Saké, or rice wine, is the national drink of Japan. It is sold in large volumes at liquor shops and is served warm and cold in a small ceramic flask called Tokkuri. Saké’s flavor can range from dry to sweet, but it is primarily known for its smooth and mellow taste.
Recent popularity has brought saké to new markets around the world, specifically the United States. Ginger Wine & Spirits, a saké distributor in Florida recognized this trend and identified a new market, the home, for their flagship product, the Mr. Saké consumer saké warmer. After seeing their saké sales grow every year, Ginger Wine & Spirits partnered with Speck Design to bring the saké warmer to the home, providing customers with an appliance they could keep in their kitchens.
With Speck Design’s experience developing products for international clients such as Nissan Motors, Nike, Mitsubishi, Funai, and Extron Electronics, Ginger Wine & Spirits asked Speck Design to enter into an exploratory development phase to identify heating and dispensing options for their Mr. Saké consumer saké warmer. Speck Design brought clarity and focus to the product through secondary research efforts, brainstorms, full-scale models, and product layouts.
Speck Design was challenged to:
In addition to addressing these key factors, Speck Design needed to formulate a plan with international manufacturers to produce a mechanically complex product that translated into an easy-to-use and sensible product for the home.
The Speck Design team began the primarily ID-driven process with information gathering efforts including surveying similar products, researching applicable technologies, and clarifying the details within the project scope required by Ginger Wine & Spirits. The holistic approach required “reverse engineering” of similar products to uncover current practices. By thoroughly researching coffee makers and double boilers, Speck Design collected significant data in order to better address the needs of Mr. Saké for home use.
The team engaged in several brainstorming sessions to generate ideas and point to design opportunities. The engineers and designers collaborated to account for all aspects of functionality, human factors, technologies, and manufacturability concerns.
The ideas and concepts were then developed into foam models and full-scale 3-dimensional mock-ups for further evaluation. Smaller details like buttons and switches were included in the mock-ups to show thoughtful details and to help address concerns surrounding ease of use. The models were also painted potential colors and patterns to exemplify a final product.
Through careful research, deliberation, and testing, the team arrived at a Japanese-inspired solution: a detachable tray that held the ceramic Tokkuri bottle. The tray contained a magnetic plug that provided power to the product. Once the saké was warmed to the desired temperature, the plug could then be removed by the user without disrupting the presentation of the tray. The tray also had a sensor that measured the temperature of the liquid inside the Tokkuri bottle, which is critical to drinking the product at the perfect temperature.
Our solution was “new” and ahead of its time - notably through the use of a magnetic power cord (similar to the one featured in the Intel Mac) and the tray that was designed to heat two Tokkuri flasks at once.
Mr. Saké was successful in the marketplace and went on to win the Best New Product Award at the Gourmet Housewares Show in New York in 2005 in the Cookware-Bakeware-Electrics category.