The observation came as the International Housewares Association prepared for its annual three-day Chicago trade show, which is expected to see 60,000 attendees visiting 2,000 exhibitors arrayed over 13 miles of aisles beginning Sunday at McCormick Place.
"Consumers are focusing on their homes, they're focusing on their families. … Call it back-to-basics, return to roots -- they're embracing activities their grandparents may have done: canning, shopping for fresh produce daily, going to the butcher, going to the mom-and-pop bakery," Casey-Weiss said. "I'm not sure it's a trend every consumer can get on board with but people are showing an interest."
Casey-Weiss admits consumers are full of contradictions: On the one hand they want convenience; on the other they want more control over what they're feeding their families and how their food is prepared.
"People are constantly searching for products that make their lives easier," she said.
But it's more complicated than that, said Tom Mirabile, IHA consumer trend analyst and senior vice president of Global Trend & Design for Lifetime Brands.
"The consumer may be cooking things mom or grandma cooked but at the same time they're looking for the experience of something new," Mirabile said. "Generation X and generation Y have a fundamentally different experience of food growing up than baby boomers. Boomers will say their favorite food was something that was made for them. Generation X and Generation Y will tell you it was something they had in a restaurant."
Among the other trends Mirabile sees is the "rebirth of cooking and baking -- the rebirth of America's culinary passion, something we really haven't seen since the '60s and Julia Child."
A recent Food Channel survey found interest in canning topping the list of 2011 food trends.
"The sluggish economy undoubtedly has something to do with this trend as well," the report concluded. "Customization, whether by choice or by need, is another factor in the rejuvenation of food preservation.
"Home canning allows the consumer to control the amount of sodium sugar or spice and to season fruits and vegetables to suit taste and dietary needs."
A survey of Reidel Marketing Group's HIPsters -- a home trend influentials panel, a cadre of consumers who tend to be ahead of the curve -- found 37 percent are preparing more meals at home than they did a year ago.
"The food prep items they (consumers) are buying are either replacements for items that have worn out or broken, or new practical tools that make food prep easier and help them save money," said Reidel's A.J. Reidel.
Green is still a big trend in the industry. Among the new environmentally friendly products being unveiled at the show is StoreBound's Laundry Pod -- essentially a salad-spinner for small loads of laundry. The device uses little water and detergent and no electricity.
Revol is highlighting a new type of non-porous ceramic cookware that absorbs "no fat, smells or bacteria" and has a non-stick glaze that "contains no heavy metals or fluorine coating nor does it emit volatile organic compounds when heated," according to its press materials.
Eton is introducing a line of home-safety products, including the Safety Hub -- a wind-up AM/FM/NOAA Weather Alert radio with LED light and USB cellphone charger. It's also offering the first portable, solar-powered sound system for iPod and iPhone.
Germ-fighting goes beyond household cleaners these days. Companies are offering everything from cellphone chargers to vacuum cleaners that use UV rays to sterilize surfaces and kill bedbugs.
Children in the kitchen was a big trend at last year's show and one that is carrying over this year with numerous companies offering kid-friendly kitchen tools to get junior interested in cooking and eating right. Green Eats -- the same people who brought you Green Toys -- has a line of colorful tableware sans BPA, melamine and phthalates made from recycled plastic milk jugs.
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