Kitchen air conditioners have been gaining popularity among Chinese households, attracting many enterprises to dip their toes into the field. Industry heavyweights such as Gree, Haier and Midea, kitchen appliance brands such as Robam, and many emerging brands of kitchen air conditioners offer diversified solutions to consumers to turn their dreams of a better kitchen life into reality.
While air conditioners become a must-have of households, consumers are not familiar with kitchen air conditioners. It is still an emerging sector compared to the big air conditioner market. From January to September 2023, the shipment of kitchen air conditioners (including integrated units as well as split systems) stood at 95,000 units, up 41.5% YoY, according to Quarterly Research Report on Household Kitchen Air Conditioners of China published by ChinaIoL.com.
What rise along with the growing market share is the discussions over the product. On Little Red Book, there are more than 580,000 related notes posted, indicating high demand for the product. It prompts many companies to enter the market, making it gradually heat up.
Reflecting the trend, Xyangtech, a company dedicated to kitchen air conditioner development, rolled out its integrated kitchen air conditioner on December 18, 2023. Midea, as one of the early companies to introduce kitchen air conditioners, took the lead in formulating China’s first group standard on domestic kitchen air conditioners based on its experience in this field. It rolled out its new “kitchen cooling” series in March 2023. Besides, Gree’s “kitchen enjoyment” series, Panasonic’s Wind series, Fotile’s integrated cooling range hood, and the new kitchen air conditioner brand of integrated ceiling solution provider Mellkit, inject fresh vitality into the market.
To achieve sustained growth, industry players provide consumers with their best solutions to kitchen cooling challenges to enhance their competitiveness. The uniqueness of the kitchen environment brings many restrictions to the installation and the performance of kitchen air conditioners, posing challenges for product design. My interviewee from Midea mentioned that given the limited space of kitchen and its hot and stuffy environment, common air conditioners cannot withstand the corrosion from cooking fumes, resulting in short lifespan and difficulty in cleaning. “Of course, the biggest cooling challenge is that many kitchens do not have reserved space for air conditioner installation.” My interviewee from Xyangtech agreed, “The core pain point now is installation.” In fact, installation is a frequently mentioned challenge of kitchen cooling during my interviews with industry insiders.
In response, industry players have come up with several different solutions. Midea’s “kitchen cooling” series reduce the product width by 36% compared to regular wall-mounted products to adapt to kitchens with an area below 15 square meters. With both built-in type and ceiling-mounted type available, this series meet the requirement of most kitchens. Xyangtech provides an integrated structure, design, and one-stop service as a “three-in-one” solution. The integrated structure allows for built-in installation and therefore makes it suitable for limited space, while the integrated design considers the product design, the kitchen ceiling as well as the kitchen lighting system to achieve unity and harmony. Fotile’s integrated cooling range hood series combine the cooling module with the range hoods with no extra space required for installation. Gree’s “kitchen enjoyment” series, as an extension of its family central air conditioning system, does not need wall perforation or reserved pipelines for installation.
It can be seen that the development of kitchen air conditioners is not limited to cooling performance but also involve kitchen layout, product installation, after-sale service, marketing, etc. Among them, a targeted installation plan is critical. Industry players have been working on innovative installation plans as well as outstanding services to win consumers.
Speaking of the development prospect of the sector, many industry insiders expressed optimism as there has been a long existing demand. But as a category that emerges in recent years, kitchen air conditioner sector still faces many technical pain points such as condensate water discharge, high noise level and kitchen grease removal. Enterprises have been making innovations to address these technical issues to further promote the development of kitchen air conditioners.