There are many players in the combi oven market, all jostling for position to be the lead choice for dealers and end users. Technological advances are playing a big part in the sector, so how is each manufacturer aiming to make itself stand out from the rest of its competitors?
At the head of the pack is still Rational, with UK MD Simon Lohse detailing: “Rational invented the combi oven in the 1970s and is the acknowledged market leader around the world. Our investment in new product development has helped us remain at the cutting edge of new technologies. Our SelfCookingCenter is the standout product in the field, incorporating the most advanced cooking processes, with maximum control and reliability.”
In terms of dealer relationships, he added: “In addition to our commitment to giving customers the best cooking equipment, Rational is also committed to delivering the best service and support, both to our end users and to our distributors and other business partners. This includes the market’s leading programme of live demonstrations and training – highlighted by our investment in the training facilities at our UK head office in Luton.”
The German-headquartered manufacturer continues to evolve its combi oven technology through an R&D team that includes physicists, food scientists, development engineers and experienced chefs. A recent result of this is its ConnectedCooking technology which allows users to link their Rational SelfCookingCenters to a network, and monitor operation over the internet.
At the other end of the scale, a new entrant to the UK scene is Venix, which is now being supplied by Jestic Foodservice Equipment. The Italian brand has previously been supplied to 90 countries, with stand-out technologies claimed to be touch screen control, wi-fi and USB connectivity, a high performance three phase motor and a dynamic distribution air circulation system with a six blade fan.
Lee Cogger, Venix brand manager said: “Flexibility is a key feature of the Venix range as both the San Marco and Squero lines can fit gastronorm and bakery trays. In addition, appliances can be stacked in a variety of configurations to suit operators’ precise needs and to maximise available kitchen space.”
A new product in the range is the Chic Grill System designed for supermarkets and food to go operators. At the heart of the system is the San Marco combi oven which can grill, fry, roast and steam cook – replacing an entire kitchen in 1metre2 of floor space.
Over at Hobart UK, it feels its Bonnet Precijet+ combis provide cutting-edge features that help set it apart, while remaining simple to operate.
According to sales director Tim Bender: “Automatic cleaning is an important feature in terms of water usage, chemicals and speed. Many machines in today’s market claim automatic cleaning however, they may still require operator participation. The Precijet+ is truly fully automatic.”
He analysed: “There’s a real re-emphasis on R&D in terms of cooking equipment at Hobart. We’re not only going to be adding to the range, we are also looking at smart connectivity for 2020 as well as drastically reducing delivery lead times for customers.
“Combi oven development is about integrating new elements into the pre-existing technology. That’s something we’re looking very closely at currently, with exciting NPD very much on the horizon.”
Elsewhere, according to Welbilt UK’s sales director Steve Hemsil: “What sets Convotherm apart from other brands is undoubtedly the unique, patented technologies used within each unit.
“For example, all Convotherm 4 models incorporate Convotherm’s patented Advanced Closed System+ (ACS+). This unique system works like a lid on a saucepan, keeping heat and moisture within the cavity of the oven in order to deliver an ideal, constant environment in the cooking chamber. This allows for foods to be cooked to a consistently excellent standard.”
Furthermore, the manufacturer says it recognises that the cleaning process is essential if the oven is to have a long life performing at its maximum capability. Therefore selected models within Welbilt’s Convotherm 4 combi ovens range now feature ConvoClean+, a fully automatic cleaning system with three pre-programmed functions– eco, express and regular mode – eliminating staff contact with cleaning fluids and chemicals during the process.
As well as this, Convotherm customers have access to ConvoLink, a software solution enabling users to manage and upload cooking profiles, network appliances and track HACCP logs, with the latter proving particularly useful with hospital operators.
At Electrolux Professional, its latest advance is the SkyLine combi oven range. Training and demonstration manager Stuart Flint believes: “By combining smart technology with human-centred design we have been able to produce an oven that stands out, even in a competitive field.
“Its most striking feature is its comprehensive connectivity, with the innovative SkyDuo function providing seamless, self-intuitive communication with the SkyLine ChillS blast chiller. This enables the combi oven to automatically alert the blast chiller to prepare for chilling, or vice versa, and by sharing the same intelligent infrastructure and touch-screen interface, it results in a leaner workflow and a more productive kitchen.”
He added: “The SkyLine range is also the only foodservice appliance to be recognised with Ergocert’s pioneering 4-star certified ergonomics, ensuring the oven provides as comfortable working environment as possible.”
For Falcon Foodservice Equipment, product development chef Shaune Hall feels that the difference between the Lainox combi ovens it supplies is: “Unlike many combination ovens, all of our Lainox Naboo combi ovens come with wi-fi connectivity as standard. This enables users to access the Lainox Cloud to manage their ovens and recipes. When connected to the Lainox Cloud, the oven will automatically synchronise at regular intervals, ensuring any changes the user has made to their oven are saved.”
Another perceived benefit is that Falcon offers enhanced training courses for dealers to ensure installation of the models is as smooth as possible. The course also covers handover and commissioning, as well as maintaining the equipment.
Hall analysed: “The pace of combi oven development has certainly increased already over the last 5 years. Current combination oven technologies provide the end user with interactive and remote connectivity options, but the more recent demand is to invest in technologies that are kinder on the environment.”
At Blue Seal, area sales manager Donald Harvey feels that simplicity is the brand’s Turbofan combi steamers differentiator. “They are very user friendly, with simple controls and simple layouts,” he said. “We have moved away from the technology race that our competitors seem to be focused on and got back to what end users really want. Something you don’t need a computer degree to operate.”
