Companies On the Rise
Schmidt Brothers Cutlery
Making it Cool to Cut
Schmidt Brothers Cutlery wants to turn the cutlery category on its ear.
Deeming the cutlery business as dull, dry and pricey, Schmidt Brothers, which is run by brothers Jared and Jordan Schmidt and licensed to Hudson Home Group, markets cutlery that it says is fresh, innovative and design-oriented at an affordable opening price point. "There's room for more than 500-year-old German behem oths," said Rick Lapine, executive vice president and one of the owners of Hudson Home Group, referring to some of the biggest cutlery brands in the business.
Schmidt Brothers Cutlery, which launched in 2010 and debuted product in 2011, offers forged German stainless steel knives with a tweaked blade shape that is balanced and weighted and fits comfortably in the hand. It offers a variety of handle materials on several blade profiles: the stamped acacia series; forged German stainless steel; stone-cut forged with a non-stick stripe on the blade so food slides off easily; an all-steel blade with a flared handle that "forces" you into a pinch grip and stands up on the countertop; the Titan series of carbon steel blades coated with titanium; and the bonded teak collection. There are specialty pieces such as the Keramik line of ceramic blades with stainless steel handles, and a series of universal knife blocks in a variety of materials, including acrylic. Fifteen piece sets in the Titan series retail for $350 and in bonded teak for $400; open stock knives in the Titan range from $25 to $40 and in bonded teak from $30 to $50.
The Schmidt Brothers believe in an educational approach to the business that young people can appreciate. "We're bringing in a younger generation that loves being in the kitchen ... People want to know what they're buying and how to use it," Schmidt said. "We wanted to present that as a brand." The company conveys that message in a fun quirky way, with You Tube videos, for instance, that show the cutlery in use with names like "Tango with a Mango."
The brand has gained traction at retail. It created an exclusive line for West Elm and is also sold at Bloomingdale's, specialty stores and a big box store. schmidtbrotherscutlery.com
Welcoming Another Strong Year
Welcome Home Brands, now in its second year of operation, has significantly penetrated a number of national and regional key accounts since this time last year due to its spring introduction of peg-able bag packaging and a floor display merchandiser, said Richard Aslanian, co-founder and co-CEO, with Sam Sheppard. As of this fall, the paper bakeware company's products can be found at mass merchants, specialty stores and just about every place in between. Both high-end and mid-market grocery chains have picked up the line, and two department stores are about to roll it out, Aslanian said.
He credited the success of the brand with its affordability--retail prices start at $4.99 and go up to about $12--and the product's convenience; you can bake and serve in the paper bakeware. "A lot of people do baking and gifting," Aslanian said. "It's caught on." welcomehomebrands.com
DKB Household USA Corp.
Fresh food, healthy living and cooking at home are among the trends DKB Household USA Corp. continues to focus on for new products, which bodes well for its brands. "Zyliss and Cole & Mason are both at the forefront of these trends, especially as the consumers also expect quality, convenience and value at the same time," said Will Symonds, president, DKB Household USA Corp.
DKB continues its push into the U.S. market, growing its market share in all of the channels it operates in, said Symonds. "This is our third successive year of double digit top-line growth in the U.S."
The company's strengths lie in its core gadget business, as "the trade and consumers respect our quality and functionality," he said. Over the last three years the company has grown through expanded distribution of its core lines, development of innovative seasonal gadgets and products related to healthy eating, as well as expanding into new categories, such as cutlery under Zyliss.
Zyliss also enjoys a high consumer awareness in the U.S., he added. "We are excited about the future plans and potential for the brand going forward." This year, the brand added such products as the 3 in 1 Grater, 2 in 1 Handheld Slicer and the Smart Clean Chopper--"all three of these items demonstrate the core Zyliss brand attributes for easy use, easy clean and easy to store that we know our consumers love."
Cole & Mason also continues to gain market share, he said, and "has been a huge success for us over the last three years in the U.S. market." Its Ken Hom line of woks has also done very well.
