CEO Greg Rowe Senior and MD Greg Rowe Jnr of British business Greg Rowe Ltd explain their plans to broaden the appeal of boiling water with the mid-market Qettle brand.
Synonymous with brassware, the Greg Rowe name has not only lent itself to a luxury tap and shower brand but also been behind the patent of three in one filtered tap technology.
Now, it is at the forefront of a business which aims to democratise boiling water taps with its Qettle brand.
Making a return
The history starts when Greg Rowe Senior set up brassware manufacturer Avilion with business partner Bob Perrin.
It spawned the Perrin & Rowe brand and in the early 90s patented Triflow (tube-in-tube) technology offering hot, cold and filtered water from one tap.
Avilion also manufactured filter water taps under its own brand and acted as OEM for Franke.
But having sold the business, Greg Rowe Snr stepped away from the industry.
However it wasn’t long before Greg Rowe Snr returned and, together with his son Greg Rowe Jnr – former financial director at Avilion, acquired The FreshWater Filter Company, a niche filtration business. It sold compatible cartridges for a wide range of taps and filter systems.
Greg Rowe Snr was also back at the drawing board, designing a 4-in-1 boiling water tap, which, thanks to its unique, mechanical construction, would secure multiple patents.
At the same time, the company also changed its name to Greg Rowe Ltd. “We wanted to start slowly emerging and linking the industry back to who we were again”, explains Greg Rowe Jnr. “We weren’t leveraging the history and experience”, adds Greg Rowe Snr.
Creating a brand
However, the pandemic became a trigger point for the development of an own-brand boiling water tap.
Greg Rowe Ltd wanted to scale up the business and alongside its OEM manufacturing, the company introduced its own-brand Qettle, which delivers 100°C water.
Designed for the mid-market, Qettle comes in two models – both with patented technology based on mechanics rather than electronics – Signature and a lower priced Original model. It even introduced a patented patterning technique.
Talking about the opportunities for a mid-priced 100% boiling water tap to act as a direct replacement for a kettle, Greg Rowe Jnr adds: “There are 7million kettles sold every year in the UK, and we thought we must be able to get a decent chunk of this market.”
He points out there is still a lack of awareness about boiling taps in the mid market, as Greg Rowe Snr states: “The message has not got out to the general public anyway near to the extent you imagine.” And he says there is a need to broaden the boiling water tap market, rather than it being a luxury item.
With the cost of living crisis seeing a shift in consumer mentality towards value and considered purchases, Greg Rowe Snr points out: “The opportunity is going down a price pyramid rather than going up it.
“People spending £10,000 on the kitchen badly want a boiling water tap, if they are going to spend 10% of the value of the kitchen or more on it.
“We think the market will play out more in the middle and lower ground if it’s ever going to replace a kettle.”
They both agree there is still some way to educate consumers that a boiling water tap should be considered by consumers like an appliance, requiring a complete package of support.
Greg Rowe Jnr comments: “We’re playing the long game because no one has come forward with a definitive proposition of what the warranty should be, what the after-market should look like and how often they should be replacing these products. What we’re trying to do is set the ground rules.”
Internet to showroom
Interestingly, the Qettle brand has been built up as a direct to consumer sales, selling its Original models online.
Now the company is looking to grow its retail network, as is says consumers are now recognising the brand.
In fact, the company points out the importance of the internet in driving consumer awareness of the brand and providing consumer ambassadors with Trustpilot reviews.
Greg Rowe Jr states: “We could never have created Qettle as a brand and got a following without using Amazon.”
But, playing devil’s advocate, why should retailers support a brand which sells online?
Greg Rowe Snr adds: “I know online sales are very controversial, but they cannot be ignored.
“We, as consumers, all use that convenience and I’m sure kitchen retailers do likewise. Expecting manufacturers not to function online is just not going to happen.
“The question is the discipline of how you do it and your pricing structure that you create. It’s about finding a way of co-habiting and living with it.”
In fact digitalisation is key to the efficiency of the business from the order process, through to next day deliveries for single drops which assists retailers.
It also allows Qettle to provide enhanced benefits to consumers, such as subscription services and warranties.
Despite Greg Rowe Snr stating the boiling water is over-populated with more suppliers than sales opportunity, he explains a ‘holy trinity’ of experience in taps, filters and boiling water tanks will see Qettle become a success.
He adds: “Let’s also bear in mind that none of those entrants have the same technology we have in the tap. It’s patented. It’s unique and it’s 100°C.
“The tap is constructed in such a way, we lose less than half a degree from the boiler to the outlet.”
He continues: “Any competent plumber could install our tap in 35-40 minutes, having watched our YouTube video. So the product is designed for everybody in the supply chain.
“It’s engineered in such a way there’s a benefit for the consumer but also a convenient benefit for the plumber and kitchen industry.”
“It truly is better by design. It was designed to overcome what I saw was all the shortcomings of the products in the marketplace. It’s as simple as that and we’ve succeeded in doing that.”
And the Qettle brand is backed by aftercare service, either self-service through social media support, or a network of registered plumbers, which follows its debut at the Installer Show.
Greg Rowe Jnr explains: “We are fully-formed because we have done all those things in the background, knowing this is where we want to end up and that the after-market was really where that the mission was.”
In fact, he says the only objection to the Qettle tap has been why is it cheaper than competitor models
He exclaims it is the value engineering of the tap which doesn’t require electronics, soldering or even plating due to the choice of materials.
Back to business
So what is next for the fully fledged Qettle brand? The company is seeking to create a network of around 200 retailers in the UK and is looking further afield to Holland, where the hot tap market is more established.
The company is also working towards supporting the product with a 5-year warranty on the tap, filter and tank, as well as WRAS approval.
With a current turnover of £9.5million, Greg Rowe Ltd which also encompasses a variety of spares businesses and aftersales care, will major on the Qettle brand, and has new, all-inclusive premises in its sights for this spring.
However, Greg Rowe Snr concludes: “What we should emphasise is we’re not a one trick pony.
“We have an R&D team with the goal of embracing more manufacturing in the UK, adding tanks to our taps which are made in Britain, and we’re also ambitious to make exceptional ordinary taps. as well, in the future. We’re back in the game.”