IFA Berlin: Back at ‘full strength’
Visitor numbers were well up on last year’s IFA with all Covid restrictions finally removed. Chris Frankland was there to see all the latest developments and launches in home appliances
The 99th Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) consumer and home electronics show in Berlin attracted 20,000 more visitors through its doors than in 2022.
This year’s IFA (September 1-5) was described by the organisers as back to “full strength” with around 182,000 trade visitors and consumers from 138 countries flocking to see more than 2,000 exhibitors in 26 halls.
AI and sustainability were top themes and these were reflected in the majority of what was on show.
Chinese giant Hisense was presenting its new premium built-in ovens for the first time to a European audience. These are aimed fairly and squarely at the kitchen studio market.
The Hisense stand took up most of Hall 23, where it was also showing its new ranges of TVs, as well as home appliances from its other brands, Asko and Gorenje.
Hisense was showing its Hi6 range of built-in ovens, which offers a 77 litre capacity, a sleek black look, an icon-driven LED display, air fry, pizza and steam modes. The range offers wi-fi connectivity through its ConnectLife platform, controllable from a phone app. The range offers a pyrolytic steam model, one without pyro, a multifunction combi oven and microwave plus a separate built-in microwave and a warming drawer.
The Hi8 built-in ovens are scheduled for 2024, also have the uniform black styling, air fry, pizza mode and steam, 77 litre cavities and a full-colour LED touch-control display. Also on view was the newly launched four-zone vented induction hob.
In cooling, Hisense had four new multi-door PureFlat 5 models in various door configurations with ice and water dispensers, metal backs and double inverters, three new wine coolers and three new built-in/built-under fridge-freezers, a new larder fridge and wine cooler. They were also showing the new X Series multi-door with a combination of a glass door for the top half and stainless steel at the bottom, plus a full-colour, touch-screen with smart connectivity to provide food inventory, shopping lists and recipes. They also had metal backs and a dark interior. It also has its new C-rated RS818 side-by-side with 632 litre capacity. And coming soon will be the 5I premium built-in fridges with metal back, better illumination and two evaporators to minimise odour transfer.
In laundry, Hisense showed its 5S series and the soon-to-be-launched 7S series of washer and dryer with a TFT display, steam dry and AI wash tech that senses load weight, water levels and detergent levels. Also there was its newly launched DW50 dishwasher with 16 place settings, 39dB noise performance, auto dosing and three spray arms.
BSH had a whole hall to themselves for Bosch and Siemens. Siemens had some new ovens to show. Its Studio Line iQ700 oven uses a camera to recognise what type of food needs to be cooked and automatically sets the required program. It can recognise 40 food types. The user can also adjust the level of pizza browning. There was also a new iQ700 induction hob that allows cooking to be set by temperature rather than a numerical level. It offers flexible zones and will track pans when they are moved.
In cooling, Siemens was reaching new heights, literally, with built-in fridge-freezers 1,940mm high, compared with the more standard 1,780mm, in widths of either 500mm (XL) or 650mm wide (XXL).
The new iQ500 is said to be 45% larger than its predecessor. The extra space has allowed for larger hyperFresh compartments that keep fish and meat or fruit and veg. All models are total no-frost.
The new Studio Line iQ700 washer-dryers offers either 12kg/8kg or 10.5kg/6kg wash/dry with auto-dosing for detergent based on the type of clothes and how dirty they are. Using the Home Connect app it is possible to speed up any program.
On the other side of the hall, Bosch had its new premium Serie 8 ovens with steam cooking up to 120°C and air fry. They also have a sensor to choose the perfect program for cakes.
Bosch had extra-large built-in fridge-freezers too (1.94m tall). The XL (Serie 4) models offer 11% more storage and the XXL (Serie 6) models 45% more. They are said to be large enough to hold a week’s supply of fruit and veg. Two VitaFresh drawers store different foods at different temperatures.
The new Serie 8 cooker hood is claimed to be the quietest in Europe at 59dB (power level 3). It can be linked to the hob below using the Home Connect app.
Bosch also showed its new Serie 6 induction hob with a Perfect Fry Plus sensor and 11 temperature levels. A new Favourite button allows two personal favourite functions to be stored for quick access.
