De’Longhi America is focused on continuing to innovate
By David Gill
Mike Prager, who has been president and CEO of De’Longhi America since January 2012, has described the company’s culture as “born to do.”
In an interview with HFN, Prager defined this culture as a marriage between the company’s engineering and design resources with its entrepreneurial spirit. It is this spirit that will carry the company forward in the New Year, Prager said.
It is also the spirit that Prager has been fostering since he took over the leadership of the U.S. arm of De’Longhi Group, whose global headquarters are in Treviso, Italy. “The things we have focused on are tapping into the company’s engineering and design resources globally, using consumer insights to drive product development, really focusing on working collaboratively with our retail partners and aligning with the corporate born-to-do culture and spirit,” he said.
On a global level, De’Longhi is recognized as an innovator in design and technology. But to Prager, it’s the company’s entrepreneurial attitude that has made it a force to reckon with in its various product categories.
Describing what entrepreneurship means at De’Longhi, he said, “I think it has to do with moving deliberately, but quickly. We use a variety of inputs to drive our decision making, and we try to balance our analysis with speed. We try to make complicated things a little simpler. We’re taking on a lot of things carefully, but aggressively.”
These strategies are also a continuation of what De’Longhi has based its business on through its more than a century in business. Founded in Treviso in the early 20th century as a supplier of machine parts, the company has expanded through the decades to become a global supplier of home-comfort products and small kitchen appliances. It has been present in the North American market since 1980, supplying premium-level products to a variety of retail channels.
De’Longhi has recorded successes in engineering and design through the years, but it is more than engineering and design that are behind its product launches. “Across our businesses, we have been using consumer insights to drive our product development,” Prager said.
One notable example of this is the company’s line of espresso makers, a category in which it has established a major foothold in North America. Prager noted that De’Longhi has done much research into coffee use by consumers. “When you see the focus we’re putting on milk-based drinks and making gourmet specialty coffee shop-type drinks that consumers can do at home with amazing milk technology, those products specifically relate to the knowledge that we have about the North American market,” he said.
Not only is De’Longhi using research to keep close to its consumer base, but it is also working collaboratively with its retail customers. “We are getting closer to our retail partners,” Prager said. “We’re making progress across all of our businesses with a variety of retailers in all channels.”
Already the foundation of its global business, these strategies will be the drivers of De’Longhi’s business as it begins the New Year. “Our focus is on innovation and being in the premium segments of the categories we compete in, whether it’s coffee or kitchen electrics or home comfort,” Prager said.
One key goal De’Longhi will pursue this year is the expansion of its Kenwood brand of small electrics in North America. The company launched the brand, which De’Longhi Group acquired in 2001, into the U.S. market at the 2013 International Home + Housewares Show.
The Kenwood collection includes kitchen machines (which combine blending and food processing), the Triblade hand blender line and the Multipro grouping of food processors. “We will continue to build Kenwood in North America across the key categories in which the brand has strength,” Prager said.
In April 2012, De’Longhi purchased the license to the Braun brand for small appliances from Procter & Gamble. However, Prager said it is still premature to put a timetable on when a Braun line in these categories will appear on these shores.
Regarding home comfort, historically the oldest line in De’Longhi’s product portfolio, “we think there’s great opportunity here considering that those businesses have been commoditized over the years,” Prager said. “This offers good opportunities for the premium segment, whether you’re talking about heaters, air conditioners or humidifiers.”
The company’s retail strategy of broad distribution across channels will continue going forward as well, Prager said. “We can’t particularize our business to any one channel or set of channels,” he said. “Different consumers find different retail environments appealing, which is why you see a whole set of formats in North American retailing.
“Certainly, consumers are looking for great service, a simple experience and great products in a wide range of offerings,” Prager continued. “And that’s what De’Longhi is focused on providing.”