The Art of (Selling) Rice Cookers — frontpage

Toshiba’s latest “Vacuum Pressure Cooker” is not that sort rice cooker you commonly see in Wal-Mart. The cooker features a powerful vacuum pump the suck air out of the cooker to cause the rice to absorb water more quickly while it soaks. The vacuum can also help preserving flavor while keeping rice warm in the pot for as long as 32 hours. The steel case holds high pressure to make it water in the cooker to boil at a higher temperature, thus making for fatter, shinier and sweeter grains of rice. The cooker  heating vessel is coated with silver and diamond dust to distribute heat evenly, so every grain of rice has the same texture.

Surprised by all these fancy technologies on a small rice cooker? Hold until you see the price tag. $830.

Toshiba sold 70000 units of the rice cooker in Japan since its launch in last September, making it the best-seller in the ultra high-end  category. Toshiba is not alone in the market. The first upscale rice cooker is from Mitsubishi Electric Corp, which has an inner cooking bowl made of graphite for better and even heat up. The bowl is so difficult to make that the company can only make 50 a day.  The company sold 20000 of this pioneering product since March 2006 at the price of $1000.  The $600 rice cooker from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. promises to give rice 2.4 times as much oligosaccharide — a kind of sugar — as its previous model. Zojirushi Corp.’s rice cooker is able to adjust the cooking process automatically according to the seasonal differences in air and water temperature, thanks to the built-in  artificial-intelligence chips.

All these super expensive rice cookes are only available in Japanese market because they believe only Japanese, who are obsessed with plain white rice will appreciate the differences in taste and pay such a high premium for a rice cooker. It’s pretty hard for me imagine the taste of rice from Vacuum Pressure Cooker is 83 times better than from my $10 one.