Stories by Princewill Ekwujuru
Competition in kitchen electronics has forced manufacturers of rice cooker to upgrade their products with technological advancements, to enhance durability and aesthetic appeal for increased patronage.
The upgrades, like in other home appliances, is said to be driven by the desire for customised kitchen and increased population of users.
Other elements of the upgrade include power efficiency, volume and heating pressure. The new configuration also adds multi-function mechanism that can make stew, yoghurt and even bake cake. To sustain competitive advantage, the market leaders have also developed and introduced quick cook mechanism that has timer setting, steamer insert and removable inner lid for easy cleaning.
Meanwhile, major contenders for market leadership in the segment are Life’s Good (LG), Samsung, Hisense, Whirlpool, Logic, Panasonic, Miele, Beko and Sharp.
Others are Aroma, Hamilton Beach, Zojirushi and T-Fal. However, the top contenders are Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Logic and Sharp.
Findings by Vanguard Companies and Markets, C&M, revealed a growing demand for rice cooker driven by consumer’s increasing desire to have a less time, quick cook service. The need to satisfy the growing demand led to manufacturers’ production of various types, sizes and capacity, each designed to suit consumers’ changing need.
Part of the consumer-driven changes also include design of pocket-friendly rice cookers.
C&M noted that manufacturers in the menu settings of products have introduced some features such as: ‘Mixed’ – when a consumer is cooking rice with other ingredients other than just water, such as spices or both; ‘Porridge’ – for Jollof rice, also works for oatmeal, rice pudding, and the like; ‘Keep warm’ – which keeps rice warm for up to 12 hours after the cooking cycle and recommended only for white rice; ‘Reheat’ – for rice that’s been in the ‘keep-warm’ cycle making it hot for eating in five to 10 minutes; ‘Timer controlled’ – which allows the user to programme the cooker in advance to cook rice at a set time.
C&M discovered that competition in the market is further heightened by the increasing number of imported fairly-used rice cookers.
The rice cooker, like other home appliances, has its consumer complaints. For instance, some of the users say the quick cooker mechanism, though cooks white rice for 10 to 15 minutes faster than the normal cycle, it sometimes affects the taste of the food negatively.
The users also point to lack of replacement spare parts, and sometimes consumers’ endless search and wait for where to repair faulty rice cookers and delay on the part of manufacturers to effect repair on faulty products force the users to abandone the faulty unit with the repairers.
Of the number of consumers C&M spoke to, majority preferred LG, Panasonic, Logic and Samsung, while some say they go for fairly-used rice cooker products for economic reasons. Some claim that durability is one reason they go for the fairly-used.
Paul Nnadi, a civil servant, said he prefers Samsung because of its stylish design, and because the company is trusted with quality products.
Another consumer, Philip Akpor stated: “LG is it. It is affordable, durable and gives me the result expected, This is a brand that came to Nigeria to dwarf competition, made it possible for Nigerians to have quality products in their homes, that is whyI love their products.”
An attendant in one of the electronic stores in Ikeja who pleaded anonymity said that sales of the product has slowed down occasioned by the economic downturn, but stated that before now, the battle for leadership of the market has been between LG and Logic, because of the many features. She, however, noted that Samsung and Panasonic are also doing well in the market.
Contrary to some of the consumers, a local electronic repairer, Oladele Ayomide, who specialises in rice cooker repair said: “What some customers who patronise fairly-used rice cookers may not know is that some of the rice cookers come from different countries whose power voltage supply differ from Nigeria’s. Some of the rice cookers may not function adequately because of the inadequacy in power voltage in Nigeria.”