SAN FRANCISCO--With sales of pasta machines rising by triple digits, manufacturers are attempting to provide more models, extra attachments and improved teaching aids in an effort to curb product yields and retain the components from moving the way of juicers.
Electric pastamakers have become a $22 million industry at wholesale in 1993, a 122 percent increase over 1992's figures. About 30 percent of those units are offered in department stores, 25 percent in catalog-showrooms, 20 percent in mass retailers and 25 percent in other stations, such as infomercials. The rise of this business is evident in the amount of manufacturers introducing pasta machines at this week's Gourmet Products Show here. Welbilt and Rival are starting models in the show. Rival's machine will retail for approximately $100 and attribute 10 expires, measuring cups, cutting tools, a movie, recipe book and storage cabinet. The Welbilt Pasta Machine will carry a suggested retail of $129 and comes with seven dies.
"it is a excellent category with a lot of potential," noted Tom Lacalamita, advertising manager for small electric appliances in Welbilt. "I really don't believe [pastamakers] have surfaced," commented Richard Helfman, president of Creative Technologies Corp."Pasta hasn't established the trend, it's after the trend of healthful cooking," he said of these components' popularity. The firm carries five models, which range from retails from $99 to about $200, and is launching two accessory bundles with extra dies.
Industry sources widely credit Ron Popeil's infomercials for beginning the pasta machine trend. He spends roughly $10 million advertising that the Popeil Pasta Maker and his firm is now moving to put among both units in traditional retail channels. "Pasta machines are the goose that laid the golden egg," Popeil explained. "There's a giant retail industry." So as to avoid erosion of the firm's infomercial business, he added, retailers that advertise sale prices on pastamakers can simply buy Popeil's more expensive unit, with a suggested retail of about $200. The firm's additional unit sells about the infomercial for $159.best masticating juicer reviews for beginners juicerszones
The torrent of new machines on the market, however, has created a familiar problem: price erosion. Machines that once controlled a $150 sale costs are often marketed for $99.
"The marketplace has been stable for a number of decades," notes Don Burch, director of sales/marketing for Lello, which makes the established Simac machine. "Now everyone believes they could enlarge the marketplace. It's become price, price, price. Some people jumping into it now are likely to be disappointed." Simac makes one unit which retails for $179, and in a spin, is starting a higher-end unit to retail for $260. "The class is going to wind up overrun by plenty of individuals," noted Lou Vitantonio, president of Vitantonio Manufacturing, which has been in the pastamaker marketplace for at least seven years. "The retail will erode, along with some suppliers. When and how, I do not know."
"I really don't know how to teach consumers the product they purchase for $49 is not the same as the one that they buy for $149," added Bruno Valbona, president of Waring, that introduced its pasta maker in the January Housewares show.
Producers are optimistic, though, that the group won't become another juice extractor company which started high and bottomed out in about a year. "I don't think [pasta] is similar to juicers," Helfman said. "It's more like bread machines," that have steadily gained in popularity as consumers are much more patient in learning how to use them. "In order to take the price down, you need to take away from the product," Valbona said. "You're kidding consumers" Some manufacturers are taking the high-end approach into the rice machine market. "Our controlled distribution tends to result in price stability," noted Chris Craig, market manager of new products for Cuisinarts, which carries a machine with a retail of nearly $300.
"We made a decision to take the high road since you can't enter a class with an inferior solution," he added. "It's not our picture. You can not be penny wise and pound foolish."
"We protect our customers by not selling to the masses," Vitantonio said. The device retails for $159 and the firm provides several accessories to match the machine, such as mixes, cookbooks and bowls.
The prevalence of the units also has spurred a cottage industry of mixes and cookbooks. Maverick, which markets a $120 unit, has established a line of pasta combinations to make the process simpler. The mixtures, typically selling for four to $9.99, also are available as a bundle with all the machine.
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"You have to show it as a category," said Peter Chapman, executive vice president of marketing/sales to get Maverick. "The category lends itself to tremendous merchandising opportunities," in retail, such as a"pasta shop" of bowls, mixes, platters and pots, he added. Five new pasta mixes are available through Wally's Kitchen Prompt Pasta Maker. The machine, initially distributed by Bo-Nash, will now be dispersed by TriStar, the firm known for the infomercials for goods such as Micro-Crisp.
Nature Farm Foods has followed up its powerful bread mixes with Wanda's Own Natural Pasta Mixes in five varieties. "The mixes will help expand the group in precisely the same way bread mixes aided the bread machine business," said Doug Simon, president. Welbilt's Lacalamita is also writing a novel, independently of the company, called The Ultimate Pasta Machine Cookbook, to provide recipes, instructions and nutritional advice for pastamaker pasta. Still, the very best impetus to prolong the category's growth is consumers' preferences for fresh pasta" ... the level of pasta's popularity will stay high. It's a niche that can sustain itself," Lello's Burch explained.