Product Design

Is This the End of the Easy-Bake Oven?

July 26, 2017

Earlier this week, Hasbro reported a rather depressing fact in its second-quarter findings: Sales of its “Emerging Brands” are down 14%, the particular casualties being Playskool, Super Soaker, and the Easy-Bake Oven.

A 1960s model of the Easy-Bake Oven. Photo by Linda Xiao

Emerging Brands may strike some of us as something of a misleading label when applied to a product like the Easy-Bake Oven, that unwavering constant of American culture. This play-oven has been around since 1963 and never really disappeared, stalwart as seasons and consumer whims shift. Within Hasbro’s corporate vocabulary, these Emerging Brands are categorically different from its power-earning “Franchise Brands,” like Nerf, Monopoly, Play-Doh, and My Little Pony.

The Hasbro report didn’t go much further than citing this 14% plunge, which presents quite a challenge: It’s impossible to extrapolate a conclusion from these sales and what they augur for the Easy-Bake Oven’s future. The report doesn’t spell out what the Easy-Bake Oven's sales actually are, or what this apparent dip might mean for Hasbro’s bottom-line.

Three ovens, three generations. Photo by Linda Xiao

“I don’t see the Easy-Bake Oven in heavy sales promotion by Hasbro, and it has been several years—2015—since they’ve introduced the Baking Star Edition,” Todd Coopee, the man who wrote the literal book on Easy-Bake Ovens, wrote me over email earlier this week. The Baking Star Edition looks like a set piece from The Jetsons, sleek and futuristic, with rounded edges. “Two years is a long time in the toy industry!”

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I should add that Coopee's book, 2013's Light Bulb Baking: A History of the Easy-Bake Oven, is a marvelously fun exegesis of this toy’s history, including ebbs and flows, its umpteen facelifts, and what the marketing strategies around this product say about our shifting assumptions about domestic work, gender, and who cooks. (The photographs are also quite lovely.)

The Baking-Star Edition. Photo by Linda Xiao

Coopee acknowledged that the Easy-Bake Oven exists as something of an outlier within Hasbro’s portfolio. Hasbro’s been putting its weight behind licensed products with media tie-ins and promoting them aggressively, and there haven’t been any tie-ins in recent memory for the Easy-Bake Oven. “It may make sense for Hasbro to make some changes to the product line to try and ramp up some sales,” Coopee suggested.

Well, if there’s something the Easy-Bake Oven is good at, it’s reinvention: The Easy-Bake Oven is there when we aren’t even looking, and it's undergone a number of makeovers to freshen up and appeal to different generations. It’s easy to see why this toy has had such stamina, and makes it quite difficult to imagine an America without it. The Easy-Bake Oven presents a charming, low-stakes gateway into inspiring kitchen confidence. Every era has kids who’d like to learn how to cook.

Have any memories of your first Easy-Bake Oven? Let us know in the comments.

6 Comments

SMSF August 1, 2017
I had an aqua blue EZ Bake oven as a little girl. I loved the color much more than my neighbor's yellow version - why I remember this, I have no idea! I made flat little birthday cakes for my family. As I recall the cakes were awful but it sure was fun. I seem to remember one could make some kind of awful candy, too. Despite the questionable results, cooking with a hot light bulb is a fond memory!
 
Nora C. July 30, 2017
It's funny that there is no mention of the very significant change in the new oven. Since we no longer have hot incandescent 100 watt bulbs, the new ovens basically rely on chemical reactions to cook the food. You can't make your own recipes, they will not work. You have to use their expensive and somewhat gross mixes. That may be the biggest reason that they are not selling as many ovens.
 
Carrie R. July 28, 2017
Easy Bake Ovens are such fun! I considered gifting one to my nephew for his birthday, but the model at the store just looked to feminine. Hasbro should make the oven more look more uni-sex, and here's the biggie, they should do tie-in's with celebrity bakers. The mixes should be branded with the Baker, too.
 
luvcookbooks July 27, 2017
I loved my easy bake oven. It looked like a stove top w the oven underneath. Came with horrible mixes, baked in the heat of a lightbulb. Produced tiny spongy cakes like sweet pancakes. How I loved it.
 
BerryBaby July 26, 2017
Never had one. I started baking at age 5. My mom would place a chair with phone books on it next to the counter. She had the mix master set up with the ingredients and I got to put them in the bowl as she explained what we were doing and why. My mother would show me how to prepared the baking pans, pour the batter in and we'd put it in the big oven. I've been hooked ever since!
 
BerryBaby July 26, 2017
Forgot to mention I would kneel on the phone books so I could reach the counter.