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March 2003: Volume 45, Number 3

Builders Thoughts Turn to Water in the Driest State in the Union
by David H. Martin

Two for One Special:
Columnist David Martin visited two events in January. The International Builders’ Show, the second, is reviewed here and a link to his International Housewares Show review can be found on the home page as well as at the bottom of this article.

The 2003 International Housewares Show, held Jan. 12-14, was the last January show sponsored by the International Housewares Association as its annual Chicago exhibition moves to March in 2004. This is the trade show for the $75.3 billion U.S. housewares industry, which last year included $141.3 million in combined pour-through pitcher and end-of-faucet filter sales, according to HomeWorld Business. Key housewares channels include discount stores, department stores, warehouse clubs, specialty stores, grocery and drug stores.

The 2003 International Builders’ Show, held Jan. 21-24 in Las Vegas, is the annual trade show of the National Association of Home Builders. This year the show drew 70,000 builders and associates to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where the mood was optimistic in the face of continuing record-low mortgage rates. The show also featured the first WQA Pavilion at a U.S. event targeting non-retail dealer customers of OEM members. Builders are sold through wholesalers, big box home centers and lumberyards.

—The Editors.

Photographs, figures and/or graphics that may illustrate this article are visible in the .pdf file version of the article only. For the link to the .pdf file, scroll or jump to the end of the article.

One week after the International Housewares Show, another key segment of the residential water improvement industry convened in Las Vegas for the International Builders’ Show (IBS).

After years of steadily declining involvement by water softening and filtration suppliers, this year’s Builders’ Show marked a hopeful turnaround for point-of-use/point-of-entry (POU/POE) industry firms who supply builders and their plumbing subcontractors. Anchored by the Water Quality Association’s first “pavilion” at a U.S. trade show, more than twice as many POU/POE companies showed up in Las Vegas than at last year’s Builder’s Show in Atlanta. According to a National Association of Home Builders’ consumer preference study, 50 percent of new home buyers want water filtration systems in their kitchens—an amenity second only to microwave ovens.

Culligan, CUNO launch builder programs simultaneously
Two major players in water improvement introduced multi-faceted programs in Las Vegas to entice builders to offer water softening and POE drinking water systems as important new-home options, if not standard features.

Culligan’s “CleanWater Home” program kicked off a month in advance of the show with full-color, half-page ads in Builder Magazine, a leading trade publication reaching more than 90,000 builders and other contractors. Linda Halfmann, Culligan’s consumer marketing manager, described “Clean Water” as “the turnkey program on water (that) builders are looking for.” The program has many elements, including new “builder-oriented” literature, special training for Culligan dealers, and a variety of consumer promotional elements to be used primarily in builders’ model homes featuring Culligan products. These include counter cards for model home kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms; CleanWater window decals—a new drinking water faucet “display pod” to demonstrate choices of faucet finishes, and a consumer brochure geared specifically to new-home buyers. The company is also offering an innovative “Bottles for Models” program that give builders access to 16 oz. Culligan bottled water for customer giveaways. Culligan is also waiving water rental fees for participating builders who would like temporary use of Culligan bulk water coolers in models, design centers or offices. In conjunction with its CleanWater Home program launch at IBS, Culligan products were also featured in the Home Destinations 2003 show home—a 10,000-square-foot model home located south of Las Vegas—visited by thousands of builders during the show.

CUNO Water Group launched its own “builder program” for the line of Aqua-Pure water filtration systems. The program is built around offering builders a “free sample” of its AP-DWS250 undercounter POU drinking water system, which reduces sediment, chlorine and odor. Once installed in a builder’s model, the unit can be upgraded at minimum charge with any of five step-up Aqua-Pure cartridges, according to the company. CUNO’s Brian Feeney suggested that builders install the same “starter” filtration systems in all of their homes for under $100. Promotional materials are available for model homes including a counter card, faucet hangers and Aqua-Pure cups and bottles. CUNO showed a new line of decorative drinking water faucets in multiple styles and finishes. Its high-end carbon POE undercounter unit (Model AP-DW85) is rated for 1,500 gallons and reduces lead and cysts as well as chlorine. The Aqua-Pure product lines are sold through the traditional plumbing wholesale channel.

In addition to its Aqua-Pure product line, CUNO filters could be found in the refrigerators and instant hot water systems of its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers exhibiting at IBS.

Watts Premier Pure Water showed its ZRO-4 “zero waste” reverse osmosis (RO) system, ideal for desert homeown-ers. The unique system uses a booster pump and high-pressure membrane to deliver up to 25 gallons per day. Wastewater, rejected by the membrane, is efficiently recycled into the household hot water system. Bob Maisner, Watts vice president, spoke of the West’s imminent need to address such serious drinking water threats as MTBE, arsenic and, most recently, perchlorate: “Our industry needs to do a better job of addressing these issues to consumers and contractors. Education is the key.”

Sears rolls out its RO
Sears Contract Sales, the retailer’s division that services builders, showed its Kenmore Ultrafilter 500 3-stage RO system featuring an electric LED monitor; and available with POU faucets in white, chrome, black or stainless steel. According to Dave Schindeldecker, the Ecowater-made Kenmore RO units retail from $249 to $349. He also reported that the Kenmore water softener redesign initiated last year has been “selling very well” at prices ranging from $399 to $699 through Sears Contract Sales and at retail. Sears didn’t show its two distillers—seen at last year’s KBIS (the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show)—at IBS.

