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快煲电压力锅为何风靡美国?

更新时间:2017-12-19 12:10:01 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Inside the Home of Instant Pot, the Kitchen Gadget That Spawned a Religion
快煲电压力锅为何风靡美国?

KANATA, Ontario — Truth be told, the headquarters of Instant Pot don’t look much like a church.

安大略省卡纳塔——说实在的,快煲电压力锅(Instant Pot)公司的总部看起来不太像一座教堂。

But inside this sterile, gray office building on the outskirts of Ottawa, behind a door marked only by a small metal sign, a new religion has been born.

但是,在坐落于渥太华郊区的没有个性的灰色办公楼里,一扇只有一小块金属标记的门后,一个新的宗教已在这里诞生了。

Its deity is the Instant Pot, a line of electric multicookers that has become an internet phenomenon and inspired a legion of passionate foodies and home cooks. These devotees — they call themselves “Potheads” — use their Instant Pots for virtually every kitchen task imaginable: sautéing, pressure-cooking, steaming, even making yogurt and cheesecakes. Then, they evangelize on the internet, using social media to sing the gadget’s praises to the unconverted.

这个新宗教的上帝是快煲电压力锅,该多功能电锅产品系列已成为一种互联网现象,激发了从狂热美食家到家庭厨师的大批追随者。这些戏称自己是“快煲锅瘾君子”(pothead,指的是吸食大麻成瘾的人,pot是大麻的通俗说法;不过pot的原意是锅——译注)的人,用他们的快煲电压力锅来做几乎所有可以想象的厨房作业:炒、压力煮、蒸,甚至还做酸奶和芝士蛋糕。然后,他们在互联网上传播口碑,在社交媒体上对那些还没有用过这种锅的人大唱这个厨房电器的赞歌。

“Oh my goodness!” reads a fairly typical Amazon rave, one of more than 25,000 reviews on the site for the Instant Pot. “This is the best kitchen gadget to ever exist in the history of ever.”

“哦,我的老天!”亚马逊(Amazon)网站上对快煲电压力锅逾2.5万条好评中有一条这样写道。“这是有史以来存在过的最棒的厨房电器。”

An enthusiast in the Instant Pot Facebook group, which has more than 850,000 members, wrote “Using my Instant Pot has totally changed my life.”

快煲电压力锅的Facebook群拥有85万以上的粉丝,其中一名粉丝写道:“使用我的快煲电压力锅彻底改变了我的生活。”

The Instant Pot is hardly the fanciest appliance on the market; several models sell for under $100. But it has upended the home-cooking industry. During this year’s Black Friday sales, the Instant Pot was among the Top 5 items sold by Amazon and Target, and among the Top 3 best-sellers at Kohl’s. The company, which is privately held, doesn’t release sales data, but said it was “very happy” with Instant Pot’s sales, which have been more than doubling every year since 2011. Sales of electric multicookers have risen 79 percent in the past year to more than $300 million, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.

快煲电压力锅根本算不上是市场上最高档的电器;有几款锅的售价在100美元以下。但这种锅已经颠覆了针对家庭烹饪的生产制造业。在今年的黑色星期五促销活动中,快煲电压力锅是亚马逊和塔吉特(Target)销售量名列前五的产品之一,也是科尔士百货公司(Kohl’s)销量名列前三的产品之一。科尔士百货公司不是上市公司,不公布销售数据,但公司表示,它对快煲电压力锅的销售“非常满意”。自2011年以来,这种锅的销量每年都在以比翻番还快的速度增长。据市场研究公司NPD集团(NPD Group)的数据,在过去的一年里,多功能电锅的销售额增长了79%,达到了3亿美元以上。

I went to Kanata to get a peek behind the scenes of the Instant Pot phenomenon and meet its creator: Robert Wang, who invented the device and serves as chief executive of Double Insight, its parent company. What I found was a remarkable example of a new breed of 21st-century start-up — a homegrown hardware business with only around 50 employees that raised no venture capital funding, spent almost nothing on advertising, and achieved enormous size primarily through online word-of-mouth. It is also a testament to the enormous power of Amazon, and its ability to turn small businesses into major empires nearly overnight.

为了探究快煲电压力锅现象背后的东西,我来到了卡纳塔,见到了这个现象的创造者:罗伯特·王(Robert Wang)。他是这种锅的发明人,还担任着锅生产厂家的母公司“双识国际”(Double Insight)的首席执行官。我所看到的,是一个21世纪新型初创企业的令人瞩目的例子:这是一家本土的设备制造企业,只有大约50名员工,没有任何风险资本投资,几乎没花一点广告费,而主要靠互联网口碑,实现了巨大的规模。这也是亚马逊强大力量的体现,亚马逊有几乎在一夜之间把小公司变成主要商业帝国的能力。

Mr. Wang, 53, did not set out to be a kitchen mogul. An engineering whiz who grew up in Harbin, China, as the son of two professors, he earned a Ph.D. in computer science and intended to develop artificial intelligence systems for a living. After a series of telecom and tech jobs, he was laid off from his dot-com position in 2008, just as the global financial crisis hit.

