Roman Empire

29 Jan, 18

Neighbouring food and car industries have helped the Bertazzoni brand develop and now it plans to accelerate UK sales

Italian cooking brand Bertazzoni has been in the UK since 2014, having first struck up an OEM partnership to make Britannia Living range cookers. The Blackpool-based manufacturer then started selling the Bertazzoni brand. When Glen Dimplex Home Appliances acquired Britannia Living, Bertazzoni became part of its Range Cooker division, joining models from Stoves, Belling and New World. It saw the brand at the top-end of a portfolio which spanned £800 to £5000 for a range cooker.

But last year, the company struck out on its own in the UK, with a subsidiary headed up by UK & Ireland managing director Maurizio Severgnini, as part of a group strategic devision to open Bertazzoni companies in European markets. While the company had achieved success in the UK with GDHA, Bertazzoni felt the business could build on these foundations. It opened a 1,600sqft office and showroom space on the Wirral to further grow sales. Chief executive of Bertazzoni Paolo Bertazzoni explains how the brand stands out among the premium appliance manufacturers: “Many brands are focusing their efforts on the convenience, on the price. We want to hit a different target. Our broadest aim is to offer pleasure in cooking. We have a great advantage in the fact that cooking is something very emotional. We feel it and we think it is a great advantage to be a manufacturer of cooking products. The performance is very important but the same time; we think it is extremely important that the product has personality. People cook with their heart. They cook with passion and this is a great advantage.” Based in an area renowned for food and automotive engineering, both themes are recurrent in the fortunes of the business.

Home comforts

The family-owned business has been founded since 1882 and is currently led by the fifth and sixth generation of the Bertazzoni family. It was started by Francesco and his son Alberto Bertazzoni, who originally made scales for the pharmaceutical and cheese industries but were inspired by train furnaces to create a domestic woodburning stove. The wedding of the third generation Bertazzoni, Napoleone to a rich cheesemaker’s daughter Angela saw her family finance a factory in 1909. Fifth generation Paolo Bertazzoni points out: “It was a loan that was then returned, due to the success of the new venture.” And the production of Bertazzoni woodburning stoves began in earnest.

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Automotive inspiration

But it was the break out of World War 1 which saw the transformation of the business from artisan manufacturer into large scale production, as engineer Napoleone Bertazzoni was sent to work in the Fiat factory. There he learnt about mass production and returned to the business to apply it to range cooking. vice president of design Valentina Bertazzoni comments: “Inbetween the two World Wars, the company was able to produce and ship around 80,00 woodburning stoves. Considering the times and the market was fairly local, that was a big number.” Around this time, the Bertazzoni trademark was also created, making it is one of the oldest brands in Italy, and gas cookers were produced, with the company also beginning a move into export. Valentina Bertazzoni adds: “Today Bertazzoni is sold in over 60 countries in the world. We cover five continents and we have a good distribution with a third of the market in the Americas, a third in Europe and a third in Middle East and Asia.”

And to meet the needs of its customers, while combating the challenge of more competitively-priced products, Bertazzoni looked to the car industry again. It adopted the lean just-in-time processes of Toyota which now sees its range cookers made to order. Paolo Bertazzoni comments: “We felt it met the need of reaching higher end customers with products that were more designed to their needs and more flexible in their variation. The product is pulled by the market to the factory. We were one of the first in our industry to adopt it.”

In fact, the automotive industry has even helped the company achieve a high standard in the finish of its coloured range cookers, inspired by luxury sports cars manufactured in the same area. Valentina Bertazzoni comments: “We were not happy with the standard of painted finish from our industry, which is powder coating. We said we wanted to have exactly the same finish that you can have on a Ferrari, Ducati or a Lamborghini.” In fact, the company uses the same external paint suppliers for its range cookers as its neighbouring sports car manufacturers.

So how many of these sports cars are owned by the family? None, retorts Paolo Bertazzoni who points out: “One thing that we have learned through the generations, that my father taught me and I want to transfer to my kids, is that the company must be rich. Then the family can be ok. The company has to be extremely wealthy to have the resources to invest in new products, which is aiding its expansion. Since 2008 the company has doubled in size and you need capital to do that.”

Now the company has recently launched its first range of cooling appliances with French Door refrigeration and introduced 1100mm range cooker models. These add to its existing appliance portfolio which span range cooking as well as Bertazzoni-branded built-in appliances. It has now also set out plans for expansion in the UK. 

Growing through distribution

Bertazzoni already has 80 active dealers in the UK, which span independent kitchen showrooms through to the likes of John Lewis. But now the company has plans to grow through select distribution partnerships who already sell premium kitchen products. Maurizio Severgnini explains: “We are looking people that would distribute Perrin & Rowe taps, Siemens appliances or Liebherr refrigeration. Their target customer is our target customer, so there is a synergy in trying to reach the key dealers for our brand. What is very clear for us, it is a niche product, aimed at the mid to upper end of the market, so we need to hit the mid to upper end consumers through the mid to upper end retailers. We are very clear that is what we have to do. There is no point in us investing putting displays into a shop if it’s not the right one for our products or serves a different audience to our target.”

Although Severgnini is reticent to state his sales targets for the UK, he cites growth will come from increasing the geographical dealer base: “I’m more interested in geographical spread to ensure areas of influence are covered by the right dealer. We can look at it in terms of electrical retailers or kitchen specialists, who sell kitchens between £50,000-£70,000. I’ve got to get to those. There are a lot of kitchen specialists who sell kitchens between £3,000 and £7,000 and they are doing a good job but that’s not our market. Equally, there are some electrical retailers who specialise in range cookers, around the territory of (for example) London and we need to get to those people – companies such as RDO, Spillers of Chard – they are the place to go if you want a range cooker and that is where you expect to see a Bertazzoni product. Distribution is the key to help get the reach to all the other dealers.”

And despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, Severgnini says business is good in the UK, as he explains: “Our end of the market is very resilient – the top-end – people with money will always have money. People say £5,000 for a cooker? But put into context if you have a £1.5million flat in London what is £5,000?” He adds: “There is plenty of room for growth, so that is good for us. The only way is up.”