Sears did exhibit the widest variety of side-by-side refrigerators with chilled filtered drinking water at IBS including Frigidaire, Whirlpool, GE Profile and Amana as well as its own Kenmore brand. Whirlpool reported that it will begin offering consumers three levels of refrigerator-chilled water filtration next spring.

Moen Faucet reviewed its pioneering effort, now in its fourth year, of establishing integral filtered faucets for the kitchen. According to Moen marketing manager David Lingafelter, Moen spent three years researching consumer preferences before introducing its first PureTouch Professional Series in 1998. The revolutionary filter-faucet featured a 300-gallon, Culligan-made bayonet style cartridge, built into the pull-out spout. One year later, Moen added the PureTouch Classic, a rigid spout filter faucet at a lower price point. PureTouch sales have been steady (but, apparently, not exciting), according to Lingafelter, but the company remains committed to the category. In 2002, Moen introduced a companion 300-gallon POU series for the bathroom called Aqua-Suite. It consists of dedicated drinking water faucets with carbon block filters hidden below the sink cabinet. Aqua-Suite faucets are industry style leaders and available in a choice of 11 colors and finishes, matching Moen’s standard bathroom faucets. Aqua-Suite filtration systems are shipped with two style spouts—high and low. All Moen filter faucet products feature various water-use monitors and are sold through big box retailers as well as plumbing wholesalers.

Moen is again the marketing leader in integral filtration, running 15-second TV spots plus consumer and trade ads in support of Aqua-Suite in 2003.

In-Sink with the times
In-Sink-Erator introduced its new Series 1100 instant hot water dispensers with filtered water. With high-style faucets and a choice of two filters, the company has set a new standard for instant hot/cold water on tap. Nancy Wulf, vice president of parent Emerson Electric’s water products business, said, “We had a lot of requests for instant hot filtration in recent years. So we worked with CUNO to minimize the press drop typically experienced as water flows through a filter, as instant hot service demands good water pressure.”

The F-201R Chorine Taste and Odor cartridge has a three-month life. The F-510R Cyst Reduction filter has a six-month life. An automatic water shutoff value and sanitary quick-connect fittings make filter changes a do-it-yourself project. Model 1100HC dispenses both fresh filtered near-boiling water and refreshing drinking water, which can be linked to refrigerator icemakers. Both systems are available in three faucet finishes for upscale kitchens—polished nickel, satin nickel and white.

North Star, the plumbing wholesale brand of Ecowater, showed its Ultra Series computerized demand water conditioners along with an undercounter RO system with Watchman water quality indicator lights on the base of the faucet. LifeSource, a Pasadena, Calif., manufacturer of whole house water treatment systems, showed its alternative to ion exchange water softening requiring salt. Kohler again showed its elegant Wellspring POU faucets that attach to the company’s Aquifer under-counter filtration systems. Faucets are available in two designs and eight upscale finishes to match Kohler kitchen faucets including new Vibrant Brushed Bronze. Kohler offers a choice of three filter cartridges including a 450-gallon unit rated for volatile organic chemicals (VOC) and MTBE (ANSI/NSF Standard 53). Concinnity showed two designer POU faucets in bright brass and stainless steel with white plastic trim. Wedeco-Ideal Horizons showed several ultraviolet water sanitizing systems.

Six join WQA pavilion
In a move to extend its presence toward builders and other contractors, the WQA brought together six water-related member companies under its banner in Las Vegas, where the association hosts its own show later this month.

Morton showed its System Saver water softeners. Model MSD27B is a demand-controlled unit with a 27,000-grain capacity. Model MSS27B has a solid state timer and 20,000-grain capacity. KX Industries showed carbon block filter cartridges in Las Vegas. In March, it will launch new products to include microbiological treatment in the same convention hall during the WQA Show. Greenway Home Products showed some of the same water coolers seen a week earlier in Chicago at the International Housewares Show. Water Inc., master distributor of Everpure filtration products on the West Coast, showed lead-free POU designer faucets in a choice of finishes. It also showed the new EverBrew coffeemaker. Touch-Flow showed its designer style faucet line in a variety of finishes.

Kinetico chose the Builders’ Show to introduce its new 2020c compact non-electric demand water softener, available in five colors destined to make it the fashion-forward “I-Macs” of the softener industry. Contemporary accent colors include blue, cherry, lemon, lime and plum. Dimensions are a tidy 19-1/2” high × 18” deep × 8-1/4” wide. Yet the unit provides plenty of soft water for any home, thanks to its twin-tank design or two resin-filled cylinders. When one tank needs to regenerate, service automatically switches to the other tank to provide a continuous supply of soft water. Kinetico claims the 2020c is the first water softener in North America designed to operate with block or pellet salt. Kinetico dealers will offer customers convenient 8-lb.salt blocks—much easier to handle than 40-lb.salt bags.

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

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  WEB EXCLUSIVE: Creative Marketing—New Bridge to POU Spans ‘03 Housewares Show