Housewares makers have set their sights on conquering inner space. They've seen the handwriting on the smaller walls of the nation's new homes and realize that their new products must help homemakers to use space more effectively in the kitchen.
So from the can openers which attach under cabinets, rather than taking up precious counter space, to all sorts of shelves and stacking units they have recognized the predictions of the National Home Builders Association that homes of the future will be smaller.
Attractive plastic stacking units, closet organizers and plastic baskets designed to let air pass freely and keep foods as well as other items in good order were shown throughout the show sponsored by the National Housewares Manufacturers Association. Merchandise should be available in department stores and cookware shops now.
Snap-in, moveable pieces for storage of kitchen items come from Transco, while Space Builder, from Closet Maid Corporation, offers stacking plastic baskets for storage of fruits and vegetables as well as other household items in tight spaces.
Wall-mounted storage units used like pegboards were shown by Wire World Inc., and basket carts were presented by Keter Plastic. All of these help the homemaker to bring order to her kitchen, even if it's a small one. And they're designed in mesh arrangements to let air circulate to prevent spoilage.
Both General Electric and Wear-Ever zeroed in on the can opener, offering models which are space savers. GE's Spacemaker can opener helps to eliminate clutter because it can be attached beneath the kitchen cabinet. It offers hands-free operation for opening tall cans, bottles and plastic bags. Wear-Ever's CanHandler is a portable electric can opener with a tangle-free coiled cord. It can be stored in a kitchen drawer.
Among the other new electrics are the Maxi-Mix high-powered portable processor by Maxim, which makes skim milk into whipped topping; Rival's electric steamer, offering precise timing; an electric mixer and dough preparation system by Moulinex with heavy duty portable design.
The Belgian Waffler by Munsey, makes the thick waffles introduced at the New York fair; and an electric clean water machine designed to make tap water better tasting, by Norelco.
A rechargeable, cordless electric whisk called the Power Whisk comes from Star Spangled Foods, and is designed with a balloon whisk, spiral whisk, beater and spatula. It can be brought directly to the range.
Rival has improved the Crock-Pot slow cooker to make it serve as a deep fryer as well. And all over McCormick Place, where the show is held, demonstrators were serving caramel corn from automatic poppers with caramel makers in combination with them.
Waring showed a four-way kitchen mixer which combines features of the blender and mixer for making omelets and pancakes, milkshakes, mashed potatoes, and the cakes and pastries usually made with a stand mixer.
Food processors continue to come with new attachments. The latest is a pasta maker for extruding various shapes from lasagna to spaghetti and noodles. Some cost as little as $25 to add to the current processing equipment.
RobotCoupe has introduced an eggwhite beater attachment. And KitchenAid, long known for its heavy duty food preparation center, is also making a multi-function food processor.
There's a new angle in the handles of cookware offered by Mirror with its Control 19 Helping Handle. The patented design is said to provide a more natural grip for improved balance, controlled pouring, easier lifting and greater safety in the kitchen when hot foods and liquids are handled.
The idea came from 19 degree handles used on industrial tools and sporting equipment where the angle follows the natural contour of the hand.
Among the new gadgets is the corn desilking brush, a delicate rubber brush offered by Clipper Mill; the popper-stopper designed to fit soft drink cans with all types of openings; and a taco shell fryer by M.E. Heuck Company for holding a fresh tortilla in a frying pan.
The Omelet Folder made of Teflon film can be set in a pan for easy turning of the omelet. The Dome convection cooking system can be placed over any pan to create the convection currents which cook foods faster.
Susan B. King, new director of consumer affairs for Corning, with a background in the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, commented that the consumer movement has moved past the confrontation era. It is now at a point where manufacturers in meeting foreign competition are putting a ''new premium on excellence.
''Here the interests of business and consumer converge. Better products which create bigger markets will benefit all of us - producers, workers and consumers, '' she said.