Education is key to promoting the segment’s healthier food choices, cost-saving techniques
Increasing interest in healthier food choices, cost-saving home food preservation techniques, urban farming and outdoor living are fueling sales of food dehydrators, which remain a niche, yet growing, category.
Consumer adoption of Paleo, Atkins, Keto and other low-carbohydrate diets has caused many consumers to take a second look at dehydrators, because they allow easy, inexpensive preparation of jerky, as well as dried fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Dehydrators turned in modest year-over-year sales increases in 2019, with dollar and unit growth of 2%.
Although more consumers are aware of dehydrators, industry sources said there is a gap between increasing awareness of the products and education about using the products. With many units on the market in a variety of shapes and sizes, with varying features and at a wide range of prices, choosing the right unit for individual needs can be challenging for consumers.
The educational component helps explain why sales have shifted somewhat in favor of online and television platforms, on which demonstration videos can show consumers how easy it is to use dehydrators to make a variety of healthy, non-processed foods at home.
Online platforms also let retailers and suppliers go into deep detail about each product’s features and benefits. Consumers also have access to online product reviews, which can help with their decision-making process.
Another potential selling opportunity for dehydrators is with the serious home cook. The use of herbs and spices within recipes is a key element and the ability dry basil, parsley, rosemary and other key ingredients for future use could open the category to a new group of consumers.
The category has been boosted by a growing number of cookbooks available that focus on dehydration. Several suppliers are also offering recipe books with units as they work with chefs to give consumers new ideas for using a dehydrator.
More recently, suppliers have looked to drive growth by tapping into a strong hunting market. According to a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are more than 11.5 million hunters in the U.S., spending about $25.6 billion annually. Many discounters have responded by moving dehydrators from the small appliance departments to sporting goods and camping departments.
Dehydrators come in various shapes and sizes. Nearly all come with removable, stackable shelves that can be used to dehydrate different foods at once, can be cleaned easily and are dishwasher-safe. Some models feature semi-solid racks that are designed for use with jams or pulp for making fruit leathers. Key features include either manual or digital controls, overheating and auto shutoff functions.