In terms of laundry, Bosch had a new Serie 8 XXL A-rated washer-dryer that washes up to 12kg and dries up to 8kg. An intelligent i-Dos system helps to save on detergent. Bosch says the Series 8 washes and dries 4kg of clothes in just two hours. The Series 6 model offers 9kg/6kg.
Miele was showing its first foray into a new product category with its Aerium laundry cabinet. This is said to provide a step between washing and dry cleaning and can be used to refresh and dry garments. It uses an inert Hyonic Plasma gas and operates at a temperature low enough to be safe for silks, woollens and leather. It has a PowerFresh mode to remove odours in clothes, trainers and even crash helmets. A DryFresh mode looks after delicate items without using steam. It is tall enough for a full-length dress and is designed to not look out of place in a bedroom or dressing room.
Smart functionality upgrades were also on offer in its ovens. Miele has added MealSync, which allows users to sync the finishing time for dishes in different ovens using its app, while on its fridge-freezers doors can now be opened by voice control through Alexa and Google. A new AI diagnostic function has also been added to the T1/W1 washer and dryer that monitors detergent use, detects overdosing and recognises patterns of misuse.
‘We are in good shape, but it is exceptionally challenging’
Ragip Balcioglu, chief commercial officer at Beko parent Arçelik, talks about market challenges and how built-in is a significant and growing part of its offer
Q: How is business for Beko at the moment?
A: The European market has shrunk by 10% in volume and 5% in value in H1 2023 versus H1 2022. We are now in a ‘polycrisis’ – a number of different crises happening at the same time – geopolitical, environmental and economic with the rising cost of living and mortgage rates.
At the same time, consumer behaviour is changing from buying goods and investing in homes to services and leisure. That has impacted the market significantly. The UK is at its lowest point in 15 years in terms of volume sales. The good thing is that within that really difficult market, we are scoring really well. Is it easy? No.
Q: Is built-in still where most of the growth is happening for Beko?
A: Yes, our market share increase is coming from built-in. Last year we grew over 20% in built-in in Europe and the UK. We are very strong in built-in in the UK. However, for the first time in many years, the built-in market is losing against freestanding.
So our share of the built-in market is slightly less now for the first time. Built-in sales are directly related to home renovations and new kitchen purchases and that shows that considered purchases for the home are in a difficult state right now. Projects are on hold. We are in good shape, but it is exceptionally challenging.
Q: So what has been driving the built-in market for Beko?
A: One, particularly for the UK, a long investment into our brand and brand awareness. We have seen significant improvement in our various figures over the past five years. Two, we are exceptionally close to our retailers. We don’t tell them what to sell. We go to our big retail partners and ask them what we need to do for their business and for their consumers. We have an excellent relationship.
Q: Are kitchen studios a key part of Beko’s built-in business?
A: We have been working very closely with kitchen partners and learning from them. We think about what the kitchen needs, not about the product. When you understand the kitchen, you can deliver products that are relevant to the kitchen. This is very much a growing part of our business – around 50% of our built-in sales.
Front of house on the AEG stand was its EcoLine range. This is a dedicated selection of its most resource-efficient appliances for presentation in-store. It includes a washer with a better than A energy rating, a tumble-dryer that can save 68% more energy than a standard machine and oven that uses up to 20% less energy when cooking with steam.
Also attracting a lot of attention was the world premier of its SaphirMatt induction hob. Its matt finished ceramic glass is said to be four times harder and four times more scratch-resistant than standard ceramic tops and can withstand pans being dragged across the top.
Samsung was showing its new built-in one-door cooling range of freezers and fridges with metal back and flush-opening integrated door. It also had its Bespoke AI heat pump washer-dryer, said to offer 25kg washing capacity and 13kg drying. Also on display was its A-40% washer that features AI Wash with advanced sensing to detect the amount of water and detergent, the weight and softness of the fabric and level of soiling. This also has a Super Speed cycle that takes just 39 minutes without, says Samsung, compromising performance. There was also a new A-rated built-in dishwasher that uses just 7.9 litres of water.
