Not your grandma’s pots
The kitchen is the next battleground in the direct-to-consumer wars
When was the last time you bought cookware? I’m in college, so never for me. But, there’s a good chance you received a nice kitchenware set — along with a KitchenAid mixer — for your wedding 10 years ago.
Cookware has long been seen as a “when-I-have-the-money” purchase. You can get by on an affordable set from the discount store, but professional-grade brands like Le Creuset and All-Clad always make the wedding registry. Which is why several companies have popped up in recent years trying to bridge the gap between necessary kitchen tool and aspirational cooking experience.
Something’s cooking in the kitchen…
The cookware startups below have a big opportunity ahead of them. In 2018, the global kitchenware market was valued at $56.8 billion USD with a 4.5% CAGR through 2025.
Much of this growth is due to emerging countries that are experiencing heavy waves of urbanization — creating a huge need for appliances, equipment, and gadgets that are durable and affordable. Asian-Pacific countries like China and India are creating armies of potential new customers for the cookware market worth almost $20 billion.
Read below for a roundup of some of the brands who may take a piece of that pie.
Year launched: 2018
Backstory: Minsuk Kim and Jessica Sheft-Ason started Potluck in Brooklyn out of a mission to promote cooking at home through accessible and easy-to-use products. They were both formerly at Glossier and wanted to bring the same experience to the cookware market. Kim went to kitchenware shows and quickly learned that a lot of brands had extremely high margins, despite all being manufactured in China.
What makes Potluck different: Nothing. When asked what’s different about Potluck (versus the sets sold in department stores) in a New York Times piece, co-founder Minsuk Kim replied “Nothing.” However, while some of Potluck’s equipment is manufactured in the same factories of high-end brands, Potluck offers better prices by not relying on retailers like Macy’s and Dillards’. Potluck is also intentional about only making the most essential equipment so you can save on kitchen space.
Signature product: Utensil Set: aligning with Potluck’s goal to only create products that you need, the Utensil Set is just right.
Year launched: 2019
Backstory: Caraway launched in November 2019 to offer a safer way to cook, in addition to looking great. Founder Jordan Nathan explained in a blog post: “I accidentally left a Teflon coated fry pan on my burner for close to 45 minutes after receiving a call that distracted me from cooking dinner. My apartment was filled with fumes that left me feeling light headed. After calling the poison control hotline, I found out I may have been exposed to Teflon poisoning, which I learned can occur when overheating or scratching a pan.”
What makes Caraway different: Safety comes first. Most of the cookware currently available uses Teflon, a chemical coating that can break down into your food when overheated. Caraway is non-toxic (Teflon-free) and is coated with ceramic, which is healthier and non-stick.
Signature product: Cookware Set: three pans, one Dutch oven, a pan rack, and a lid holder to keep everything organized.
Year launched: 2017
Backstory: After graduating from college, co-founder Jake Kalick joined his family’s business, a commercial kitchen outfitter. While wholesaling brands like All-Clad, he noticed that many of the popular brands were part of larger conglomerates and had a lot of control over prices. Kalick teamed up with Bradford Malt to create a supply chain and offer lower prices on goods similar to the brands he sold in his family’s business.
What makes Made In different: Made In is the brand for people who want to use professional tools in their home. Their wares are found in some of the best kitchens across the country, including Grant Achatz’s Alinea (he’s an investor as well). In addition to being manufactured by a family-owned shop right here in the states, Made In uses premium metals and non-stick coatings from the US.
Signature product: Chef’s Knife: according to their website, Made In is one of the last companies that still makes their entire knife from a single rod of steel.
Year launched: 2018
Backstory: Sierra Tishgart was tired of buying the cheapest things from IKEA and wanted an upgrade. Tishgart, with childhood friend Maddy Moelis, started Great Jones so that more people could have the products they wished they had. Tishgart, who was a senior editor at New York Magazine at the time, pitched Moelis on the idea over dinner. The two then raised $600,000 from friends and family (including Momofuku chef David Chang and sweetgreen co-founder Nicolas Jammet) to fund their initial manufacturing run.
What makes Great Jones different: Great Jones offers the whole experience. In addition to their beautiful products with a vintage-looking brand, Great Jones has a texting service for cooking advice and a section of their website devoted to recipes and interviews.
Signature product: The Duchess: their hero product has five-star reviews with titles like “My new favorite dish.” and “Duchess of my dreams.” Enough said?
While the legacy manufacturers still dominate the market, growing economies and industries (such as hospitality) have opened up the door for a fresh young brand to enter the home.
In the age of Instagram-worthy products, influencer endorsements, and risk-free trials, you may have a new package on your doorstep next week.