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New Product Examples Driven by Cooking Technology Innovation

New Product Examples Driven by Cooking Technology Innovation

Perdue Takes the Chance that Air Fryers Are Here to Stay

New product examples designed specifically for air fryers can be a risky decision for brands if consumers decide to move away from this kitchen appliance trend. But brands like Perdue seem to be banking that the air fryer is here to stay (unlike fondue pots and panini presses). The Chicago Tribune reports that almost two-thirds of Americans owned air fryers in 2023, compared to 11% in 2017.

Cooking Innovation Has Been Going on for a Long Time

I first came across the theory that cooking food is one of the critical innovations that allowed us to go from cave-dwelling survivalists to landing on the moon in Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens (A Brief History of Humankind).  According to a 2018 Scientific American article:

“The shift to a cooked-food diet was a decisive point in human history…All known human societies eat cooked foods, and biologists generally agree cooking could have had major effects on how the human body evolved.  For example, cooked foods tend to be softer than raw ones, so humans can eat them with smaller teeth and weaker jaws.  Cooking also increases the energy they can get from the food they eat.  Starchy potatoes and other tubers, eaten by people across the world, are barely digestible when raw.  Moreover, when humans try to eat more like chimpanzees and other primates, we cannot extract enough calories to live healthily.”

Since the discovery of fire, humans have been improving how they use heat to cook food.  And, we have made many improvements, from a cauldron hanging on a cast iron tripod and meat roasting spits to single-purpose esoteric appliances like the electric pizzelle maker. 

One of the most recent and successful additions to cooking technique improvements is the air fryer, which has also enabled many new product examples.

The Air Fryer:
What it Does Well, or Why to Allow it a Place on Your Kitchen Countertop

Air fryers are similar, but not exactly the same as, a convection oven.  They both use a heating element and a fan, but an air fryer has a stronger fan the heating element is usually only at the top, and the cooking space is much smaller.  These modifications to the standard convection oven provide several benefits to food:

  • Crisp the outside of food without drying out the inside
  • No need to preheat for many uses
  • Faster cooking

The air fryer’s product innovations translate into benefits for consumers:

  • Crisp texture of frying without the calories or health concerns of deep frying
  • In limited kitchen space, it’s versatile enough to replace deep fryers, ovens, stovetops and toasters
  • Energy efficient for both reducing cost to operate and reducing heat in the kitchen
  • Reduces food waste by making leftovers more palatable

New Product Examples:
The Case For a Cooking-Appliance-Specific Product

The air fryer is not the first cooking appliance craze.  The microwave oven, indoor electric grill (aka, the George Foreman grill) and freezer bowl ice cream maker (I received 3 of them when I got married in 1989) all had their moment.  However, not all of these appliances need foods that are specifically designed to tap into their best qualities.  Milk, cream and sugar are the basics for ice cream, regardless of how it is frozen.  And, the indoor electric grill is a convenient alternative to its outdoor counterpart for cooking up a standard hunk of beef. 

But, the microwave oven is a different story.  While the microwave oven cooks food rapidly, its approach to excite the water molecules in food can often lead to hot but squooshy food.  An Outback Bloomin’ Onion® is a frightful thing after a few minutes in a microwave.  Hence, the advent of new product examples specifically designed for the microwave, like French fries (Ore-Ida and McCain’s both have one) and popcorn, which maintain the taste and quality expected from the original cooking method, while taking advantage of the benefits of the new cooking method.

New Product Examples:
An Assessment Framework for a Cooking-Appliance-Specific Product

Creating new products in the food category is resource costly in both time and money.  Before investing in a new product example for a specific cooking appliance, the chance of success can be evaluated based on the following assessment criteria:

New Product Examples Driven by Cooking Technology Innovation

New Product Examples:
Do Current Products Meet the Taste Expectations of Consumers?

According to Consumer Reports:

“No one was fooled into thinking that the food was deep-fried.  ‘You can tell the difference.’  Air-fried foods, of course, lack that rich deep-fried-fat taste.  If you don’t mind that – and simply hope to cook (or reheat) food fast – then an air fryer may indeed be worth considering.”

A foodie blog that is representative of many others, Kitchensnitches, writes:

“Does air fried food taste as good as deep-fried food? Flavor is in the mouth of the beholder, but we’d be lying if we said there wasn’t a difference. The flavor that fat offers is far less noticeable in air fried food.”