Beko was showing a number of products said to be the world’s most efficient. There was a heat pump dishwasher that on the new rating scale is rated 20% better than A. A 9kg 1,400rpm spin washing machine said to be 50% better than the current A rating. Beko also had a new built-in oven with Split & Cook technology that allows the cooking space to be divided to avoid cross-contamination. On the Grundig section, there was a new concept washing machine with a number of sensors that give the most efficient operation with no user input.
Haier had its new X Series 11 washers boasting an A-40% energy rating. In the cooking area, it had its new ID Series of connected ovens and hobs. Cameras in the ovens recognise the type of food and automatically choose the right preparation parameters. The Chef@Home oven has a full-screen door with full tablet functionality allowing web surfing, video and music streaming. The ID Series built-in fridges offers the ability to separately manage different zones.
Hoover was showing the new H-WASH 700 A-30% washing machine boasting the largest drum in a standard sized machine, with a matching tumble-dryer. It also had its ‘renewed’ range of Premium Collection 5 ovens and induction hobs.
On the Candy stand, there was a new A++ rated NextOven range said to cook different menus at the same time on six levels. Also on show was its A-rated Fresco fridge, said to reduce energy consumption by up to 67%. A new Rapido Pro Eco A-20% washing machine was said to lower consumption by up to 37%.
‘Independent kitchen retailers are the backbone of our business’
Dr Reinhard Zinkann, executive director and co-proprietor of Miele, gives his take on the market, the role of kitchen studios and the supply situation
Q: How has business been for Miele?
A: 2021 and 2022 were record years but there were clear reasons. We thought in Covid everything would go down, and it did, but not in terms of refurbishing the home. That made those two years successful.
But this trend took longer due to the semiconductor crisis and not all of the industry was able to deliver. We had sometimes 12 to 16 weeks waiting time.
Unfortunately, this historic boom came to an abrupt halt this year. The war in Ukraine made people insecure.
Then the semiconductor and gas crisis meant raw materials became more expensive and this led to the sudden rise of inflation, which seriously affected consumer spending.
The upmarket is still going. Wealthy people from a certain age can still spend, but there are fewer of them.
Q: Are you optimistic about prospects for the next 12-18 months?
A: I am realistic. The strong growth that we have seen will not continue. The industry by the end of 2023 will wind up having sales of up to what they had in 2019, maximum 2020, and so the Covid bonus is completely lost. But every crisis has opportunities and every crisis comes to an end one day.
Q: How is the UK market for Miele just now?
A: It is a good, strong market, but it has been impacted by the factors I have talked about. We had heightened home investment. Kitchen retail benefited, but the challenges now are the same everywhere. Stock is in a good position and we can deliver. The recent increases in the cost of living and borrowing have taken heat out of the market, maybe not so much at the top end of the market, but definitely in the medium and mass market. Decision-making is slower – everything is ready but is not wanted for eight to 10 months. The key is a close relationship with our kitchen studio partners who we want to give everything they need to give their customers the best possible service.
Q: Are kitchen studios a significant sales channel for Miele in the UK?
A: The kitchen studio channel is very significant as we are a premium brand in built-in appliances. We are seen as premium and we need kitchen studios to deliver the message about value.
If you don’t feel, smell and touch the product, you won’t understand the difference. That is why the kitchen trade is extremely important for us.
Q: Do you think more people are now prepared to pay more for products that will last longer when times are tougher?
A: There is an old saying – ‘we are too poor to afford something cheap’. Yes, an oven is an oven and you can buy them at lower prices than ours, but do they give the same features to you as our product and will they last? For us, longevity and testing products for a 20-year lifespan is essential.
Quality and technology are messages that the kitchen trade can make the consumer understand. They can do demonstrations and help consumers to decide.
Independent kitchen retailers are the backbone of our business. They understand the value and communicate the message to the end user.
Q: Will sustainability become a more important sales factor in the future?
A: A younger generation is asking more for sustainability. We all know the climate on the planet is changing, everybody sees the pictures of the Alps having less snow. There are people who understand and know they have to do something about it and go only for the most sustainable product. So yes, sustainability of a company and its products is now a fundamental competitive factor.
Q: You said last year that things were getting back to normal in terms of delivery times, how are they now?
A: Completely normal. We have full stock and full availability. The semiconductor crisis has been overcome and the semiconductor factories are investing in new factories, but they can take eight to 10 years to become fully productive.