Chicago is known for many wonderful things; it is positively alive with amazing architecture, a beautiful waterfront, incredible food, stunning parks, rhythmic blues music, and of course, baseball. For people in the housewares industry, it is also famous for the annual International Home and Housewares Show, the largest show of its kind. This huge and well-attended show has graced the halls of McCormick Place for over 50 years. I had the pleasure of attending the show last week, in an action-packed day that had people scrambling to re-book flights and find hotel rooms, as another winter storm approached.
Since the show is not open to the public, I thought I would share with you some of the more interesting things that I saw during my visit. Digital innovation, colour, nostalgia, and interestingly, sparkling water, were among the key elements that really stood out among the 2,100 exhibitors who were showcasing their goods.
Home comfort products were everywhere on the show floor. We saw small desktop heaters, portable room heaters, humidifiers, air purifiers, portable air conditioners and even some products being showcased that boasted all-in-one capabilities. What stood out among all these gadgets and appliances was not necessarily what they did, but how they looked and worked. In order to really stand out in such a crowded and competitive product category, you need to have a unique “hook” designed to catch the buyer’s attention. In the categories of small desktop heaters and room humidifiers, colour was a huge factor. In the past, bright traditional colours had taken center stage, but this year, a softer, pastel palette was added to the colour range, making it easier to incorporate them into your home.
In product categories such as room heaters and air purifiers, manufacturers are using cutting-edge digital technology to differentiate themselves from the competition. Long gone are the days of manual controls: It seemed the more lights, buttons and digital displays, the better. In a market where technology rules our lives, I was not surprised to see this trend. Whether it was controlling the unit with a smartphone, tablet, fancy remote or even just a swipe of the hand, there is no doubt that home comfort products are now climbing on board a hi-tech bandwagon that won’t disappear any time soon.
Now as for those inventive gadgets and gizmos that we all love to see at the show: this is definitely the place where manufacturers introduce their latest and greatest! This year, all the major players were out in full force, and they certainly did not disappoint. One trendy, up-and-coming product category that had quite a showing was sparkling water. It appears drinking plain “still” water is a bit passé! Now, there are machines you can buy for your home that transform ordinary still water into fresh sparkling water or soda. That’s right, not only will these machines carbonate your water for you, but you can even purchase syrup flavours such as cola, root beer and cream soda to give your water a little kick and turn it into a soft drink, perfect for the warm summer months ahead.
Robotics was another innovative category at the show. I saw quite a few robotic vacuums cleaning the carpeted halls and following people around, but I also saw a few others; such as the “Winbot” that was busy cleaning the windows at the EcoVac booth and the automatic barbecue cleaners that the company Grillbot was showcasing in a few different colour options. I don’t know about you, but vacuuming, window cleaning and cleaning the BBQ are all chores I would love to never have to do again. If there is a robot that can do all of these for me, I say bring it on!
Now that we have reviewed some seriously futuristic products, let’s step back and talk about the past! The show featured a ton of gadgets and products packaged with a retro vibe designed to bring out a feeling of nostalgia in each of us. No matter what gooey, refreshing, cold or warm treat you may be craving, there is a product available to help you make it. Nostalgia Electrics had many products on display, and quite a few of them were up and running making delicious treats such as homemade peanut butter, kettle corn, cotton candy, slushies and frozen yogurt. Although these are products that have been around for a little while, there were some new ones around the show that I had never seen before. The first was a Greek yogurt maker. It was available in different sizes and even came with a travel container that allowed you to put your freshly made, healthy yogurt on the bottom and your fruit or granola on top, ready for a snack whenever you need one. Also intriguing was a silicone tray that allowed you to make potato chips in the microwave; something I never thought possible. Now, I am a potato chip fanatic, so I was pretty skeptical about this one. But I will say they tasted great—they came out crispy and salty but not greasy at all!
For people who enjoy making treats for family members, especially those of the four-legged furry persuasion, you are going to LOVE the electric dog-treat makers that popped up at a couple booths. You just can’t have a show that focuses on housewares without having something for the family pet. The appliance came with biscuit cutters, a storage container and even a decorating set to personalize “Fido’s” treats to your liking. I brought home some treats to test out on my own dog and he loved them. I’m thinking there might be one of these little machines wrapped up under the tree this Christmas with my dog’s name on it.
There is so much more I could tell you about the show, so many products that I didn’t even touch on (such as the slew of single serve pod coffee makers), but I wanted to at least give you a glimpse of what the show is all about and what cool new trends we can look forward to seeing in stores this year. It really is a fantastic show to attend, and since these are products we bring into our homes, it’s important that even if you can’t make it to the show, you get to see what everyone else is excited about.
For more information about the show, here is the link to the website http://www.housewares.org
Thanks for joining me!