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Top trends in appliances, tech and food

From air purifiers to smarter appliances and plant-based foods, CHOICE experts share their tips on the products to look out for.

Last updated: 24 February 2020

Experts at CHOICE have been testing products and helping Australians make the best buying decisions for 60 years. We see hundreds of products and appliances come through our doors each year, so we're on top of what's popular, what's interesting and what you definitely shouldn't buy. 

Here are top tips from our experts on the trends you'll be seeing more of on shelves this year and what you should look out for.


Air purifiers go mainstream

"Due to the recent catastrophic bushfires and resulting poor air quality, air purifiers are becoming much more popular. They've been around for a long time but in Australia they tended to be thought of as a niche product for people with allergies. 

"But now a lot more people are aware of them, and I expect a lot more homes now have one, or are planning to get one in time for next summer. People are suddenly more conscious of air quality and how it can affect their health, so are looking for solutions for their homes. 

"Our key advice for buying an air purifier is to make sure it has a HEPA filter. And make sure there's a reliable source for replacement filters – maybe keep one or two spare filters in case there's another supply shortage like there was this summer." 

Chris Barnes, household products expert


Ovens get smarter, but not quite smart enough (yet)

"I'm seeing more and more cooking appliances such as ovens that are Wi-Fi compatible, with inbuilt 'smart' features such as cameras and swipeable touchscreens with stored recipes. 

"While these innovations are exciting and have a ton of potential to change the way we cook, they're currently quite limited and don't actually work that well. You'll be paying a premium for a technology that seems amazing but in fact is not yet quite fully developed. 

"I'd recommend waiting a few years until these features improve a lot before spending your money on them." 

Fiona Mair, kitchen test co-ordinator


Foldable smartphone and tablets

"Both smartphones and tablets with folding screens have either already started to appear or will be coming soon in 2020. This can be an actual foldable screen or two screens joined by a hinge. 

"Expect to see foldable smartphones, tablets and even laptops this year. Samsung is currently leading the field in folding devices, with other big brands such as Lenovo, Motorola and Dell also recently showcasing coming devices. 

"Plus, Microsoft has already previewed two folding devices (tablet and phone) scheduled to hit stores late this year." 

Steve Duncombe, technology editor


Plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy

"Expect to see even more plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy on supermarket shelves and in restaurants and retail this year. Plant-based chicken, burgers and mince are now common alongside their meat versions in supermarkets and vegan cheeses have hit the mainstream, even featuring on the menus of major pizza chains.

"While plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, rice and almond 'milks' have been popular for some time, the number of brands and varieties on offer has dramatically expanded. As we all become more aware of how our eating habits affect our environment as well as our health, I expect this growth to continue. 

Don't assume that 'plant-based' always means healthy

"Don't assume that 'plant-based' always means healthy, though. Many of the products in this category are highly processed, and while they may be derived from plants, eating them won't necessarily offer the same health benefits as increasing your intake of vegies. 

"So don't rely on clever marketing and on-pack claims. To see what's really in the pack, check the ingredients list and nutrition information panel." 

Rachel Clemons, senior food journalist


Connected cooling and cleaning: vacuums, fans and air-conditioners

"More and more gadgets and appliances are now able to be connected to Wi-Fi and therefore controlled by compatible apps on your phone or via smart assistants such as Alexa or Google Home. Some are more useful than others, so make sure you're not just swayed by clever marketing when you buy. 

"In the CHOICE labs we've recently tested stick vacuum cleaners that connect to an app to tell you when the battery is running low (usefulness here is questionable) as well as ceiling fans and pedestal fans that you can control from your mobile phone (handy if you can't be bothered getting out of bed).

Be aware that when using a Wi-Fi-connected device you're potentially sharing personal information

"Smart air conditioners are also on the rise – useful so you can operate your unit via voice-assist or turn the system on or off while you're not at home. 

"Privacy and security issues have taken some of the shine off this promising tech though. Be aware that when using a Wi-Fi-connected device you're potentially sharing personal information including your location and usage habits with third parties, so make sure you're comfortable with their privacy policies and terms and conditions."

Kim Gilmour, household products expert

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.