The manual EC40M units have just three dials on the front, one selects the mode – combi, dry or steam, the middle one sets the temperature, the third one is a timer, while the digital EC40D units have simple touch control functions using one button and dial, such as auto wash, reduced speed fan, optional core temperature probe and the ability to input your own programs.
Harvey added: “Our R&D team put a lot of effort into making the units as energy efficient as possible and are always working to pass this onto the end users.”
Over at MKN, its aim is to focus on innovation and stay in line with market demands. According to marketing and PR manager Anja Halbauer: “Our many years of experience, as well as good intuition about what chefs around the world need, means that our specialists are working constantly on new, innovative products. This culminates in completely new solutions which not only set new standards and allow us to play an active role in market development, but also make the lives of our customers easier at the same time.”
Reporting that its combi ovens have quickly developed and improved throughout the years, Halbauer said: “A lot of our multifunctional catering equipment is equipped with automatic functions such as automatic cooking and cleaning which saves the user time, costs and energy. The MKN FlexiCombi and SpaceCombi have an automatic cleaning system, the WaveClean, which uses as little energy as possible yet still performs to a high standard.”
A recent introduction is the FlexiCombi Team, which is a single appliance equipped with two cooking chambers, which should allow the user to work in a flexible way with two cooking modes simultaneously.
Elsewhere, Unox UK MD Gary Nunn believes: “From connectivity, to data-driven cooking to enable energy and water efficiencies, modern combi ovens need to cover all the bases to stay ahead of the competition.
“Today’s chefs are looking for intelligent features that can help streamline service, save energy and money, while improving cooking results. It’s therefore important that distributors specify the latest technology, featuring artificial intelligence, to meet demand for high-tech connected kitchen equipment from the foodservice industry.”
He feels that Unox’s range of Cheftop Mind.Maps combi ovens have a compact footprint, saving on kitchen space, but also feature artificial intelligence to achieve efficiency. The range’s latest addition is the Big Plus, a large heavy duty model. Capable of going from 30°C to 300°C in just 270 seconds, it can cook 100kg of steamed potatoes in 35 minutes thanks to the steam generated by its Steam.Maxi system. The unit also achieves heat distribution with its ‘unique’ linear elements and heat exchangers which have a high power intensity that should produce heat quickly, minimise temperature recovery times and optimise air flow.
Middleby company Hounö believes that being the only combi oven manufacturer from Scandinavia makes it stand out. Middleby UK MD Kenny Smith detailed: “Hounö boasts the widest combi oven range in the world with Visual Cooking offering over 100 models, including models with the unique PassThrough feature, which eliminates the risk of food cross contamination.”
He also reported that Hounö was the first company in the foodservice industry to introduce Android connectivity in its products, making all models available with the Android-powered interface SmartTouch.
Smith added: “IoT is a great area of focus. Our ecosystem cloud solution Let’s Cook is designed based on industry input. Hounö interviewed end users, dealers, service partners, chain accounts and more in order to identify their needs and wants. The combination of understanding customer challenges and Internet of Things/cloud technology is the foundation of Let’s Cook.”
Hot off the presses, Sous Vide Tools has moved into the combi oven sphere. MD Alex Shannon revealed: “iVide Precisione ovens are the only ovens on the market designed specifically for use in conjunction with sous vide cooking. The level of accuracy they offer (± 0.2°C) is unparalleled: measuring the temperature in the cooking chamber several times per second they transfer exactly the right amount of energy needed to offer maximum temperature stability with hardly any oscillations. Compare that to a standard combi oven whether the figure is nearer to ± 5°C.
“The iVide Precisione is a sealed oven full of humid air so, just like a sous vide bag, the food can’t dry out because there’s nowhere for the water to go.”
To operate the ovens, users should select the food, cooking method and required browning level and the unit will calculate the rest using special sensors in the cooking chamber to detect the product quantity, size and condition.
Over at Czech Republic-headquartered Retigo, export manager Aneta Halamíčková analysed: “The fact we are one of the last independent manufacturers of combi ovens in the world means we have much more control over manufacturing and creating truly unique products.
“In addition, Retigo combis boast one of the lowest water consumption for cleaning cycles due to the efficiency of the cleaning cycle. The quickest is just over 30 minutes and uses less water than some major competitors.”
The latest combi ovens from Retigo include the Blue and Orange Vision models which were launched last year. Blue Vision features include an eight-inch control panel with a programmable and customisable screen, which should offer quick and easy access to the oven’s main functions. The Orange Vision models were created to meet the needs of customers with fewer demands, and are automatically equipped with a seven-speed fan and a fan stop function.
Supplier, Euro Catering, believes that the Giorik combis it imports are the only ones that offer options comprising size variant of 6 x 2/3GN, 6 x1/1GN or 10 x 1/1GN, electric or gas, with or without an internal boiler for the Kore ‘I’ touch slimline model.
Owner Tim Charlton said: “Whilst its oven chamber is smaller than a standard combi oven, it offers the same tray capacity and, with this, the distinct advantage of reduced energy bills, as there is a smaller mass to heat up within the chamber.”
Plus Giorik’s latest ‘Recipe Tuner’ software allows the chef to set the desired cooking, browning and moisture, with one touch of a button, automatically adjusting the oven settings to suit.
Charlton concluded: “Giorik is continually disrupting the market with its technological developments and pushing the boundaries of what was perceived as possible within a commercial kitchen environment.”