And more brands are sure to come. "Our parent group is always looking for suitable investments and acquisitions to add to our existing portfolio of brands," he said. "Expect to see [DKB] enter new categories in the coming seasons." usa.zyliss.com
Infusing a Business with Fashion and Innovation
Epoca International, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based parent company of Ecolution and Primula, has experienced annualized growth of 25 percent over the past four years, a success Executive Vice President Brian Melzer attributes to a commitment to design and innovation.
The goal is to keep existing categories, such as non-stick cookware in Ecolution and tea ware in Primula, fresh and to push forward with innovation into new categories. Primula, for example, entered the infusion market this year with its Flavor It pitcher, a complete beverage system that comes with three removable cores, one for brewing coffee or tea, one for fruits or vegetables, and one filled with a keep-cool gel, allowing a consumer to brew black tea infused with mint and then keep it cool while on a picnic.
"We launch with partners who want to tell the story without discounting," Melzer said. Bed Bath and Beyond featured the Flavor It pitcher in 18 feet of window space in its Manhattan store on Sixth Avenue earlier this year and conducted demonstrations and gave out infused samples. "By allowing the retailer to tell the story it got consumers interested in innovation," Melzer said. "Now they're telling their friends about it," via Facebook and other means.
The company works on extending its product life cycle through design and utility patents as well. In 2009, it launched the Hydrolon cookware collection with a water-based non-stick surface. At the 2013 International Home + Housewares Show it will launch Rejuva, a premium non-stick cookware line, also with a water-based formula, whose release, Melzer promises, will last for years. It is also adding a fashion component to the line with matching matte colors on the non-stick surface as well as the exterior of the pans. The same fashion know-how will be applied to the new Push and Serve tea kettle from Primula. epoca.com
Focusing On Bakeware
While all of Mastrad's eight product categories perform well for the company, it's the baking and desserts group that will receive extra attention this coming year.
"There's a lot of bakeware on the market," said Tim Morgan, executive vice president of sales and marketing. "But ours is premium." Its silicone bakeware even has a patent on it, as the handles have nylon on them for rigidity so the product is easier to handle when placing it in the oven, preventing spills, he said.
Next year, a mini theme will be part of the product introductions, including bakeware for tartlets, brownie bites and more, as well as more pastry items. "There's definitely a need for it," and Mastrad wants to be more of a resource for that category, rather than only having one or two items, he said. "You are branding the product more."
Complementing the company's bakeware category is its brand new website, bakingwithmastrad.com. Launched two months ago, it's the first site that focuses on only one of the company's categories and offers product information as well as recipes for consumers. The company will also debut packaging for its bakeware.
One of the things that separates Mastrad from other housewares companies is its design and innovation, he said. Founder Mathieu Lion tells him that the company's team of engineers and designers in Paris come up with a new design every week, and it could be in any category--"nothing's off the table." mastrad.us
Keeping It Cool
It keeps wine chilled, but the Corkcicle's initial reception was anything but, after launching to the trade in the summer of 2011. Though the company had only prototypes to show at the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market that July, "we got great reviews," said Eric Miller, partner--and more than 200 new accounts. The next month, founder Ben Hewitt, partner Stephen Bruner and Miller had a similar experience at the New York International Gift Fair. "We had great out-of-the-gate results."
The product was "created out of necessity" by Hewitt, a lover of white wine. Hewitt wanted an easier way to keep his liquid chilled while he was sitting outdoors--without going back and forth to the refrigerator--and the Corkcicle was born.
Made of a BPA-free plastic with a food-grade nontoxic freezable gel inside, the Corkcicle looks like an icicle topped by a real cork (originally the top was plastic). And it's not only intended for white wine but red as well, as the room temperatures are usually still too warm to serve red, Miller said (the website gives the proper serving temperatures for a variety of wines).
