Celebrity Chefs’ Cookware Sets Help Supermarkets Compete in Housewares Space

Celebrity Chefs’ Cookware Sets Help Supermarkets Compete in Housewares Space

Celebrity chefs and the popularity of television cooking shows are boosting housewares sales.

Supermarkets are tuning into the cooking show craze.

At a time when Rach, Martha and Emeril are household names, partnerships with celebrity chefs and cookware sets [2]supporting the techniques they’ve made popular are helping grow food retailers’ share of the housewares space.

Hy-Vee [3] has an exclusive agreement with Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone, known by American audiences from Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” and Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” and “Around the World in 80 Plates.”

As part of his relationship with the chain, Stone creates recipes emphasizing fresh and seasonal ingredients. It’s his philosophy that cooking should be fun and never stand in the way of spending time with family and friends. Hy-Vee is a natural fit given its fresh food selection.

“I love that Hy-Vee focuses on local farming and seasonality,” says Stone in promotional materials. “And the fact that they have nutritionists in their stores is great. This matches with their core values about food and family. It’s not all about just selling you everything. It’s important to give you the tools to live healthy, sustainable lives.”

The chain is helping home chefs meet their culinary aspirations not just with fresh ingredients, but the professional tools to turn them into meals [4]. Hy-Vee is one of several retailers merchandising Curtis Stone-brand pots, pans and kitchen gadgets.

Hy-Vee’s corporate chefs even channel Stone’s rockstar persona during “Make It, Bake It with Curtis Stone Cookware” classes.

Video: 4 Important Questions Answered by Retail Dietitians [5]

Instructors demonstrate how Stone’s Pick-Up Scoops collect and transfer finely diced items and how easy it is to plate food like a pro with Showtime Presentation Rings, while preparing Stone’s Corn and Zucchini Timbales and Baked Penne with Farmhouse Cheddar and Leeks.

The class costs $15 with wine or $12 without. Attendees can purchase featured cookware and gadgets at a discount of up to 50%.

Perry Reynolds, former housewares category manager for Grand Union supermarkets and vice president of marketing and trade development for the International Housewares Association, said Hy-Vee’s strategy is atypical in an industry where grocers do a great job with food, but frequently drop the ball on preparation.

“Often we find that supermarkets pay significant attention to food and less attention to the preparation of the food,” Reynolds said. “With an authority figure like Curtis Stone it positions Hy-Vee in a great spot that relates to the customer’s whole need.”

Merchandising Cookware

Don Stuart, chief operating officer at Kantar Retail, agrees that grocers should be doing more with housewares, noting that they merchandise more than half the food sold at retail, and therefore have an advantage over the mass merchants and department stores that have traditionally dominated the space. 

“We’ve done basket analysis using loyalty card data and found that bakeware and baking-related food items are 10 to 15 times more likely to be in the same basket together, so there is a natural affinity,” Stuart said.

With the average consumer visiting the supermarket 52 to 56 times per year, trip frequency also works in food retailers’ favor, he said.

Still, a major hurdle for most food store operators is a lack of space.


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Last year, United Supermarkets [7], Lubbock, Texas, cut SKUs from All-Clad, Cuisinart, and chef Emeril Lagasse’s Emerilware, since it wasn’t leveraging sufficient economies of scale, said Vicki Gay, business manager for United Supermarkets’ Dish Retail section.

“It was very difficult for us to compete price-wise with big-box stores that carry a large volume of cookware,” she said.

One line that made the cut was Rachael Ray Bubble & Brown stoneware from the Emmy Award-winning television chef. This along with Rachael Ray EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) Bottles and Garbage Bowls — used to collect eggshells and other scraps during food prep — have been a hit with shoppers.

“They trust her very much and like her recipes,” said Gay of viewers who tune into “Everyday with Rachael Ray” for time-saving recipes that take 30 minutes or less.

United benefits from Ray’s popularity with little promotional support.

“Rachael Ray demos her merchandise every day on TV so advertising is built into the product,” Gay explained.

Bea Goldberg, general merchandise manager for two-store Jungle Jim’s International Market’s 5,000-square-foot “Gourmet Galeria” cookware department, likewise gets requests from shoppers bearing recipes they’ve seen on TV.

Merchandising about 1,500 gadgets and the same cookware brands sold by upscale William-Sonoma, the Galeria is well equipped to fill the needs of students at Jungle Jim’s on-site cooking school, professional chefs and everyday gourmets.

Photos courtesy of Jungle Jim’s International Market

Frequently sought by viewers of Food Network is the Microplane handheld Grater that grates nutmeg, cheese and chocolate. Santoku Japanese chef knives seen on the cable network are also fast movers.

Merchandising food alongside cookware makes good business sense, according to Goldberg, who says, “Consumers are constantly coming in with their recipes from these shows.”

During its evolution from straight-forward recipe demonstrations to competitions among chefs, the cooking show genre has spurred innovation that is reflected in the marketplace.

“It’s not just that this year’s trend is toward stainless steel. The trend is toward a wider variety of cooking types,” explained Reynolds who points to techniques like sous-vide (under vacuum) — where food is sealed in an airtight bag and cooked for a long time at low temperatures.

United customers are using exotic cookware tools like tagines to slow cook stews and other dishes. Expedited cooking methods are also gaining steam.

Pressure cookers that facilitate higher temperatures and therefore faster cooking sell well at Jungle Jim’s where brands like Fagor, Kuhn Rikon and Fissler are demonstrated during pressure-cooking classes.

The promotional technique is one of many that have competitors taking note.

“Kroger is constantly in our stores seeing what we’re doing, and they’re investing more in the general merchandise space,” Goldberg said.

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