Smithsonian magazine: Thermomix in USA question is “difficult to understand”

Important update November 2015:
Since writing the article below preparations have begun to start selling Thermomix in USA!
Click HERE to read more about the current status of Thermomix in USA 

The US press is catching up to what the world already knows: Thermomix is a kitchen machine with unrivaled popularity and a culture all its own.smithsonian questions why no Thermomix in USA

As 7+ million global Thermomix owners talk among themselves online, our friends in the United States are listening in. A culinary curiosity has been irreversibly piqued — chefs and savvy home cooks are starting to ask why Vorwerk does not sell Thermomix in USA.

Recently a piece about the Bimby phenomenon generated much interest from readers curious about Thermomix in USA.  Confusion ensued when the Portuguese article was syndicated by the US Wall Street Journal and US-based readers sought clarity about availability of the super kitchen machine.

Today’s follow-up article by Tuan C. Nguyen of the Smithsonian offers a more helpful perspective on the question of “Why is Thermomix not sold in USA” while striving for (but not always finding) clarity.

Thermomix in USA Smithsonian article

Curious about why there is no Thermomix in USA? Let’s explore these six findings from the Smithsonian article, quoted in blue:

the Thermomix is the rare gizmo that has, over the years, steadily amassed a devoted, almost cult-like following among gastronomes and casual foodies alike.”    — Yes! very true, and great point!

The beauty of the Thermomix is that its mixer bowl is augmented with a timer-controlled heating mechanism that enables it not only to cook, but also steam vegetables, melt butter and emulsify sauces and seasonings.Yes, But there’s more! The integrated scale, reverse functions and kneading functions are not mentioned. Too bad the writer was not able to test the machine himself!

the gadget’s rapidly rising popularity is mainly a European phenomenon, most notably in countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal, where the mechanical chef’s assistant even outsells premium iPad tablets — More research would have revealed the ‘gadget’s’ popularity extends to Australia, where 50,000 units were sold in 2013.

Interested buyers in the U.S., however, would have to purchase a version of the $1,327 ultimate cooking machine from an international classifieds site like eBay.”  — Oops! Is this really what Vorwerk wants? Definitely NOT a good idea. Beware of scammers. (Would eBay scammers continue to have a market if Vorwerk were to sell Thermomix in USA through legitimate distribution channels?)

Though its difficult to understand exactly why the Thermomix never caught on among the American populace, local loyalists do feel that the failing boils down to at least two big factors. Besides costing nearly a grand and half, a steep price point, the system isn’t as intuitive as your typical single-use appliance and even requires some degree of training. Considering that owning one involves a degree of personal investment, buyers aren’t just committing themselves to a machine, but a lifestyle. — Interesting points… how do Thermomix owners feel about this statement??

…because of a badly translated cookbook, no advertising or marketing, zero word of mouth and the absence of a well-informed and well-practiced teaching force, it’s Flop City for Thermomix in the United States. The few chefs who have this model use it occasionally, but mostly, it sits idle; the learning curve is too steep.— Whoa… is this true!? Does David Chang’s Thermomix sit idle at NYC’s Momofuku? And what about the 5 machines at the French Laundry? And about that learning curve… clearly it’s not too steep for those who own Thermomix in other countries?  What does this say about the willingness of Americans to learn something new?!

What’s not to love?
I love seeing Thermomix in the news! I love that it’s interesting enough to be mentioned in the Smithsonian magazine, and that the article mentions the blog you’re now reading as a source of information! But Thermomix is a super kitchen machine loved by millions around the world and each Thermomix owner will have his/her own reason for embracing the machine. Sadly, with almost any article written by someone who is removed from the story, and has not used Thermomix for a requisite trial period in a real-life setting, the perspective is incomplete and biased towards the few sources quoted. Don’t get me wrong people — I applaud Mr. Nguyen’s research, but there’s more to this story than meets the page.

Want more?


See 13 comments from people who cook with Thermomix:

  1. Mara January 14, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    I thought it wasn’t sold in the US due to some strange policies that made it even more expensive there. I know for a fact that TM21 was sold there once, met a girl who bought hers in the States (taught her how to use it… maybe that, too, was an obstacle to sales)

  2. ThermomixBlogger Helene January 15, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Hi Mara! Yes, if you read the full article on the Smithsonian he does actually mention that an earlier model was available for a short time but that Vorwerk withdrew it to profit better in other markets when the TM31 was released. The reasons that Thermomix is not sold in USA are complex and fascinating, and also not openly discussed. I know Vorwerk reads this page and it would be nice if someone from that office were to make a comment here one day to help bring clarity to the many readers who are always emailing me and asking questions which I’m not qualified to answer ;-)

  3. Madame Thermomix January 15, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    As usual, dearest Helene, you are right on top of Thermomix in the news! I love how you bring clarity to what the press is saying about our Best Friend in the Kitchen. It’s such a shame that Mr Nguyen wasn’t able to borrow a Thermomix before writing his article, isn’t it? The possible reasons for not marketing Thermomix in the US are , as you say, complex and fascinating. Could it be the fact that Americans cook by volume (cups and ounces) rather than by weight (grams), and that we are stuck in our non-metric ways? Only Vorwerk is qualified to clarify this one!

  4. ThermomixBlogger Helene January 15, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    Bonjour Madame — thanks for contributing to this topic :) Yes, i agree: the difference between cooking by volume vs cooking by weight is quite significant. Serious foodies in the US who might buy this machine don’t seem to mind. I think with the internet, more cooks in USA are expanding their horizons and converting recipes for themselves. Still, the bulk of the US population would be scared off by that, but they probably wouldn’t be interested in the machine to begin with… There are multiple reasons the machine is not sold in USA and I think the only way to know if it could succeed there, is to try again with a sales model that is adjusted accordingly to fit the market.

