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July 2002: Volume 44, Number 7

Creative Marketing: Neo-Cocooning at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show
by David H. Martin

Several photographs that illustrate this article are visible in the printed version of the article only. To receive a copy, please make a request at info@wcponline.com. Be sure to include the article title, author(s) name(s), the issue, your name and your fax number or full address in the email.

The 2002 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) was once again an island of prosperity in an uncertain business world, flourishing from continued low interest rates and other trends that favor home improvement of America’s two favorite rooms. Indeed, a recent U.S. Department of Commerce survey stated 70 percent of all construction and remodeling dollars go into kitchens and bathrooms. Also, a survey sponsored by CUNO claimed 20 percent of kitchen upgrades include water filtration.

Homebodies
Only seven months after Sept. 11, nearly 40,000 kitchen and bath dealers, wholesalers and retailers from the United States and abroad gathered in Chicago’s McCormick Place in contrast to 36,000 drawn to Orlando the spring before. Imagine a trade show with increased attendance, instead of the typical 20 percent decline experienced this year.

Keynoting this year’s show was America’s foremost trend expert and founder of BrainReserve, Faith Popcorn. In 1981, this famous forward-thinking New Yorker spotted and named the “cocooning” trend that never really left us, but faded a bit through the booming ’90s. Now, says Popcorn, cocooning is an old trend with new legs since that fateful autumn day, as people seek to spend more time at home with loved ones.

“Fear is feeding cocooning,” says Faith. Fear of travel. Fear of the stock market that encourages most people to invest in their homes instead of Wall Street. Fear of new perceived threats to our homes and personal environment. She claims 22 percent more Americans are eating at home since 9/11. She sees a related trend to cocooning called “atmos-fear,” in which concerns over polluted air and contaminated water stir up consumer doubt and uncertainty. She predicts success for products that protect people from “the harsh realities of the outside world.” Some of Popcorn’s newest predictions involve water. She says, “Someday, faucets will deliver water infused with complete nutrition.” She also predicts the emergence of “showers with aromatherapy for mood adjustment.”

In her latest marketing manual, “The Origin of EVEolution,” Popcorn claims that more than 80 percent of all consumer purchases now involve women: “Women will influence the purchase of $4.4 trillion in consumer goods this year.” Should small businesses give up in an era of consolidation? Not according to Popcorn, who sees a grassroots countertrend she calls “icon toppling.” She explains, “A lot of people don’t believe in big companies any more.” This could mean better times ahead for small retailers and dealers.

Integral filter faucets
At the 1993 K/BIS show, Franke introduced its Triflow integral filter faucet with separate hot, cold and pure handles, and a ceramic candle with carbon block core hidden under the sink. The company later added models with pullout hand spray and a standalone gooseneck filtered-water faucet. This year, it expanded Triflow finish options and showed its first “contemporary” kitchen faucet with a built-in filtered water feature. Franke, which uses Katadyn ceramic/carbon block filters and is rumored to be looking at carbonation, also showed Trifow faucets for the bathroom.

KWC introduced its line of Purejet kitchen mixers with separate water dispensers and pull-out spray for conventional water. First seen at Ideo Bain in Paris in February, Purejet systems also can include a carbonation hookup for dispensed sparkling water. KWC Faucets, of Norcross, Ga., is a subsidiary of KWC AG, Switzerland.

Jado launched its new Victorian Filter Faucet, a vintage-style faucet with activated carbon for taste and odor. Faucets come in chrome, bronze, brushed nickel and the company’s proprietary diamond finish. A 90-day filter life indicator and optional chiller are also available.

No changes
Moen, the integral filter faucet category leader, sat pat with last year’s line of PureTouch units with integral Culligan filters. Two models with pullout handles feature an electronic filter-life indicator with a “percent used” reading. Moen continues to run print ads in consumer shelter magazines on PureTouch, but backed off TV support in 2002.

