Volume 44 Number 3
Creative Marketing: POU at the Houseware Show -- Few Entries and Survivors in the Marketplace
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Charlie Couric, retired former president of Brita and cousin of NBC talk show host Katie Couric, once commented on the tendency of Housewares Show point-of-use (POU) also-rans to pin their hopes on “riding the coattails” of his company’s aggressive brand-building program, which spent as much as $70 million annually on marketing. “Good luck to them, but we’re still sewing the coat,” he said. Again in 2001, pitchers (or carafes) and end-of-faucet filters accounted for more than 93 percent of POU dollar sales in department and discount stores, supermarkets and drugstores across America.
And once again, Brita and PUR -- another big spender in consumer broadcast and print advertising -- together control more than 90 percent of all retail POU sales in the mass channels representing the U.S. housewares industry. The two are still “sewing the coat.” Brita will spend up to $49 million for consumer ads this year. Other established POU brands like Culligan and Waterpik command less than 8 percent between them in combined end-of-faucet filters and carafe drinking water products sales. Are their products noticeably inferior? Hardly, but their commitment to driving the business with ad dollars and solid merchandising is lacking.
While this year’s show -- held in Chicago on Jan. 13-15 at McCormick Place -- was represented by fewer new competitors in the POU category, some exhibitors reported modest increases in sales in the weeks immediately following the tragic events of Sept. 11. Elkay’s Greg Speer saw “a short-term sales increase in the first 30 days after” the terrorist attacks. David Webb, of Filtration Plus, reported “ an immediate large bump” in sales and said, “They are still slightly elevated months later.” Stan Magidson, of Genesis, saw a slight increase in retail sales after Sept. 11 as well.
Noticeably missing at the show was Culligan, whose commitment to the housewares retail segment is questionable. Meanwhile, one-time POU players Honeywell, Nordic Ware and Singer presented non-water treatment products.
Category leader Brita, with an estimated 80 percent market share, is promoting new pitchers and cartridges in print and TV ads. According to marketing director Mira Kim, Brita is introducing three new pitcher colors -- red, blue and green.
PUR introduced new versions of its Ultimate Filter line last year -- all rated for lead, TTHMs, cysts and taste. The two-gallon pitcher retails for $29.99. This year, the company introduced a new pitcher designed for baby nurseries priced at $24.99 suggested retail price (SRP). Paul Schacht, PUR’s category sales leader, says the P&G unit seeks product exposure in multiple departments.
Water Applications Ltd. (WAL) is standing pat with its stylish line of pitchers. Serge Heinich, the company’s owner, reported an agreement to provide replacement filters for Tupperware’s new line of pitchers, which are not made by WAL. Their pitcher filters do well in Europe and Africa, claims Heinich, and the company continues to pursue private label business in the United States.
H20 and a new Sunbeam licensee, Prestige Home Comfort, of Montreal, both showed pitcher filters in Chicago. The H20 pitcher is cartridge compatible with Brita. The Sunbeam two-quart pitcher will be aggressively marketed to discount stores and carries an SRP of $7.99.
Brita again showed its unit with built-in LED filter replacement indicator and an SRP of $35. Replacement cartridges sell for $16.99, or $29.99 for a two-pack. Brita’s Kim stated that most retailers who carry Brita pitchers also carry their faucet-mount filter.
PUR showed a horizontal-mount filter, introduced last August, available in white or chrome. According to PUR’s Schacht, it’s “less obtrusive than vertical mount models, and makes it easier to fill pots and pans for cooking.” The SRP is $39.99. This year, the company is focusing its advertising faucet filters and testing a new 30-second TV spot featuring both PUR pitchers and faucet-mounts, said Schacht, who stated that “PUR has the only faucet-mount and the only pitcher to take out TTHMs.”
Waterpik, once the category leader, showed the same two faucet mount filters as last year, with “elapsed time” and “gallons used” indicators. The F-7 carries a $29.99 SRP, said Waterpik marketing director Stanzi Prell.