    I’m not sure if having Mr. Nguyen borrow a machine would have helped much. I’ve read past reviews by “testers” who took the machine home armed with nothing more than a few pre-conceived opinions. If they tried using their own recipes without knowing how to convert properly they failed. If using proper Thermomix recipes found online without having had the benefit of proper training/guidance and/or prior experience, they also ran into problems. It’s a gradual process of warming up to the machine in good time, at one’s own pace. I feel that when someone ‘jumps in’ cold, it’s not always going to give the best result. Let them fall in love, test the waters gradually and warm up to their comfort zone. At that point (usually after a “test period” has expired) is when the a-HA moment usually strikes.

    For me the a-HA moment really hit after I’d prepared several recipes in the machine and was washing up for the umpteenth time. I clearly remember putting the Thermomix in the sink, reaching for the tap, swirling water around the lovely high-grade stainless steel bowl and thinking, “OMG, it’s not that this thing is easier to clean than any food processor I’ve ever used, but I actually ENJOY cleaning it.” A light bulb went on and I realized why people are so in love and passionate about this machine. The weight of the jug, the way it fits so well in the hand, the tiny design details make all the difference … I’m not sure these can be gleaned from ‘testing’ it for the sake of a magazine article. Maybe, but maybe not. I think you really have to use it in legit, every day setting to understand the subtleties that add up to excellence beyond the sum of its parts.

  5. A Canadian Foodie January 15, 2014 at 7:48 am #

    Love the reflective addition to posting the link. Wish the writer had connected with someone from Verwork for an answer.

  6. Gina January 15, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    I am so glad i get your blog Helene … you always keep me up to date with whatever is happening in our Thermomix world … thank you once again!

  7. ThermomixBlogger Helene January 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Thank you Valerie and Gina :)

  8. Mara February 6, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    I have one Little thing to add, about the measuring: I remember the recipes in the EDC book for TM3300, they all were measured in cups and half cups using the measuring cup of the Thermomix as a refference (no wonder it’s called mc).

  9. Dina September 28, 2014 at 2:54 am #

    I do not have one Thermomix In fact I have two of this fantastic machines! In half an hour I can have soup, main course and dessert! And… I can even play with my daughter! In one object you can have all the kitchen inside it!
    It is true that when you have it for the first time you need some time to get used to it, however it’s the same thing when you have a new mobile phone, a new computer or tv… After that… It is just amazing! Time and money… You suave both as you do not spend too much time around cooker and money, as you can make a weekly menu and them just buy the right amounts of what you’re going to make!
    Oh! I forgot to tell you… I’m Portuguese and here thermomix hás a different nome: Bimby!

  10. ThermomixBlogger Helene October 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Hi Dina – thanks so much for stopping by here and sharing your unique perspective. I agree, it is a benefit that is not often mentioned, but I love to buy exactly the quantities of ingredients needed for a recipe. Saves money, and saves waste :-)

  11. Tony January 16, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    The Thermomix is a great machine . My mother sold them in the United States here in florida back in the mid to late 1970s . From what I can remember thermomix was a head of its time back then . People at that time just could not justify the price verse how easy it was to use and how many other appliances it would replace . Sad to say it never took off . My mother and our family loved the Thermomix .

  12. ThermomixBlogger Helene January 16, 2015 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi Tony — Thanks for your vote of confidence in the Thermomix! You are right… the previous model had a short life in the USA but things didn’t take off. (Your mother was certainly ahead of her time!) There are many Thermomix enthusiasts around the world who would love to see Vorwerk try again, as it’s such a shame our friends in the USA can’t enjoy the power of this super kitchen machine. Who knows… maybe the more modern digital features of the TM5 model would appeal to home cooks in the US? I regularly receive emails from readers in the US who would love to try Thermomix, so am keeping my fingers crossed that this will one day come to pass ;-)

  13. Julielk March 31, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

    I know that the article was over a year ago, but I am a person in the US who has a 3-year old Thermomix that I purchased new, not off of EBay. I love kitchen appliances, and after I found out about the Tmix, I was excited to combine many cooking tasks into one unit. I never could have done this before the popularity of the Internet; ordering the machine, finding recipes without local consultants, etc. would never have been possible for me 10 years ago.

    I love making things in it, although there are times when it does sit on my counter more than it should, in favor of my more familiar KitchenAid or Vitamix. And although I know that weighing ingredients is more accurate (especially in baking) than measuring, I still sometimes cling to the familiarity of 1 cup vs. 120 or so grams. It’s annoying to have to convert my recipes to metric, and the Vorverk cookbook recipes have not been to my liking overall (personal opinion).

    It IS very expensive, and Americans have been conditioned to pay less for things, despite inferior quality. And unfortunately, we have become a very disposable society. Unless you live in a major city, many American kitchens are larger than those in many other countries. There is not the same space-saving, all-in-one consideration. Personally, I am willing to pay more for something that I believe will last me 15-20 years. Most are not willing to, or are unable.

    Americans as a whole have gotten away from cooking real food (vs. store bought, processed, take out) – something that I hope is really changing. But when we do cook, many reach for slow cookers, mixers, pots and pans, and there is now a resurgence of the pressure cooker. The market for the Thermomix would have to be created, because this would be a new type of appliance for the American market; similar to the Multicooker that came out a year or two ago, but with many more features.

    It would be nice to have consultants near me. I get lonely cooking by myself, haha.