The kitchen is no longer just a source of supply, but a place of longing. What will it look like in the future? Interesting insights from Patrick Riedemann, Head of Consumer Intelligence, BSH Hausgeräte GmbH.
“Our aim is to give people the gifts of time and freedom.”
The last 100 years have seen an enormous pioneering spirit. What are the fundamental drivers behind these technical innovations?
I’m a customer researcher and view developments from the customer’s perspective. We try to understand the underlying needs that motivate them. We don’t just observe what they do in order to identify problems for us to solve. In the first instance, it’s about understanding why they cook and what drives them: how can we use technology that enables people to fulfil themselves, to live out their freedom and be creative? That has progressed in leaps and bounds in the last 100 years.
How do you find this out?
We meet, for example, in so-called co-creation workshops. We bring together designers, customers and developers. We work together towards solutions that address their fundamental motives and emotions.
Can people apply for these jobs?
We proactively approach people who we can learn a lot from. We ask ourselves: who could be a thought-provoking sparring partner and push us to our limits? This includes food bloggers, professional cooks, but first and foremost our customers, who confront us with concrete problems and wishes arising from their passion for cooking.
How does this enable different requirements such as “instant-to-go culture”, “healthy food trends” or “appetite for creativity” to be brought together?
That is indeed a challenge. In particular because there are differences not only between people. These varying wishes and requirements are also present within individuals. Requirements differ according to someone’s situation: on weekdays, I may require a quick and easy way of nourishing myself without putting too much effort into preparation. At the weekend, I consciously turn my kitchen into a place to wind down, to withdraw into myself, express myself and create something with my own hands. Or I choose the kitchen as a place to come together with family or friends. All of this must be possible within my kitchen. It is the centre of the house, because it brings together many different emotions and needs.
What change in the significance of the kitchen have we witnessed over the past century?
For a long time, the kitchen was a place for satisfying a basic need: for filling people up. But historically, it was also the place where the fire was, where the family gathered. In the Bauhaus era, the metaphor of the machine and functionality took a front-seat role along with the question of how to optimise workflows and make them more ergonomic. In the past 150 years, the role of women has changed profoundly. This heightened the significance of kitchen-appliance development. Women were freed from sometimes labour-intensive housework.
In recent decades, the overriding development has been one whereby the kitchen should no longer be a separate area that screens off whoever is cooking. This has led to the joining up of living space and kitchen, a sociable meeting place for the whole family. Very recently, the kitchen has grown to become a place where people can create something, not only consume. It brings people into contact with nature via natural ingredients, is somewhere where they can engage in hands-on activities. For many people, this is an emotional and deeply fulfilling experience.
To what extent do food bloggers treat the kitchen as a playground for experimentation?
Cooking is an expression of creativity. It’s not about the sense of taste alone, but about visually aesthetic arrangement. People today share this not only with friends and family, but above all on the Internet. It spurs people on and gives them orientation. With food, you can also make an ethical statement: look, I eat healthily and sustainably. I use it as an expression of what is important to me, and of my values.
Where does connectivity come into the equation?
All in all, in the history of mankind domestic appliances have saved people a lot of effort and gifted them time. In an ideal world, that will continue as a result of the Internet of Things. We wonder how we can use technology to save people effort, and to make life easier and more pleasant. Our aim is to make things possible for people and give them back time for things that give them pleasure.
What will the kitchen of the future look like?
I am a humanist. I dream of people being even more able to live out their talents and whatever is important to them. Technology will recede ever more into the background. Ideally, it will give people time. If we look back 100 years into the past, people were subject to strong constraints. Not having a gas cooker and having to fire up the stove before cooking; having to scrub laundry in a river instead of putting it in a washing machine. Those were all limitations that people are no longer confronted with. My vision is that we can expand the potential for human creativity and that technology doesn’t inhibit us but adds to the sum of our freedom.