The “Lazy Economy” Causes Small Home Appliances Prevail in China

Since following the trend and buying a popular portable juicer online, Yu Jing thinks her breakfast has improved a lot, “Each morning, I could make banana milk within seconds and it only takes simple operation. The taste is much fresher than imported Korean banana milk and the juice has no additives. Before, I only have bread, egg and milk for breakfast and now I have fruit, which is more nutritious.”

Capsule coffee maker

Yu said, “my colleague buy this appliance and extract juice after lunch every day, such as the pear cucumber juice, the mango passionfruit juice and the orange apple juice and etc. These drinks are tasty and healthy. So, I also bought one.” In her 30s, Yu is a loyal fan of small appliances. She values life quality and has bought a lot of small household appliances over the years, including electric hotpot, soybean milk machine, health care kettle, bread maker and etc., all of which aims for more refined and healthier food.

In fact, from the day of birth, small appliances aim to improve life quality. They are consumption for improvement rather than necessities. Unlike large household appliances that are necessary for daily life, such as refrigerator, washing machine, TV and air conditioning, “small and beautiful” home appliances can make life better. With the upgrade of quality consumption and the expansion of new consumer groups, the small household appliance market has risen rapidly in recent years.

Let “lazy” people be “lazier”

“This electric stew cup is small and has a capacity of just 0.7 liters, but is very powerful,” said Zheng Lingling, whose favorite small home appliance is electric stew cup. She said, “I use it to cook porridge for baby. This appliance can completely stew the rice and make rice easy to be digested for baby. The most important thing is that we don’t need to pay too much attention to it during cooking. In the morning, you just need to put the rice and water in the pot, press the BB porridge button and then you can just take children to play downstairs. When coming back at noon, the porridge is done. Also, I tried braising ribs with the stew cup and ribs could be braised perfectly. I can also make red jujube and tremella soup with the machine.”

For Zheng, the 60-yuan electric stew pot has made time-consuming and power-consuming dishes easier so it has excellent quality and reasonable price. She just bought an electric stew cup of large capacity for her parents. “It is easy for old people to forget the porridge they are cooking. And thus, the pot may easily overflow. It is also difficult to clean up. This electric stew cup saves a lot of energy. Besides, the appliance stews in water which is also suitable for autumn and winter,” said Zheng.

In these days, household appliances like electric stews, which make housework easy, are popular among young consumers. As the pace of work and life accelerates, people hope to get rid of the tedious and time-consuming chores and enjoy leisure time, which has contributed to the popularity of the “lazy economy”. However, the small appliances that make people lazy are not simply substitute for labor, but provide a higher quality life service.


A handheld vacuum cleaner sold at a mall

Shi Hui, majoring in science and engineering, said, “after using sweeping robot, you’ll find that the robot actually makes a cleaner work than you do. It can sweep dirt and hair that you can see on the ground as well as dust, dandruff and mites that are invisible for you. I put the sweeping robot out every day and have it run across the home. It could navigate its own way, set up the cleaning line and recharge itself, which is very smart. And I use this time to read, isn’t it good?”

After buying breakfast machine, Liu Fang felt she no longer needed to worry about breakfast and could sleep a little more. The left part of the breakfast machine is a miniature toaster oven, which can bake bread.  And the right part is a miniature induction cooker, which can fry eggs, pancakes and steam buns. She said, “children have to eat good breakfast before going to school and the time for breakfast is very tight. I am often in a hurry. The breakfast machine includes several main functions, which are really good.”

In fact, reviewing the development course of small appliances, it is not hard to find that many familiar small home appliances also comply with the law of “lazy economy”. Electric kettle has been popular since the late 1990s because has solved the problem of boiling water with gas. Now, the electric kettle is used by numerous households and has develop new functions in addition to the basic one of boiling water, like boiling tea, soup, appointment and heat preservation. Besides, it has spawned new product, the curing pot. Products like electric rice cooker, electric pressure cooker, induction cooker, egg cooker, electric pot and so on all have good market coverage.

Make life more delicate

Interestingly, many people buy small appliances not to save efforts but to have more housework. Typical representatives are soybean milk machine, yogurt maker, bread maker, oven, air fryer, etc. Originally, people go to supermarket to buy soymilk, yogurt for a few yuan. They can buy a variety of bread at the bakery with rich taste. For Fried chicken, McDonald’s and KFC are everywhere. But for consumers who are concerned about food safety, they prefer DIY, which is time-consuming but more comfortable and healthier.