CanPro, of Richmond Hill, Calif., introduced a new faucet-mount filter with KDF/carbon media rated for 200 gallons with water-use indicator and an innovative drinking water “fountain” feature. Owner Y.C. Chan said its SRP is $40-50. H20, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., will introduce a new faucet-mount filter, rated for lead and other contaminants, later this year.
Culligan, Omni and GE faucet filters weren’t exhibited in Chicago, reflecting the brands’ focus on do-it-yourself market channels.
Countertop filtration and purification
H20 again showed carbon filter countertops. (H20 combines GAC carbon with KDF redox media.) AquaVitae, of Newport Beach, Calif., also showed two KDF/carbon countertop POU systems.
Genesis showed the Ultratek countertop filter and several Sterling Spring countertop units for catalog distribution.
Filtration Plus showed a 27-oz. sports water bottle filter with hollow fiber membrane said to reduce bacteria, cysts and heavy metals. The unit is rated for 75 gallons. Brita and H20 also showed filter sports bottles.
Other notable POU drinking water products
Filtration Plus, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., showed its line of Carbon Plus coconut shell carbon block cartridges rated for multiple contaminants reduction. It also showed the NutriTech ceramic filter in a 15-inch stainless steel housing. The company also markets Dolton ceramic/carbon block filters, available in 10 ceramic colors and four decorative designs. It also showed terra cotta gravity-feed water units with ceramic/carbon filters. A prototype of a wall-mount (under cabinet) filtration system was on display as well.
AquaVitae exhibited a five-stage reverse osmosis system for undercounter installation. The SRP is $299. An optional disposal UV component is available.
Silver Lake Research, of Monrovia, Calif., showed its Watersafe test kit for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, pH and hardness. Watersafe uses dry test strips in antibody-based amino acid technology. Kits are sold to professional water improvement dealers as well as at retail outlets.
Coolers & filter conversions
Avanti Products, of Miami, showed its line of three refrigerated cabinet water coolers and one countertop model. The SRP’s for cabinet models range from $119 to $159.
Sunbeam electric water coolers were introduced in Chicago by Prestige Home Comfort. The floor model ($199 wholesale) has a built-in refrigerator and stainless steel tank. The countertop model ($99 wholesale) features hot, cold and room temperature water and takes 3- or 5-gallon bottles.
“Water cooler conversions will be taking place in kitchens across America with the introduction of Elkay Drinking Water Systems with Pure-Smart filter,” said Dennis Skully, president of Elkay’s Dispensed Water Division (formerly called MTM). The Oakbrook, Ill. division focuses on retail gravity feed filtration bottle systems in attractive cabinets.
The PureSmart water filter, the heart of the Elkay dispensing system, contains a new PID device that counts uses automatically. Rated for 150 gallons, the cartridge contains Microban media for bacteriostatic protection and carries an SRP of $24.95.
Ozonated water appliances
Aroma Housewares Co., of San Diego, unveiled an interesting water/air ozone purifier, claiming to oxidize bacteria and chemicals on foods and other items immersed in a separate container. The countertop appliance carries an SRP of $99.
H20 once again showed its Rio-Vita KDF-based shower filter with pop-in replaceable cartridge and LED filter-life indicator. Canpro Water Treatment Inc. showed a shower filter with replaceable KDF cartridge and manual backwash. A twist of the filter body releases dirt and sediment, according to the manufacturer.
Sprite Industries, of Corona, Calif. -- the originators and leaders in shower filters since 1988 -- introduced its new upscale line of Royale shower filters, consisting of filtered showerheads and handles featuring a variety of color and spray options. “The Royale units have been redesigned with contoured lines with rubber touchpads,” explained Sprite president David Farley. The SRP is $49.95. Sprite uses a patented filtration media called KDF Chlorgon that performs well under high water temperature and pH conditions.
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