American Standard once again showed its line of ClearTap integral filter faucets, which include bathroom as well as kitchen models in a choice of finishes. All models feature carbon block technology to reduce cysts and lead as well as taste and odor. They show an electronic digital readout on the spout that counts down “gallons remaining” in the filter’s life. The single-lever faucet handle delivers filtered water through a separate tube in the spout. Shifting the lever to the right dispenses filtered water. Kitchen faucets feature a unique deck-plate mounting system that lets owners change filters without climbing under the sink. Bathroom filter faucets offer a wall-mounted cartridge that must be changed out under the sink. All ClearTap faucets are cast-brass construction with ceramic lifetime disc valve.

Kohler is now in its third year in point-of-use (POU) water treatment. The Aquifer water filtration system mounts under the sink, like the Franke units. Twist-off cartridges house carbon block 0.5-micron filters that provide a constant 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) flow rate (compared with 0.5 gpm for Moen faucets) and rated for 1,500 gallons. Canisters are fitted with commercial brass fittings and braided stainless steel hoses that resist pressure bursts, sometimes associated with plastic tubing. Model K-201 is NSF certified for taste, color and odor. Model K-202 is also rated for lead. Kohler’s Wellspring Beverage Faucets have a gooseneck design. Homeowners may purchase a complete system or purchase the filter and faucet separately.

Category “no shows” in Chicago included Price Pfister, which abandoned its fixed faucet filter line seen in years past; Delta, which built prototypes but has never introduced a production model filter faucet, and Grohe, which is said to have “no current interest” in filtration. Hansgrohe, another upscale German faucet manufacturer, is rumored to be developing an integral filter faucet for sometime next year.

Decorative POU faucets
Concinity showed Mountain Products brand high-end, decorative POU faucets in polished nickel, brushed nickel, white and biscuit. The company also offers a choice of three faucet operating systems -- lever, push-button and dual-cross handle.

Opella exhibited its new low-profile line of POU faucets with ceramic, disc radio, dial handles. The whole body of each unit is made from durable celcon plastic.

Traditional-style POU water treatment
Waterpik showed its line of faucet filters, made to fit existing kitchen faucets. The 200-gallon faucet filters are rated for cysts, lead, taste and odor and begin at a suggested retail price (SRP) of $24.99. The units feature green/amber/red LED indicators for filter changes. The company again exhibited its Aquia Sanitizing System, which relies on ozone to sanitize kitchen surfaces and uncooked foods. Waterpik is said to be looking at other applications for ozone in the kitchen, perhaps including drinking water.

GE, Watts/Premier, CUNO/Aqua-Pure and USFilter/American Plumber all showed undercounter reverse osmosis (RO) systems in Chicago. Premier’s RO featured its new zero-waste RO system.

American Plumber Water Filtration Products (the Plymouth Products unit of USFilter) showed its new undercounter RO system (model WRO-3167), rated for up to 26 gallons per day (gpd). The company also showed its lines of granular activated carbon (GAC) and carbon block cartridges.

Aqua-Pure, Everpure, Kenmore (Sears) and American Plumber all showed undercounter POU filtration with dedicated faucets and quick-change cartridges. The Sears dual-stage undercounter unit (model 38465) is rated for lead, cysts and MTBE.

The Aqua-Pure DWS-1000 with quick-change cartridges is a 625-gallon capacity unit rated for cysts, lead, MTBE and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The company was to introduce a line of decorator faucets in June.

Sears showed the only distillation product at K/BIS, a countertop unit (model 34481). It’s a six-gallon per day countertop appliance with one gallon carafe, carbon post-filter and electronic monitor. The Kenmore Deluxe brand distiller carries a SRP of $179.

While GE, Aqua-Pure, American Plumber and other K/BIS exhibitors offer water softeners to the kitchen and bath industry, only WaterBoss (Hague) showed a line of softeners in Chicago this spring.

Instant hot water filtration
In-Sink-Erator (ISE) debuted its new hot water dispensers with filtration. Model HC1100 offers filtered hot and cold water. Model GN1100 provides filtered hot water. The company plans to back the product with a consumer and trade PR/advertising campaign this fall, according to ISE’s marketing manager, Dan Peterson. Units are available in nickel, chrome and white. Anaheim Products makes a competitive filtered hot water system last seen at February’s Homebuilders Show in Atlanta.

