The future looks bright for kitchen gadgets in 2015 -- literally.
Vibrant and retro color palettes dominated the annual International Home and Housewares Show, held this week in Chicago, where all the latest trends in home goods covered an expansive 13 miles of exhibits.
According to Lisa Casey-Weiss, a lifestyle consultant for the International Housewares Association, brighter kitchen colors are likely the result of improved consumer confidence. Color schemes are cyclical in the housewares industry, she said, and when the economy improves people are willing to take more risks -- like, say, pink cookware.
Products aimed at healthier, simpler living are also in vogue this year. A wide array of multifunctional and innovative kitchen products are attempting to solve a very modern cooking dilemma: Families want to eat more locally sourced, nutrient-rich and artisanal foods, but they have less time than ever to make dinner. They want to ditch fast food by making real, healthy food fast -- and the housewares industry thinks it can help.
Take a look at the top five kitchen trends of 2015 and some of this year's featured products.
Tools for the at-home artisan
Culinary techniques that were once completely out of reach for home cooks are now being simplified with at-home, prepackaged tool kits at relatively low price points.
Molecular gastronomy has been creating restaurant industry buzz for a while -- it's the kind of cooking seen on shows like "Top Chef" that breaks down and reimagines the way food is presented. Montréal, Canada-based Molecule-R Flavors has made it possible for people to make things like balsamic vinegar pearls and white cranberry foam at home with its molecular gastronomy kits. They range from about $30 to about $200.
Tools for the at-home artisan
Preparing sushi, a craft that has been similarly restricted to restaurants until now, can be as easy as getting the right ingredients and spending between $30 and $50 on an Easy Sushi Easy Rolls at-home kit. Using what sort of resembles a cigarette roller, cooks can build their own maki rolls without spending years studying under a master.
A question on a lot of peoples' busy minds this year: Why buy several appliances when it's possible to use just one?
"Multipurpose, multifunction designs that save space, money and time are meeting our changing expectations as we continue to attempt to simplify a life overwhelmed with details," said Mark Dziersk, managing director of the Chicago-based industrial design agency Lunar, in a statement. "Things that work and fit in tighter footprints are hot."
One reason for that, he said, is because cities are becoming more populated and urban living in smaller spaces is making space conservation a must.
The Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master, for example, can do the job of eight appliances without taking up too much counter space. It can chop, mince, whip, knead, blend, stir, cook, fry and steam a variety of foods and features an LED display screen. Of course, having lots of functions doesn't come cheap: This tool retails for around $600.
Fagor's 3-in-1 Electric Multi-Cooker, another appliance making multifunctional strides, was featured at the Housewares Show this year performing four functions. Not only is it a pressure cooker, rice cooker and slow cooker, it can also make yogurt. It retails for about $100.
While appliances are always moving forward as newer, more efficient models, aesthetically, they're turning the clock backwards.
Guastalla, Italy-based Smeg, Green Bay, Wisconsin-based Nostalgic Electrics and several other brands are featuring '50s-style collections this year. Even standby Pyrex got in on some retro designs the company actually employed decades ago.
Smeg has large statement appliances with vibrant prints and colors, like a series of retro refrigerators that retail for about $2,000, as well as smaller items in the same color scheme, like a retro toaster for around $140.
Nostalgia Electrics' collection is smaller and features a slightly different '50s-style aesthetic. Its retro microwaves, which cost from about $70 to about $130, look more like they belong in a diner than in the Cleaver residence.
Tools for simpler, healthier eating
Healthy eating has been on the rise for several years, making an appearance in last year's kitchen trend watch. But in 2015, it's reaching new levels. People aren't just worried about squeezing in enough fruits and veggies. They're thinking about smaller details like how their grains are processed and how long they can keep the carefully chosen food they have.
One big feature from St. George, Utah-based L'Equip this year was the NutriMill Harvest, an electric beechwood grain mill for the home, which comes in many colors and retails for around $350.
According to Kara Nielsen, culinary director of the Colorado-based brand advocate Sterling Rice Group (which has clients like Quaker Oats and Horizon Organic), we can expect to see more grain-related products in the near future.
"With more farmers' markets selling locally grown grains, expect a bigger demand for countertop mills, grain-milling appliances, and products made from fresh-milled flour in 2015," she said in a statement.
Tools for simpler, healthier eating
Want to make banana chips or quickly dry out sticks of beef to take as a healthy camping snack? Sacramento, California-based Excalibur has a four-tray, five-tray or nine-tray stackable food dehydrator for that. With the Community-Supported Agriculture (or CSA) trend taking off, people are looking for ways to enjoy local produce and meat without wasting any of their allotted portions. The five-tray model costs around $140 and also comes with four yogurt-making cups.
All the colors of the rainbow -- and several others -- were represented at this year's Housewares Show.
But even though Casey-Weiss believes the bright hues are a sign of a brighter economic outlook, she pointed out that many of the most colorful items available are small, showing that consumers haven't totally given up their conservative streak.
"A lot of housewares products are products that are not high dollar amounts," she said. "So, for example, you buy some kitchenware or cutlery, gadgets, maybe even a tea kettle. You make an investment in that. Then, if you want to change the color or direction of your kitchen or home in a few years it's not a large investment to purchase a new item."
Brooklyn-based REO is featuring a very colorful collection of kitchen tools this year, including a standing basting brush for about $7, a curved peeler for about $5 and a garlic shredder for about $10.
The West Orange, New Jersey-based T-Fal is also featuring its Excite Nonstick collection of brightly colored cookware, which costs between $50 and $70 retail and has a "Thermo Spot" heat indicator letting cooks know when pots and pans are preheated.