Chen has used soybean milk machine for many years. She said, “the soya-bean milk made in home has different taste with that sold in market. I use organic soya bean with peanut, walnut and black sesame seed. And the soybean milk I make is very tasty. The soy milk in the supermarket is too thin and that sold in breakfast store doesn’t filter bean dregs, which is sticky in the mouth.” Besides, Chen is also willing to make her own yogurt, “the yogurt sold in market has many additives and add thickener to improve the taste. The home-made yogurt is purer. I only use lactobacillus and pure milk. I make yogurt when want to drink it so it is very fresh.”

Likewise, Sun Xiuqi bought a bread machine to eat more healthily. She thought, “bakeries add too much sugar, additives and some margarine. The home-made bread is made from whole wheat flour and natural cream and it’s not that sweet.” Zhang Nan doesn’t want to let her daughter eat chips and fried chicken sold outside, so she decided to buy the air fryer. She said, “fried food is not healthy, but children like to eat this kind of food. Instead of having children eat unsafe food outside, it is better to cook at home. Besides, the air fryer doesn’t fry food but to heat food and to make it have fried and crispy taste. So, it tastes good.”

For foodie, the small appliances that “cause more trouble” actually add more delight to life.

Uncle Li in Beijing can cook very tasty leek cake and electric cake clang is his most effective helper. He said, “for leek cake, the most important thing is to eat it immediately after cooking. Before, I used to non-stick pan but it is paste the pot. While the electric cake clang could cook both sides at the same time, which is much better.” While Aunt Fan who cares about health likes bean sprout growing machine. She said, “it’s interesting to see the sprouts growing out of the bean and my little granddaughter likes to watch it.” Li Yanyan bought an oven because she wanted to teach her 5-year-old daughter how to bake at home. Last Christmas, she made a gingersnap with her daughter and the girl had a good time with the cookie. She said, “we’ve also done pizzas for a couple of times and also apple pies, egg tarts and muffin cakes together. Now my daughter always calls herself as chef and can cook a specialty. I think it could cultivate child’s operation ability and the whole process is very interesting.”

R&D targets at “small demand”

Reviewing the small home appliance market, we will find that although there are many kinds and functions, the earliest and most comprehensive household appliances mainly concentrate on kitchen field. Most popular products are accurately fit with personalized and finely differentiated consumer demand. Health, convenience and intelligence are standards.

That’s the case with a portable juice machine Yu Jing bought. In the past, the cooking machine popular in the market had multifunction, including extracting juice, mincing meat, grounding powder and etc. But this kind of “big and comprehensive” product was not suitable for young people pursuing simple life. This year, a popular portable juice machine is featured by a single function, extracting juice. It is “small but beautiful”. One machines with two large capacity cups. After cooking juice, it is convenient to carry or preserve.

Similarly, the capsule coffee machine opens up a new “blue sea” by targeting the “small demand” that people want to drink freshly brewed coffee at home. The coffee machine is easier to operate than the traditional coffee machine. Users just need to put the capsules and water into the machine and finish the process by pressing one button. Its taste is as strong as the freshly brewed coffee. The taste of coffee capsules is also various, covering mainly the main flavors like latte, mocha, Americano and so on. Many young people bought the capsule coffee machine and said goodbye to Starbucks.

It is worth noting that although the small appliances have diverse and varied types, the average household quantity is not high. The data shows that the number of household appliances in China’s cities is about 10 pieces per household and among rural population, it is about 5 pieces per household. Compared with the 20 or so pieces of small appliances in developed countries in Europe and America, there is still a large room for growth. Research and Development Report of Small Home Appliance Industry in China also shows that the total output of small household appliances in 2016 was 760 million and the number is expected to reach 1.086 billion by 2020.

It can be predicted that as large electric appliance has basically completed its market penetration, the small appliances will have greater market space and will play a more important role in improving the quality of life. The market is changing, so even the small household appliance that is already popular can updates continuously due to higher consumer demand. Electric rice cooker is the most typical example. This small home appliance is already popularized. But as people have upgrading demand for rice quality, this kind of small appliance has started a new round of manufacturing upgrade. Thus, with the home appliance market as a whole heading high-end and differentiation, if small appliance enterprises want to set a foothold in the market, they need to accurately capture and deeply explore consumer demand as well as deeply mine and cultivate differentiated market segments.


This article originally appeared in Economic Daily and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.