现年53岁的王先生并没有当厨房电器大亨的打算。他在中国哈尔滨长大,父母都是教授,本人是年轻有为的工程师。他获得了计算机科学博士学位,本想靠研发人工智能系统谋生。在干过电信和技术行业的一系列工作后,在2008年全球金融危机爆发之际,他被一家网络公司解雇了。

After a brief and unsuccessful attempt to start his own tech company, Mr. Wang turned his attention to kitchen appliances, a market that hadn’t yet been visited by the tech industry’s disruption fairies. A lapsed home cook whose busy schedule rarely allowed him to make healthy meals for his wife and two children, Mr. Wang recruited two other engineers and spent 18 months and $350,000 of his savings developing a high-tech device that would combine pressure-cooking, slow-cooking, sautéing and other common cooking functions in a single appliance. In a news release announcing his invention in 2013, he called it the “iPot” — an Apple homage that his trademark lawyer soon nixed.

王先生曾试图创办自己的技术公司,但失败了。在那段短暂经历之后,他将注意力转向了厨房电器。这是一个尚未被技术行业的颠覆精灵顾及的市场。虽然王先生喜欢做饭,但以前由于工作繁忙,他很少有时间为妻子和两个孩子做健康的饭菜。这次,王先生顾来了另外两名工程师,投入了自己35万美元的积蓄,花了18个月的时间,开发出了一款高技术电器,一个集高压锅、慢锅、炒锅和其他常见烹饪功能大全的单一电器。在2013年宣布他的这个发明的记者会上,他给这个厨房电器取名“iPot”,以表达对苹果(Apple)的敬意,不过,他的商标律师很快就否决了这个名字。

In person, Mr. Wang is soft-spoken and earnest, with a nerd’s enthusiasm for the technology that powers the Instant Pot. (That enthusiasm extends to his other creations as well: At various points during our interview, he read me excerpts from his doctoral dissertation on logic programming languages, and showed me the hand-built website he made to host photos of his family.)

面对面谈话时,王先生声音温和但认真,对快煲电压力锅背后的技术有着书呆子般的热情。(这种热情也延伸到他的其他创作上:在采访过程中,他一会儿把自己博士论文中讨论逻辑编程语言的段落读给我听,一会儿给我演示他亲手制作的存放家人照片的网站。)

In 2010, after several months of sluggish sales in and around Ontario, Mr. Wang listed the Instant Pot on Amazon, where a community of food writers eventually took notice. Vegetarians and paleo dieters, in particular, were drawn to the device’s pressure-cooking function, which shaved hours off the time needed to cook pots of beans or large cuts of meat.

2010年,快煲电压力锅在安大略省和周边地区的销售并不好,几个月后,王先生把锅放到了亚马逊网站上去卖,那里的一个饮食作家社区最终注意到了这个锅。尤其是素食者和提倡旧石器时代饮食的人,他们被该厨房电器的压力烹饪功能所吸引,压力烹饪把煮豆子或大块肉所需的时间缩短了几个小时。

Sensing viral potential, Instant Pot sent test units to about 200 influential chefs, cooking instructors and food bloggers. Reviews and recipes appeared online, and sales began to climb.

意识到锅在网上走红的潜力,公司向约200名有影响力的厨师、烹饪教师和饮食博主赠送了快煲电压力锅,让他们测试。评论和食谱开始在网上出现,销量也开始攀升。

You wouldn’t know it from his small, bare-walled office, but Mr. Wang, who cooks steamed sweet potatoes and soft-boiled eggs in his three Instant Pots at home, has built a profitable empire. Exact figures are elusive because the company is private and has never raised money from outside investors, but there is no doubt that as the company’s largest shareholder, Mr. Wang has done very well.

坐在他四壁空空的小办公室里,你看不出来王先生已经建立了一个盈利的商业帝国。王先生正在用家里的三个快煲电压力锅蒸红薯、煮溏心蛋。外人无法得到确切的数字,因为公司没有上市,也从来没有从外部投资者那里融资,但毫无疑问,作为公司最大的股东,王先生已非常成功。

“They’re expanding as fast as they can produce the appliances,” said Coco Morante, a food writer and author of “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook.” “They’ve built this word-of-mouth advertising and community around their appliance that’s pretty fervent.”

“他们正在以最快的速度扩大这种电器的生产,”饮食作家、《快煲电压力锅必备烹饪书》(The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook)的作者可可·莫兰蒂(Coco Morante)说。“他们围绕这个产品建立的口碑宣传和社区都非常热情。”

But why, and why now? After all, pressure cookers aren’t new, and most of the Instant Pot’s functions are replicated by other common kitchen appliances. Mr. Wang credits the device’s technological advances — most notably, a group of sensors that keep the cooker from overheating or exploding under pressure.

