By Andrea Lillo
SEATTLE–With its new design-oriented brand, called ärta, Chef’n has begun its push into new categories such as entertaining as it reaches beyond its established food prep business.
The new brand will also court a younger consumer and allow the company to offer products with more of a tabletop focus as well.
The food prep area is “really important to us,” said Bob Ludeman, vice president, and is about 95 percent of its business. But as part of its “master plan,” Chef’n also wants to address the entertaining and cleaning categories. “It’s how we want to compete,” he said, and the strategy will allow the company “to expand beyond our basic accounts.”
Addressing the younger, hipper consumer, the ärta line launched exclusively with its grinders late last fall and is now open to wider distribution. “People are more relaxed about entertaining but still want to be stylish,” Ludeman said. “There’s not a lot of inspiring design out there unless you’re going to sophisticated design shops,” he said, and then the price points are usually high. With ärta, the company wanted it to be both design-oriented and have accessible price points. Chef’n introduced the ärta line to its sales force during the recent Gourmet Housewares Show, and while five grinder styles—Dolce, Bolero, Primo, Forte and Gusto—are part of the initial launch, other categories will follow this fall.
Barware is one area that has “a lot of opportunity,” Ludeman said, and the company is also exploring outdoor living and grilling products. Already such items as serving, salad and multifunctional bowls have been under development.
The new brand also will see new materials. While the Chef’n brand uses such materials as silicone, stainless steel, plastic and rubber, ärta will include ceramic and wood—materials that have more of a tabletop focus, he said. As a result, the company is contemplating exhibiting at an upcoming tabletop show.
Dinnerware, however, is not part of its tabletop plan. “That market is more well served,” Ludeman said. And though a lot of the ärta items lend themselves to gifts, “we’re not into gifts” either.
Ärta will target more design-oriented retailers or furniture and museum stores that don’t sell traditional housewares but may have more design-oriented items, Ludeman added. “We need those different retailers to drive the brand and reach a different consumer segment,” Ludeman said. “We can’t keep reaching out to the same consumer.”
Its cleaning group—called Cleangenuity—will get redesigned and relaunched early next year. “Price points are very sensitive in [the cleaning] business,” he said. “The retail space is more limited.” The line will have five core products—including a dish rack, soap brushes and a paper towel holder—and the company “expects the cleaning category to continue to grow,” Ludeman added.