The Slow Death Of the Microwave

Today, approximately 90% of American households own a microwave oven. The first microwave — the Raytheon “Radarange” — became the first commercially available microwave in 1947. It was 5’11” tall, weighed 750 pounds, and cost about $5,000 ($64,838 today). Of course, that microwave wasn’t for residential use, but it got the ball rolling. Now, some three-quarters of a century later, the microwave is on the decline. The truth is, Americans are tired of the microwave. Sales have fallen or remained flat every year for nearly a decade, with sales tumbling 40% since their peak in 2004. The biggest factor behind the decline in sales of microwaves is that Americans just aren’t using them as much anymore. A shift in eating habits that favors freshness and quality over speed and convenience has left a growing number of microwaves just taking up space on kitchen counters. Frozen meal sales have either fallen or come in just about flat since 2008, while interest in cooking has become a national movement. Today, the go-to kitchen gear includes slow cookers, instant pots, and WiFi-connected smart ovens. So, is the microwave’s goose cooked? Not exactly. While new microwave sales may be falling, Americans aren’t throwing out the ones they have. Instead, they’re just buying new ones less frequently, mainly because technology has made the lifespan of the average microwave much longer. So, while microwaves will no doubt become relics of the past somewhere down the road, don’t look for them to disappear anytime soon.