June 2001: Volume 43, Number 6
Creative Marketing: Multi-Point POU Goes Mainstream at Kitchen & Bath Show
by David H. Martin
Suddenly point-of-use (POU) is welcome all over the home -- from the kitchen sink to the refrigerator chilled ice and water dispenser to bathroom faucets. Major appliance and faucet manufacturers continued to upgrade and expand their product offerings in POU water treatment shown at the 2001 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) held in Orlando, Fla., April 27-29.
Some 40,000 kitchen/bath dealers, plumbing wholesalers, builders and remodelers attended the event, which focused on high-end remodeling of kitchens and bathrooms.
Faucets with filters
In the mid-1980s Franke introduced, its Triflow integral filter faucet with separate "hot," "cold" and "pure" handles. A ceramic candle with carbon block core was tucked away under the sink. Franke later added models with pull-out hand spray. This year, it expanded Triflow finish options and, said Franke's Ronald Lemme, will soon introduce a "contemporary" kitchen faucet with a built-in filtered water feature. For the first time, Franke also showed a selection of integral filter faucets for the bathroom in nickel and stainless steel with under-sink mounting.
Moen, which first showed kitchen faucets with built-in filtration four years ago, once again leads the filter faucet category with its extensive line of PureTouch units with integral Culligan filters. The PureTouch line features two models with pullout handles. Both offer an electronic filter-life indicator with visual and audible signals. Price Pfister, the other pioneer, continued to show declining commitment to the category. PF's Steve Nadler said, "We decided not to display our filtration faucet at K/BIS because we are not actively promoting it. More people seem to prefer pull-out filter faucets and we only have a fixed model."
American Standard has greatly expanded its line of ClearTap integral filter faucets to include bathroom faucet filtration 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. Like high-end Moen filter faucets, ClearTap features a digital readout on the spout that counts down "gallons remaining" in the filter's life automatically. The single-lever faucet handle delivers filtered water through a separate tube in the spout. Shifting the lever to the right dispenses filtered water. The ClearTap kitchen faucets feature a unique deck-plate mounting system that lets owners change filters without climbing under the sink. The ClearTap filter faucet for bathrooms is a wall-mounted cartridge that must be changed out under the sink. All ClearTap faucets are cast-brass construction with a ceramic lifetime disc valve.
KWC faucets "teased" the kitchen and bath trade in Orlando, with literature promising a radically different kitchen faucet design that will combine filtered water and carbonated filtered water. (That should put a little fizz into the category!) No prototype was shown in Orlando. Grohe is also said to be working on a filter faucet design.
Faucets with a finish
Twenty years ago, bathroom wallpaper was introduced that coordinated with Kleenex box colors. Moen topped this with dedicated bathroom POU faucets that match finishes of their regular bathroom faucets. Called PureTouch AquaSuite lavatory faucets, the separate carbon block filter, made by Culligan, is mounted beneath the sink and "provides instant, visual feedback on filter performance."
Mountain Products showed a wide range of 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, pushbutton and dual-cross handle. Concinnity showed another selection of high-style POU faucets, designed to coordinate with separate faucets in the kitchen and bath. Neither company provides filter cartridges with its faucets.
Kohler again displayed its unusual, stylish approach to water filtration. The Aquifer water filtration systems mount under the sink, like the Franke units. Twist-off filter cartridges house carbon block 0.5 micron filters, which provide a constant 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) flow rate (compared with 0.5 gpm for the Moen and Price Pfister filter faucets) and are rated for 1,500 gallons. The canisters are fitted with commercial brass fittings and braided stainless steel hoses that resist pressure surge 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. Wellspring Beverage Faucets by Kohler are of handsome gooseneck design. Homeowners may purchase a complete system or purchase filters and faucets separately.
Traditional POU 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 of $24.99. The units feature green/amber/red LED indicators for filter changes. Waterpik showed no shower filters in Orlando, but two models were available at suggested retail prices of $24.99 and $33.39. Like last winter's Housewares Show, the company showed a teaser prototype of its new bactericidal, countertop appliance for sanitizing produce, poultry and countertops. The product will go to market later this year at a suggested price between $159 and $229.
