Your air fryer is saving you 200% in cooking oil costs — and stores are seeing a surge in sales

Business Insider SA
Photo by Fernando Andrade on Unsplash
Photo by Fernando Andrade on Unsplash
  • Air fryers are now a global industry worth over R13 billion.
  • Although they don't exactly need a boost, South African retailers are reporting a new surge in their popularity.
  • This is thanks to high cooking oil and electricity prices, and opportunistic retailers doing their best to sell you their latest models.
  • But with cooking oil prices up by 55%, and South Africa's love of fried food, they may actually be a wise investment.
  • They'll save you around 200%, or R29.40, per meal versus deep frying.
  • Which means if you're a fan of fried food you may as well suck it up and join the air frying masses.
  • Here's where air fryer sales are increasing — and how much oil you'll save versus traditional frying methods.
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South Africans love their deep fried food - to the point that some suggest it's made the country one of the world's most obese and unhealthiest. But as cooking oil and electricity prices rise, retailers suspect consumers are buying air fryers for a more cost-effective and health-conscious fried fix.

Although air fryers may be having a bit of a moment - both here and abroad - it's also not too late to jump on this cultish food appliance bandwagon. Last month, MarketWatch predicted the global air fryer market, worth R13 billion in 2018, to climb to over R20 billion in the next four years.

Several factors are driving this latest increase in sales, most recently the spiralling price of sunflower and canola oil. These cooking oils have soared by 55% in recent months, with more increases likely to follow. By next month, shoppers can expect to pay as much as R120 for a 2-litre bottle. And one of the central selling points of air fryers is their ability to replicate that crispy, unhealthy deliciousness with only a fraction of the oil.

This, together with increasing electricity prices, and opportunistic retailers offering discounts and promotions on the products, is driving a renewed surge in the sale of air fryers in South Africa.

A spokesperson for Checkers told Business Insider South Africa that the supermarket has seen "a significant increase in the sale of air fryers in recent weeks". The retailer attributes this to "a number of factors, including increasing electricity and cooking oil prices". The supermarket is also tapping into the craze with a recent air fryer promotion, which, combined with their small appliance price-match promise, may also be driving sales.

Retailer Game also says air fryer sales have gone up considerably since January, which they attribute to a shift in customers focusing on convenience. Like Checkers, they stock a wide range of air fryers to appeal to all market sectors. 

"We find our customers choose an air fryer based on family requirements, size capacity and servings that can be prepared," a spokesperson told Business Insider. "Our most popular air fryer currently is one that is digital, and has a 5.5L capacity."

Pick n Pay says they too have noticed "a significant trend towards customers buying air fryers". A spokesperson told Business Insider that this started about five years ago, experienced a spike during lockdown, and another "as customers look for money-saving and healthy cooking options". 

As a result, Pick n Pay is also stocking air fryers with greater capacity and has launched one under the supermarket's in-house AIM brand to meet customer demand.

How much air fryers save on oil and electricity

Although the recent increase in air fryer sales may be more a result of a perfect storm between a cheap, effective, and convenient appliance, rising oil prices, and opportunistic retailers, their long-term savings on cooking oil and electricity is notable.

A typical air fryer, which simulates deep frying by circulating hot air around the food, requires just one tablespoon of oil. At current sunflower oil prices for a two-litre bottle, this will cost around 60 cents in oil for the meal.

A comparable recipe that requires deep frying may use three cups of oil. At current sunflower oil prices for a two-litre bottle, this will cost around R30 - R29.40, or 200%, more.

If deep-frying is out due to the cost of cooking oil, the most likely alternative to air frying is the oven - and it's therefore also worth considering any electricity savings you may or may not realise.

Although air fryers can save on electricity over using a traditional oven, some variables like appliance size and cooking time exist. And unlike most ovens that operate on a thermostat, air fryers also need a constant electricity supply.

Electricity consumption will vary between appliances, but it's possible to determine how much each will cost you.

All appliances should report their wattage. Multiply this by how many hours you use it to cook your meal, divide this number by 1,000, and you have a kilowatt-hour (kWh) reading. 

To find the rand value, multiply the kWh by how much you pay for electricity, and you'll know how much each meal is costing you.

The most popular air fryer at online kitchen retailer YuppieChef, for example, is 1,800 watts. Using the above equation, a 30-minute meal will consume 0.9 kWh of electricity.

Using the broil function of a mid-level oven uses around 2,800 watts. Assuming the 30-minute meal timeframe and excluding the above variables, this will consume 1.4 kWh of electricity.

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