Volume 44 Number 4
POU/POE at Four International Shows in February: A Whole Lot of Water Between Paris and Atlanta
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Cultural and political differences notwithstanding, there exists a wide, watery world of contrasts -- and some striking similarities -- between the U.S. and French point-of-use (POU) drinking water industries.
In a single week in February, four international water treatment equipment related trade shows were attended by WC&P -- three in Paris and one in Atlanta, all of which featured POU and other products.
France is the world’s largest consuming country of bottled natural mineral waters of every description, so the POU side of the aisle clearly had its work cut out for it. In other words, the recent change in French currency from francs to Euros seemed far less trouble than trying to convince the French to stop “hitting the bottle” in favor of in-home filtration.
Interclima (Feb. 5-7), the European trade show for the “establishment” players in the heating, cooling, ventilation and plumbing industries, was held in three connecting halls in the Paris Expo complex across town from Aqua-Expo.
Ideo Bain (Feb. 5-10), convened in a separate hall near Interclima and featured fashionable kitchen and bath fixtures, including two integral faucet filters for the kitchen and bath. Like Aqua-Expo the public was invited but, in this case, only after three days of “trade pros only” traffic.
The International Builders Show (Atlanta, Feb. 8-11), the trade show for builders, remodelers and distributors of building products, including home water treatment was -- for the first time in many years -- without representation from the water softener and RO segments. This year’s POU field was limited to major-brand filter faucets and refrigerator water filters (see On to Atlanta...).
American brands in Paris
Meanwhile, two major U.S. retail brands -- Brita and PUR -- are engaged in an ambitious media advertising war in Europe and America.
At Aqua-Expo, the Omnipure line of POU/POE cartridge filters was represented by John Hardy of AllPure France, a recently formed subsidiary of AllPure Filters Ltd. in the United Kingdom. The company represents over 800 filter styles, according to Hardy. AllPure manufactures both housings for John Guest and stainless steel braided hoses, which it also showed. AllPure France targets independent distributors and dealers. It also provides a company website for plumbers -- www.plumbline.com
Hardy was optimistic about prospects for POU growth in France, citing the possibility of “more chlorination of public water” and “the high cost of bottled water” as positive indicators.
Also at Aqua-Expo, CUNO Europe S.A., showed a very broad line of commercial as well as residential equipment, from filter housings to a “scale stopper” polyphosphate injection system, from Water Factory undercounter and countertop RO systems to Aqua-Pure water softeners. CUNO introduced its new line of compact NEP polypropylene filter cartridges with automatic shut-off valves and sanitary quick-change feature. Alexander Kahlert, CUNO’s sales manager for France, said the new cartridge would target OEM faucet and appliance manufacturers as well as independent dealers and distributors. CUNO also displayed its BeveragePlus RO system for the restaurant industry, a compact unit for high total dissolved solids (TDS) water that reduces scale and produces up to 150 gallons of water per day.
Hé, homme de Culligan!
In a separate interview at Culligan’s national headquarters in suburban Paris, Christian Chaudron, president of Culligan France, traced the company’s French presence since 1960. “We sell through a 50/50 mix of some 65 company-owned and franchised dealers,” said Chaudron, “including 40 retail water stores under the ‘Boutique d’Eau’ name.”
The stores, generally located in high-traffic areas, added Chaudron, “create a link for customers, sold in the home” as well as displaying the extensive Culligan and Apic lines of water softeners, RO and carbon filtration, end-of-faucet filters and even carafes. Chaudron showed modular showroom displays, available to water store dealers.
Culligan also sells low-end filters through discount and department stores, which Chaudron defended as fertile ground for developing later step-up sales through Culligan dealers. “The market for water softeners in France has doubled in the last six years,” said Chaudron. “Over that same period, Culligan dealers have developed significant success in the delivered bulk water business to offices.” (Note: Bottled water deliveries to residences are not presently allowed in France.)
Culligan offers certified training for dealers who use their own installers. Dealers are trained to sell commmercial/industrial as well as residential equipment at the Culligan Training Center. All Culligan products sold in France arrive pre-assembled from plants in Bologna, Italy and the United States.
French Culligan dealers are organized into well-defined advertising cooperatives, as in the United States. Culligan coordinates mass mailings, telemarketing and other advertising, including outdoor billboards. “About 24-30 percent of dealer sales leads come from participation in local home shows,” said Chaudron.