Aqua-Pure (CUNO), EcoWater, Everpure, Kenmore (Sears) and ProLine by WaterBoss (Hague) all showed undercounter filtration systems, including reverse osmosis (RO) drinking water appliances. The Aqua-Pure DWS-700 drinking water cartridge is a 450-gallon capacity unit, rated for MTBE and other volatile organic compounds. It carries a suggested retail price of $234. Aqua-Pure also showed stainless steel UV units for the plumbing trade. GE showed two undercounter POU systems, including one RO system.
Built-in ice/water filtration
Frigidaire, GE, Maytag and Kenmore all showed in-cabinet water filters, as standard features in their side-by-side refrigerators. Frigidaire and Kenmore also have in-cabinet water as part of top-freezer models with through-the-door ice/water service. All of these companies chose to locate the filter in the fresh food compartment for two reasons. One, the consumer will find it a convenient 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.
Whirlpool showed two configurations of water filtration -- an in-cabinet filter in selected top-mount refrigerators and a beneath-the-grille filter in side-by-side refrigerators. Both styles supply icemakers with filtered ice as well as chilled drinking water.
Frigidaire, inventor of the PureSource "eye-level in-cabinet" filter, is now in its third generation of ice/water treatment -- the PureSource 2. The redesigned filter is now up front, in the temperature control panel located in the fresh food compartment of Frigidaire side-by-sides with ice/water service. It features twin carbon block filters from KX Industries, 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 pullout drawer. An electronic filter indicator monitors performance with green/amber/red readout. The new system promotes increased water flow through a new heavy-duty valve and large-capacity fill tubes. Frigidaire 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 new generation
Kenmore (Sears Contract Sales) chose to introduce a new generation of electronic water softeners made by EcoWater. The new units communicate operating information on the LED panel in three languages: English, French and Spanish. Dramatic contoured styling features a sloped front deck. The units feature a new, faster-turning DC motor for improved water efficiency, and a 45,000 gallon capacity -- the largest at retail locations -- according to EcoWater spokesman Jim Suomi. In its own booth, EcoWater displayed a different style water softener. It remains to be seen if the new Kenmore style unit will be adapted and sold by EcoWater dealers or by the private label customer, General Electric.
CUNO showed a timer-controlled Aqua-Pure water softener for plumbing contractors. WaterBoss offered its charcoal-gray ProLine cabinet-style softener for plumbers and well drillers. It also showed its line of retail compact water softeners, including models with iron filter, carbon filtration and acid neutralizer. GE showed no water softeners. Officials would not comment on why.
The 2001 National Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Orlando demonstrated that POU can be found "all over the house" these days, not just in the kitchen or wetbar. Major appliance and faucet manufacturers are determined to make it happen, in a variety of stylish and creative ways. Next year's K/BIS Show returns to Chicago.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or website: www.lenzimartin.com
EXTRA: Kitchen and Bath Industry Numbers
Water treatment is still a minor category -- behind major appliances, surfaces and cabinets -- in the kitchen industry. The average kitchen/bath dealer project ranges from $27,640 to $30,599. But interest in POU is definitely rising, as an integral part of contemporary kitchens -- and bathrooms, where the average installation is $12,355.
Even as the economy lags, remodeling figures continue to rise, according to Kitchen & Bath Business' 2001 Market Forecast. KBB projects a total retail value of $48 billion in remodeled kitchens for this year, translating to a 17.4 percent increase in spending. Mid-end kitchen remodeling is forecast to grow 12.8 percent, while spending on high-end kitchens is projected to increase 28.5 percent. The reason: Baby boomers have reached prime remodeling age, and have historically not skimped on spending.
The same source, however, released less optimistic figures for February 2001, stating just 24.1 percent of kitchen/bath dealers surveyed reported more sales this year than last. Fifty percent of home centers, a growing force in installed kitchens and baths, reported an increase. Major appliance sales dropped 14.2 percent in February 2001 compared with the same period a year before.