Source: CHEAA-run China Appliance magazine
Dishwasher industry has been expanding fast in the past few years, though the penetration is still below 3%. Entering 2020, the product gets an increased amount of attention amid the pandemic. But at this point, consumers’ major concerns have changed from cleaning performance to bacterial eliminating and disinfection performance.
As consumers get health-oriented after the pandemic, will disinfection become a major driver for growth, even a common function down the road?
Technical preparation of enterprises
The pandemic draws all eyes on healthcare and drives up the sales of dishwashers, making it one of the few categories that maintained positive growth. From January to May 2020, dishwasher industry posted retail sales value of 2.4 billion Yuan, up by 11.8% year-on-year, and retail sales volume of 0.548 million units, up by 24.0% year-on-year.
As disinfection and bacteria-removing became words on everyone’s lips in the first half of 2020, enterprises quickly adjusted their marketing strategy to reflect this change. Fotile, Robam, Vatti, Midea and Macro already had products with disinfection function placed on the market before the outbreak, giving them an edge during the pandemic.
Despite bacteria removing and disinfection during the cleaning cycle, industry players also attach importance to the storage environment of dishes. Sun Hong, Director of Built-in Product Line of Vatti, points out that, currently, most products on the market adopt air drying technology, using the residual heat from the cleaning cycle to air dry the dishes. It leaves condensate water on the surface of dishes and might cause mould to grow, leading to secondary pollution.
The fast response of dishwasher makers actually comes from their forward-looking R&D. Sun Hong says Vatti has always regarded health a critical issue and has updated its disinfection technology several times.
An unnamed industry insider believes that disinfection and antibacterial function will become a common demand of consumers and more and more enterprises will make it a standard setup.
Dishwasher vs. disinfection cabinet
Dishwashers and disinfection cabinets are often put in comparison. Traditionally, disinfection cabinet, range hood and gas stove is often considered a package of large kitchen appliances. A few years ago, some industry insiders believed that dishwasher would become a replacement of disinfection cabinet. With disinfection function added to dishwasher, consumers also tend to compare them when they browse a home appliance store. Speaking of the differences, Jin Xiangping, Director of Kitchen Product Planning of Panasonic China, says, “They both have their edges and drawbacks. Disinfection cabinet is a single-function product that excels in disinfection, while dishwasher is a product that integrated dish-cleaning with bacterial removing and disinfection though it is not as strong as a disinfection cabinet’s.”
Disinfection cabinets on the market are labeled as one star or two stars with two stars being the highest level. Two-star products can effectively kill refractory viruses such as HBV, escherichia coli and helicobocton pyloni. Xu Pingping, Director of Dishwasher and Disinfection Cabinet Products of Kitchen Appliance and Water Heater Division of Midea, says, few dishwashers on the market are up to two-star par when it comes to disinfection function. From the perspective of disinfection, dishwasher is not as strong as disinfection cabinet. “But even two-star disinfection cabinets cannot radically remove bacteria. If you hand wash your dishes and put them into cabinets, bacteria left on the dishes will still breed after the cabinet stops working. However, with a dishwasher, dishes as well as the dishwasher itself can be well cleaned and dried before stored into a disinfection cabinet, which significantly reduces the risk of bacteria breeding.”
Beyond that, materials allowed to be disinfected in a dishwasher are actually more than those allowed in a cabinet. My interviewee from Robam introduces that disinfection cabinets mostly adopt 120°C high temperature, ozone and ultraviolet ray to disinfect dishes to achieve strong, long-lasting effect. But some plastic tableware melt at 120°C, and the leakage of ozone might cause bodily harm to consumers.
In fact, two-star level disinfection is not technically unachievable in a dishwasher, but for industry insiders, it is not the best solution by far. My interviewee from Fotile points out that, dishwasher and disinfection cabinet are two different categories. Fotile does not want to simply combine functions together. It wants to make innovations while meet consumers’ needs. He says, dishwasher buyers are most concerned with the cleaning function. Fotile’s in-sink dishwasher adds basic bacteria-removing function to the regular cleaning considering that the integration of professional disinfection function will inevitably enlarge the product size.
But most of my interviewees give positive answers when asked whether dishwasher will replace disinfection cabinet as technology develops. They believe integration is a trend and consumers want a product that meets their needs of cleaning and disinfecting dinnerware at the same time. For this reason, dishwasher makers have been putting efforts in creating dry, clean storage environment to avoid secondary pollution.
A lack of standards
Standard establishment lays the groundwork for the healthy and orderly development of an industry. However, there haven’t been standards developed for disinfection function in dishwashers, leading to chaotic competition and over hype on the market.
Current standards and regulations on disinfection and bacteria removing are as follows: GB/T 5133-2017 Requirement and test method for antibacterial and eliminating bacterial function for household and similar electrical dish washers; GB4706.1-2005 Household and similar electrical appliances-Safety-Part 1: General requirements; GB17988-2008 Safety and sanitation requirements for disinfecting tableware cabinet; National Health Commission’s Technical specifications for disinfection which specifies the testing standards for the disinfection of Escherichia coli and poliomyelitis; White paper on Chinese tableware washing which specifies requirements for the cleaning, disinfection and storage functions of dishwashers designed for Chinese tableware.
My interviewee from Macro says, currently, standards on the antibacterial and bacteria eliminating function of dishwashers have been quite established though they need further revision as time goes on to reflect changes of the industry. But when it comes to disinfection, the industry can only refer to existing requirements for home appliances in general. He believes that, standards on disinfection performance of dishwashers are needed to regulate the industry.
Health-oriented functions are still broadly concerned after the pandemic. This, coupled with the narrow space of Chinese kitchen, points to the trend of integrated products. For this reason, dishwashers with disinfection and antibacterial function is believed to be a category that has great potential to be tapped. In this context, the establishment of dishwasher disinfection standards is going to be very meaningful.