Kinetico, systèmes de l'eau de qualité depuis 1970
Kinetico presently has 25 dealers in France but projects 50 dealers within the next few years. Lebacq’s responsibility includes all of Europe for Kinetico, which recently acquired his operation from an independent distributor. Kinetico is providing centralized installation and maintenance training and certification. Dealers share sales leads generated by Kinetico participation in 12 home shows. Lebacq plans to pioneer an equipment rental program in France, borrowing a proven U.S. dealer marketing strategy. “We project 15 percent sales growth in water softeners this year, and 14 percent growth in RO systems with built-in UV sterilization in rural areas.” (Note: Unlike in the United States, European RO systems place the UV component after the tank.)
In addition to Culligan and Kinetico, we had also intended to meet with official representatives of EcoWater in Europe -- as well as those from Austria's BWT Inc. -- but ran into a couple of scheduling conflicts.
European players in France
Grohe, rumored as developing an integral filter faucet for European and U.S. markets, instead showed commercial sanitary systems for eliminating Legionella bacteria from commercial buildings. One involves electrolytic production of chlorine onsite. Another involves UV disinfection. It also introduced a smart-building system to monitor water usage at all points of use, which allows for smaller piping, better pressure drop control and integrates disinfection systems.
Aqua-Expo featured Morocco as its international spotlight in an exclusive exhibit area, hosting several bottled water and POU companies including Eau Fraiche, which manufactures a self-filling bottle POU system sold in French homes and offices. The company buys the self-filling 5-gallon bottles from Israel and the gravity-feed carbon block filters from the United States, according to director Ari Ouanounou, whose business is based in Creteil, France. Lead filtration and RO systems are also available in the handsome cylindrical cabinet with hot and cold water taps. The Moroccan section was anchored by ONEP -- Morocco’s National Office of Potable Water -- the government agency responsible for modern water treatment facilities in its homeland, including ones incorporating desalinization. According to a spokesman, Vivendi is involved in a private-public partnership to construct and maintain the facilities.
Across town at Interclima, we visited with several companies involved in water treatment who are based in Europe. John Guest exhibited its line of quick-release fittings and cartridges. Protec showed its line of chemical products for commercial/industrial water treatment. Protec, founded in 1988 and headed by Marc Georgelin, is based in Crosne, France, currently focusing on an automatic chemical injection system against Legionella for cooling towers and hydronic heating systems and water testing kits. CTA, another French company headed by Serge Tournie, markets the CTA brand zero discharge RO system, manufactured by Electrolux, and targets commercial kitchens. The compact unit is 80 percent efficient and makes up to 200 liters of product water per hour. Novelles Technologies, Marines, France, showed a permanent closed-loop water filtration system for central heating systems plus an automatic pressure maintenance system that meters necessary treatment products for exterior boiler rooms. Gruenbeck, a German company, showed a chemical-free sanitizing system for domestic and commercial hot water systems that combines ultrasound and UV to eliminate Legionella bacteria. Reflex and ELBI S.p.A. showed a broad line of steel pressure tanks for the water improvement industry.
BWT/Permo exhibited a complete line of residential and commercial water improvement products from its large island booth at Interclima, including softeners and UV. It also showed electronic selling tools and point-of-purchase displays for dealers.
Judo-France is a major German manufacturer of water improvement products for home and industry that exhibited at Interclima. Residential products shown included RO systems and water softeners, including one with a BioQuell bactericidal system to fight controversial heterotrophic bacteria. Commercial products included electronic scale removal and a complete line of carbon-based filter cartridges.
Brea Sa, based in Maure De Touraine, France, is a distributor of many water improvement products sold in-home under the Brea brand. Founded in 1988 by Pierre Satin, it buys products from TGI, Electrolux and Hague. Brea sells through a network of franchised dealers, primarily in the western half of France. The company emphasizes dealer training and telemarketing and home show marketing to develop sales leads.
Dieau, based in Cebazat, France, met with WC&P editors at Aqua-Expo to discuss plans for its Diva stainless steel cabinet water cooler with self-cleaning water supply circuit that kills bacteria automatically in 95 degree water for 10 minutes. Marc Dietschi is its chairman.
Down at Ideo Bain
About the author
FYI: Aqua-Expo 2003
EXTRA: The French connection
Factors Retarding POU Growth:
On to Atlanta…
After three days of show trotting in Paris, I arrived at the International Builders Show in Atlanta on Saturday morning to check out new developments in water improvement for home builders and remodelers. I found only one.
Clean hot water on tap
Clean water, ice at the door
Clean water from the faucet
Kohler showed its Aquifer Water Filtration System with Wellspring Beverage Faucets for the third consecutive year. The undersink filter is rated at 1,500 gallons and features carbon block technology in a cartridge rated for taste, color, odor, cysts and lead. Flow-rate is excellent at 1.5 gallons per minute. The graceful Wellspring faucets have a look of quality and come in three metallic finishes.
—David H. Martin