The product has evolved since its introduction. Besides using real cork to top it, the packaging has also been enhanced. In addition, the company added colors to the Corkcicle, using six hues in plastic to top the Corkcicle. corkcicle.com
Products with Pop
Zoku, producer of the patented Quick Pop Maker, describes itself as "a collective of creative individuals who create things that will make our lives better through intelligent design and engineering."
The Quick Pop Maker, the company's first product launch, is a prime example of this group's creative energy at work. This product freezes ice pops in as little as seven minutes right on the countertop, without the use of electricity. It makes striped pops, yogurt pops or pops with flavored cores, in which the user can add fruit, candy or nuts.
Each Quick Pop kit includes six durable and reusable plastic pop sticks, each with unique ridged designs that allow pops to adhere securely, and with special drip guards to reduce the mess of eating. The user first creates a mold in the base unit and puts it in the freezer for 24 hours. He or she then removes the base and places the pop sticks inside the mold, and then pours juice into the mold.
A specially designed Super Tool helps to quickly release the frozen treats from their molds. The unit can make up to nine pops before refreezing the unit again.
Since the debut of the Quick Pop Maker in 2009, Zoku has let fly with two extensions to the line: the Duo Quick Pop Maker, with a more compact design than the original; and the Single Quick Pop Maker, which makes Quick Pops one at a time.
In the meantime, the original Quick Pop Maker has garn ered a number of honors. In 2010, it received an IDEA Silver from the International Design Excellence Awards, and an Excellence in Housewares Award as the top took and gadget in the United Kingdom. Last year, it received the Good Housekeeping VIP (Very Innovative Product) award. zokuhome.com
Drink and Be Merry
For more than 50 years, ThermoServ has been a pioneer in the insulated drinkware industry.
The company opened for business in 1956 by offering a black and gold coffee carafe. This product remains in the line to this day, a fixture in many restaurants throughout the country.
Beginning in 2002, ThermoServ expanded into insulated and single-wall drinkware. It has since established a leadership position in refillable, insulated drinkware, produced with double walls and foam insulation to maintain the beverage's temperature. ThermoServ products are now distributed by way of mass retailers, convenience stores, the health-care market, coffee shops and college stores.
Of particular note is the company's line of customizable drinkware. ThermoServ offers tumblers and mugs that can be customized with pictures or logos, which can be used for promotional giveaways, corporate events, executive gifts or recognition awards.
ThermoServ strove to underscore its market position in 2011 with the acquisition of PolySub from Sattler Cos. PolySub is a polymer that is used in sublimation transfers, a process involved in the permanent printing of images on products such as drinkware.
The acquisition underscored ThermoServ's mission to continually improve its products' quality. Jay Rigby, the company's CEO, said at the time of the PolySub deal, "We are committed to continuous innovation and outstanding service to maintain our position as a leader in plastic manufacturing and decorating, all of which provides our customers with quality products, unique designs, service, easy accessibility and economic freight dispersion." thermoserv.com
From its beginnings as a vendor of seasonal products, HMS Manufacturing has expanded into a significant player in the markets for laundry products, home-organization merchandise, storage products, waste products, and kitchen and sinkware items.
The company was founded in 1987 and spent its first 11 years in business focused on the seasonal business. It began to expand beyond this frontier in 1998 when it offered private-label laundry products through Kmart. The Kmart relationship extended further in 2000, when HMS was tabbed to manufacture wastebaskets and laundry products under the Martha Stewart Everyday brand.
In the succeeding dozen years, HMS has further grown both its product categories and its brands. Under its own stewardship are the Home Logic brand of laundry products, including baskets and hampers, and the Poet line of merchandise for laundry and closet organization.
HMS has added to its branded offerings through license agreements as well. Since 2009, the company has held the license for Hefty storage and waste containers. It debuted a complete line of Hefty-branded indoor and outdoor wastebaskets. The following year, HMS grew this program with the launch of Hefty Clear Storage Containers. hmsmfg.com