In summary, food prepared in an air fryer has some room for improvement.

New Product Examples:
Is the Market Large Enough?

While the technology that air fryers is based upon has been around since the 1940s, the first commercially-available air fryer in its current form was introduced in 2010 by Philips, with the Philips Air Fryer in Europe.  By 2015, the air fryer had gone global.  Sales in the US have been brisk since 2015.

New Product Examples Driven by Cooking Technology Innovation

Since 2019, sales have continued:

“Sales of air fryers increased by 76% over the last two years compared to the previous 24-month period, with 25.6 million units sold from January 2020 through December 2021, according to NPD’s continual tracking of home industry retail sales. And, more than just countertop décor, consumers put them to use regularly. NPD’s National Eating Trends® finds that air fryer use has increased by more than 60% at dinner occasions during the past two years.” 

According to a Perdue press release, 75% of households in the US have an air fryer.  This is expected to grow: the air fryer market is expected to be worth $1.9B by 2033.  (Source: Future Market Insights). As we’ll see below, Perdue has used their analysis to justify investment in new product examples.

In addition, chicken wings in the air fryer are popular in the media with both food bloggers and air fryer testers.  Below are just a few of many examples.

At first glance, these countertop cookers seem to be limited to finger foods like fries, chicken wings, chicken nuggets, and pizza bites.”

Chefs shared the 16 best foods to make in an air fryer.  Their favorite dishes to make in this appliance include gnocchi, chicken and crunchy chickpeas.”

Other savory dishes that are perfect for air frying include chicken wings, meats, root vegetables and homemade potato chips.”

If you have one of these trendy small appliances, I’m guessing you’ve already used it for fries, Buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks.” 

“Top 10 things to Cook in an Air Fryer from”

  1. Mozzarella sticks
  2. Chicken wings
  3. Pork chops
  4. Sweet potato fries
  5. Homemade French fries
  6. Hard boiled eggs
  7. Tortilla chips
  8. Onion rings
  9. Falafel
  10. Shrimp
New Product Examples Driven by Cooking Technology Innovation

New Product Examples:
Could Your Current Brand and Distribution Support This New Product?

Without a doubt, the Perdue brands and distribution network is the right match for new product examples in chicken wings.  Cody Walter, senior marketing manager for Perdue Foods, shares consumer needs in this area:

“When ordering takeout, many of us have experienced the disappointing bite of not-so-crispy wings. Knowing 75% of households in the U.S. have air fryers, Perdue saw an opportunity to create the first of its kind chicken wing uniquely made for the air fryer, conveniently delivering the crispiest wings in just 16-18 minutes.”

Launched in December 2023, these new product examples are offered under the “Air Fryer Ready” brand:

  • Hot N’ Spicy Air Fryer Ready™ Crispy Wings are a burst of fiery flavor. Coated in a paprika-based bold spice blend, these wings are sure to test your tastebuds.
  • Lemon Pepper Air Fryer Ready™ Crispy Wings offer a savory and tangy bite with zesty undertones from lemon oil and lemon juice, and feature a subtle warmth from turmeric and onion, delivering a bold flavor in every bite.
  • Roasted Air Fryer Ready™ Crispy Wings are a perfectly crispy savory wing that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Each bite is packed with a variety of balanced flavors like onion and garlic, followed by deliciously juicy, tender chicken.

Summary: New Product Examples Based on New Technology

Perdue clearly did its homework for its new Air Fryer Ready Crispy Wings.  And, these new product examples have gotten the attention of both food media and consumers alike.   

A quick survey of consumer reviews shows a favorable response to the product release. Amazon reviews average 4.5 stars from 1,345 reviews. Five out of five reviewers on Kroger’s website give five-stars. And here’s a video review from one wing aficionado who compares Perdue’s Air Fryer Ready Hot N’ Spicy wings to restaurant-quality.

Looking to future new products, perhaps Perdue will add “New-Orleans style” to its Air Fryer wings’ line in the US? KFC sells over $100 million of New Orleans-style wings in China that are “irresistible to millions of Chinese” according to the Wall Street Journal. (Spoiler alert: this wing style is unique to China and doesn’t originate from New Orleans at all).

The long-term success of new product examples created specifically for the air fryer are necessarily tied to the success of the air fryer itself. Will the air fryer be the new microwave, or the new George Foreman grill? Time will tell!