive system instead of a traditional coupler mechanism, both to power its blades and safely secure its jar.” Rather than the jar sitting on top of the base, it slides into the power unit, much like a coffee carafe slides into a coffee maker and onto its heating surface. We found that, because of a magnet on its bottom, the otherwise lightweight plastic blender jar is heavy, and removing the jar from the unit requires a fair bit of muscle.
We asked for a reaction to this finding, and KitchenAid told us that the Torrent’s 60-ounce blender jar with lid “weighs 3.1 pounds, which is slightly more than the [same capacity KitchenAid] Diamond blender jar with lid, which weighs 2.0 pounds.” We found the 35 percent heavier weight to be significant rather than slight.