Automatic bread makers started to appear in American kitchens in 1988. Last year Welbilt, which calls itself "the leader" in the market, sold more than 500,000 of them, and expects to do likewise this year.
A couple of brands make not only the bread, but also the jelly to go with it, though not at the same time. (You do have to slice the bread and spread the jelly yourself.)
Although it's still not an inexpensive item, bread makers have come down in price somewhat. In stores around Baltimore, they range from $150 to about $400, depending on what brand and model you buy and where you buy it. Catalog shoppers and those who patronize television shopping services will find prices even lower, said Kimberly Rawn, director of communications for the National Housewares Manufacturers Association in Chicago.
At least seven companies make the appliance, which originated in Japan, said Rawn.
Panasonic has two models: one that makes a one-pound loaf of bread and another that makes a 1 1/2 -pound loaf. Nationally, they retail for $280 and $430, respectively, according to Panasonic spokesman Mark Johnson. These models are, however, selling at area cookware store for $239 and $379, respectively.
Welbilt's most popular model, with a dome lid that affords a view of the rising bread, sells for about $150. This same machine cost about $300 when it was introduced, said a company spokeswoman. The price has been driven down by popularity, resulting in increased volume, she said. It is available in area department and discount stores for $149-$159.
Zojirushi and Hitachi make machines capable of turning out jellies and jams as well as different kinds of bread. The Hitachi machine sells in this area for about $300; the suggested retail price of the Zojirushi, which also has cake and dough settings, is $379.