但这究竟是什么原因呢?是什么原因让这个现象发生在现在呢?毕竟,高压锅并不是什么新鲜事物;而且,快煲电压力锅的大部分功能都与其他常用厨房器具有重复。王先生把这个厨房电器的成功归功于其技术上的进步,最显著的是,通过使用一组传感器,防止了锅过热或在压力下爆炸的发生。

Instant Pot’s internet fandom also gives it a leg up. The food bloggers behind popular recipe sites like Nom Nom Paleo were early converts to electric pressure-cooking, and cookbook authors took note of the device’s cult appeal. Mr. Wang says that more than 1,500 Instant Pot cookbooks have been written, including several of Amazon’s current best-sellers.

快煲电压力锅的互联网粉丝群也给它制造了优势。在诸如Nom Nom Paleo这样的流行食谱网站上从事饮食写作的博主们都是电压力烹饪的早期信徒,烹饪书的作者们也注意到了这个电器对人们近乎狂热的吸引力。王先生说,已有1500多部快煲电压力锅烹饪书,其中有几部正在亚马逊上畅销。

Amazon has played a particularly large role in Instant Pot’s rise. Early on, Instant Pot joined the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program, in which Amazon handles the packing and shipping of a seller’s products in exchange for a cut of each item sold. Eventually, Instant Pot sent Amazon wholesale shipments directly from factories in China, and Amazon began promoting the machines in its major annual sales. At one point, more than 90 percent of Instant Pot’s sales came through Amazon.

亚马逊在快煲电压力锅现象上起了特别重要的作用。快煲电压力锅刚开始在网上出售时,就参加了“亚马逊配送”计划,由亚马逊来负责卖家产品的包装和运送,并从每件售出商品的收入中分点红。最终,快煲电压力锅公司直接从其在中国的工厂向亚马逊批发货物,亚马逊也开始在其年度主要销售活动中推销这些电器。曾有逾90%的快煲电压力锅销售一度来自亚马逊。

“Without Amazon, we wouldn’t be here,” Mr. Wang said.

“没有亚马逊的话,我们不会有今天,”王先生说。

Kitchen appliance fads tend to come and go (R.I.P., George Foreman grill). And major appliance makers like Cuisinart and Breville have taken note of Instant Pot’s success and introduced electric multicookers of their own. But Mr. Wang said he believed that the Instant Pot’s passionate online following will protect it from being crushed by a larger rival. He showed me videos in which fans sang the Instant Pot’s praises, and a blog post about a woman who credited her Instant Pot with helping her lose 83 pounds.

厨房器具的流行趋势变化不定(安息吧,乔治·福尔曼电烧烤器[George Foreman grill])。而且,像Cuisinart和Breville这样大型的厨房器具制造商已经注意到了快煲电压力锅的成功,并推出了自己的产品。但王先生说,他认为,快煲电压力锅在网上的热情粉丝会保护它不被更大的竞争对手打垮。他给我看了一段视频,粉丝们在视频里对快煲电压力锅赞不绝口;他还给我看了一个博客帖子,讲的是一位女子把帮助她减肥83磅(约合38公斤)的功劳归于快煲电压力锅。

He also revealed a secret: in every official photograph of an Instant Pot, the unit’s timer is set to 5:20 — a series of numbers that, when spoken aloud, sounds like “I love you” in his native Mandarin.

他还透露了一个秘密:在每张快煲电压力锅的官方照片里,锅的定时器都设置为5:20,用王先生的母语普通话来读这些数字时,听起来有点像“我爱你”。

“It’s a subliminal message,” he said. “It shows how much we care about our customers.”

“这是一种潜意识的信息,”他说。“它显示了我们对我们的客户有多么关心。”

Mr. Wang declined to comment when I asked about Instant Pot’s plans for future products. He said the company wanted to modernize other “legacy appliances” in the kitchen by adding sensors and microprocessors, and eventually using Wi-Fi to connect them to the cloud.

当我问公司有什么未来产品计划时,王先生拒绝发表评论。他说,公司希望通过给厨具增加传感器和微处理器,将厨房里的其他“老电器”现代化,并最终用无线网把这些电器连到云上。

Not that Instant Pot needs to branch out just yet. According to the NPD Group, only 11.5 percent of American households own electric multicookers. Which means that there are still millions more potential Potheads out there, still making their vegetarian curries and chili con carne the hard way.

当然,快煲电压力锅公司现在还不需要考虑新产品的问题。根据NPD集团的数据,只有11.5%的美国家庭拥有多功能电锅。这意味着还有数以百万计的潜在的快煲锅瘾君子,他们还在用笨办法做素食咖喱和辣肉酱。

Mr. Wang wants to convert these poor souls, and bring them into his flock.

王先生想帮助这些可怜的人,让他们也从自己的发明中受惠。

“We know we really make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “It’s really gratifying.”

“我们知道,我们确实改变了人们的生活,”他说。“这真让人高兴。”

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