Built-in ice/water filtration
Frigidaire, Nokia Electronics, GE, Maytag, Jenairre, Whirlpool and Kenmore all showed in-cabinet water filters in Chicago, as standard features in their side-by-side refrigerators. All except Whirlpool and Kitchenaid chose to locate the filter in the fresh food compartment for two reasons. One, the consumer will find it a convenient, top-of-mind location to change the filter. Two, the lower temperatures in the fresh food compartment retard bacteria growth, which could occur if the filter was located under or behind the refrigerator.

Frigidaire (Electrolux) was the inventor of the “eye-level, in-cabinet” filter, which it named PureSource. Now in its third generation of ice/water treatment, called PureSource 2, an eye-level filter is now located up front, in the temperature control panel near the fresh food compartment of Frigidaire’s side-by-sides with ice/water service. PureSource 2 features twin carbon block filters, sealed in a single cartridge. The KX unit is said to “remove more contaminants by attacking even more herbicides, pesticides and mercury.” Twin filters are housed in a pull-out drawer and pop out at the push of a button. An electronic filter indicator monitors performance with a green/amber/red readout. The system promotes increased water flow through a new heavy-duty valve and large-capacity fill tubes. Frigidaire has also redesigned the ice and water dispenser on the freezer door exterior, to make it easier for consumers to fill pitchers, bottles and pots. PureSource 2 is available only in the top-of-the-line, Gallery Frigidaire side-by-side refrigerator/freezers.

The trend in all filtered water refrigerators is toward more sophisticated and more visible filter change monitors, which are increasingly seen on the front of the freezer door, or just inside the fresh food compartment. Selected GE and Frigidaire refrigerators have ice/water dispensers designed to fill pitchers and sports bottles.

LG Electronics USA, a North Korean major appliance manufacturer, debuted its Living Network System around its new Internet refrigerator. The Living Network is a wired, home Internet-based system that links other home appliances through the refrigerator, making extensive use of touch screens, electronic pen and voice messaging. Using these tools, consumers can check real-time grocery pricing, be reminded of scheduled events, and be informed when to change the refrigerator’s water filter.

Whirlpool and Kitchenaid side-by-sides feature water/ice dispenser “lock out” systems to childproof the front of their refrigerators.

Subzero, one of the last hold-outs in refrigerator water filtration, is said to be working with Kinetico to develop its first through-the-door ice and water system.

Coolers and POU filtration
Addi introduced its new countertop “Pour In” Water Cooler with a 1.7 gallon reservoir that fills from the top. Carrying a $99-139 SRP, the unit has no filtration at present but may be fitted with a filter at some point in the future, according to Addi’s German Algora. The company is also the first water cooler company to receive federal Energy Star ratings on its floor model water coolers.

Avanti showed its growing line of cabinet water coolers. Just two years in the business, the company now has eight floor models. It also sneak-previewed its new WD70F POU filtration system with cooled filtered water that was to be introduced in June.

Countertop dispensers
BevStar (Isoworth) showed its line of hot/cold countertop beverage dispensers at K/BIS. One unit offers a choice of chilled bottled water or carbonated chilled water, serving up to 300 carbonated drinks. Carbonated single-serve beverages are made from a variety of flavored syrups.

BevStar chose to “trial balloon” a prototype, through-the-door, beverage dispensing system in a side-by-side refrigerator at its booth at K/BIS.

Shower filtration systems
Only Sprite, the category leader, and Waterpik showed shower filters at K/BIS this spring. Sprite introduced its new upscale family of Royale filtered shower products, a new filtered hand-held showerhead with replaceable cartridges that will retail for about $49.95. Sprite also introduced the first packaged dechlorinating bath salts called Mediterranean Blue, which retails for $19.99. The bath salts contain Chlorgon, the same patented active ingredient used in Sprite shower filter cartridges, according to company president David Farley.

Conclusion
The 2001 National Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Chicago showed near-universal acceptance of filtered water dispensers and filter monitors in side-by-side refrigerators. While new players appeared in the integral faucet filter category, other faucet manufacturers remain unimpressed with the sales of early entrants. Next year’s K/BIS Show returns to Orlando.

About the author
David H. Martin is president of Lenzi Martin Marketing, of Oak Park, Ill., a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, e-mail: newage@attbi.com or website: www.lenzimartin.com