The humble refrigerator has come out on top as the best household innovation of our time, outstripping the internet, air conditioning and the microwave, according to new research released.
The inaugural Procter & Gamble Home Innovation Index asked participants to rank a list of the 20 most common innovations in the home. A cross section of over 2,000 Australian parents were asked to nominate the innovations thought to have made the biggest contribution to their busy lives, and the innovations they couldn't live without.
The top three innovations were the refrigerator (74%), the washing machine (71%) and the television (59%). The ability to make life easier and save time were the two most common reasons given for why these innovations were at the top of the list. Least popular were games consoles (12%) and hair straighteners (8%).
Collett Smart, psychologist and the Director of Family Smart, says that the focus on time-saving innovations reveal the pressures felt by modern Australian families.
'The innovations in the home that are the most meaningful are those that save parents time or make everyday tasks, like washing clothes, easier. With so much going on in our busy lives, it's no surprise that parents want to minimise the time they spend on household chores and view the value of innovation in that way," says Collett.
'This survey is a litmus test for modern life. We are no longer spending hours scrubbing the floors or doing the washing, because our focus is on enriching the lives of our families to give them the best start in life," says Collett.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) is the company behind many of the home innovations that make life easier, like the disposable nappy, soap for washing machines and house-hold detergent. Furthermore, over 80% of Australian's have a P&G product in their home.
Ana Lombera, Consumer Research Senior Manager for P&G Australia and New Zealand, says, 'Australians are down-to-earth, practical and no-nonsense. As the primary grocery buyers, mums want products that work well and work the first time so they can move on to the things that matter most to them – like spending time with their families."
Interestingly, when it comes to the best ever beauty innovations in the home, antiperspirant deodorant was the number one choice of the women surveyed (68%). Hair conditioner was ranked number two (42%) followed by the razor (39%). The least popular beauty innovations in the home were fake tan (4%), the foot spa (5%) and hair removal strips (12%).
'It is difficult to imagine life without these necessities and after 175 years, P&G will continue to introduce household innovations in 2014 as a result of over $2 billion spent annually on research and development. Our aim is to make day-to-day living more enjoyable for Australian parents," says Ana.
Interestingly, the disposable nappy was ranked an important innovation by almost double the number of mums (23%) than dads (12%).
'Latest research suggests that men generally spend more time in paid employment, while women typically take on five or more hours of unpaid childcare and domestic duties, which might explain why women prioritised products, like disposable nappies, that are more about fulfilling family and childcare needs ahead of her own," says Collett.
'However, it is interesting that wireless internet is one of the best innovations ranked by both mums and dads. With more parents working longer hours and as flexible work arrangements become more commonplace, staying connected is necessary for busy working parents who want to maximise their productivity without spending long hours at the office. The internet also has a primary role in children's education, making it more of a requirement than in previous generations," says Collett.
Question: Did any of the results of the Procter & Gamble Home Innovation Index surprise you?
Collett Smart: What surprised me is that disposable nappies were so low down, the list. As a Mum of three kids and because the survey was of parents, I was quite surprised at just how far down on the list, disposable nappies were. I am wondering if parents are more environmentally friendly conscious and they may use disposable nappies but not see them as the biggest priority because they're becoming more green aware in the home.
I was also surprised that gaming consoles were so low down on the list as well, at about 12%. The reason I was surprised was is that the average age of gamer is men in their 30's, not a teenager. The survey showed that even though men are the biggest gamers group, Dad may enjoy gaming and entertainment but it's not the biggest priority, family and family time is; which is very encouraging.
I enjoyed seeing that the fridge and the washing machine were interchangeably the top two innovations for Mum and Dad; which shows Dad's also value the washing machine which says a lot for this generation of Dads where they are a lot more hands on and involved in family life than previous generations.
Question: Do you think this research showcases that time saving is the number one preference for Australian families?
Collett Smart: Statics show us that women take on the biggest percentage of child care duties in the home and that it is still up there but I do still think we're seeing more women in the workforce and therefore it's important that Dads are carrying their weight, in the home because Mums are busy with their careers and jobs. Both parents are coming home and now having to take on family duties and household chores which is why they're valuing devices that give them more time with their families, in the home, rather than doing chores.
Everything that is higher on the list is a time-saving device. The microwave is above the oven because the microwave is fast and you can cook or heat something in such a short amount of time in comparison to the oven.
The television is one of the only innovations that isn't a time saving device which ranked well which attributes to valuing relaxation time.
Question: What else did you learn from the statistics that disposable nappies were ranked an important innovation by almost double the number of mums (23%) than dads (12%)?
Collett Smart: I think that goes hand-in-hand with the statistics that say women still hold the biggest percentage of caring or being the child carer in the home, than fathers. Mothers would naturally be the ones doing more of the nappy changing although I believe fathers are changing nappies far more than previously. Many older men will tell you that they never touched a nappy in days gone by; whereas this generation of dads will, even though mums are taking on the biggest chunk of child caring which is why disposable nappies are valued more by them than the dads.
Question: Was it surprising to you that Australian mums prefer to smell good than look good?
Collett Smart: No. Contrary to what we often hear in the media that women are body conscious and self-aware which may be the case to a certain extent, I think it shows that mums in particular are more aware of practicality such as getting things done, practically in the home and pragmatic devices rather than worrying about how they look, all the time. Deodorant is more of a functional and hygienic product than products that are used to only look good and being beautiful all the time. There is nothing wrong with caring about your appearance but statistics show deodorant is way above fake tan and older women valued deodorant above anti-wrinkle cream. Women are not as obsessed with their appearances as we are made out to be, which is quite encouraging.
Question: Do you believe the results found from ranking the 20 most common innovations in the home would have changed over the years?
Collett Smart: Although we don't know what's going to be invented I don't foresee the washing machine and refrigerator moving from the top, I'd be very surprised if something took over those. The advantage of the washing machine is that you can load it and it cleans whilst you can go off and do something else which is better for your time and the refrigerator saves you shopping every single day as it keeps your produce and food fresh; both the washing machine and refrigerator definitely saves you a huge chunk of time.
Question: What item do you think will increase its position in the most valued innovations in the home?
Collett Smart: I'm wondering if the internet will climb up the ladder, I'm not surprised that it was in the top ten. With more women and men in the workforce, you can possibly, bring work home now with the internet, rather than spending hours and hours at the office. The internet has made it easier for working families to spend time with their children in the evenings than being at the office.
Parents also value education and more and more as schools are using the internet for education including homework.
Wireless internet is also time saving as you can do banking and shopping online.
Interview by Brooke Hunter