After more than 90 years, KitchenAid stays successful by keeping focused on its end-users, Global Business Unit Director Michael Huie says. “No one knows our consumer like we do,” he says.
The Saint Joseph, Mich.-based KitchenAid is a brand of Whirlpool Corp. and specializes in products for the kitchen. These include small appliances like its stand mixer; major appliances, such as dishwashers; kitchenwares; cookware; bakeware; tools; and gadgets. KitchenAid’s history goes back to 1919, when an executive for a commercial appliance company created the Model H-5, the first stand mixer for use in homes.
Before it was brought to market, the executive’s wife tested the Model H-5 for making breads. The mixer included attachments that gave users the ability to complete tasks such as slicing and straining.
After using it, the wife said, “It’s the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had.”
This gave the executive the inspiration for KitchenAid’s name, which soon was trademarked at a U.S. patent and trademark office.
Although KitchenAid originally employed women to sell its products door-to-door, much has changed over the last 93 years, Huie says. “Today, consumers buy our products from a wide range of retail, commercial and on-line partners of ours,” he says. “We’re now selling into 100 countries around the world.”
Huie adds that KitchenAid ensures its products are easy to use and deliver high performance for consumers. “We want [them] to do a better job than other products,” he says.
KitchenAid also strives to create timeless designs for its products. For instance, the blender it sells today “is a similar strong design to the one we sold for 20 years,” he says. “We tend to [make] things that last a long time.”
For the last three years, KitchenAid has enjoyed substantial growth, Huie says. This included entering new categories, adding new items to its lines as well as expanding its reach beyond the United States and Canada with its new global business unit.
Since doing so, Huie says, the company has added Europe and Australia to its list of places where it has a strong presence. As it has expanded its reach, KitchenAid has concentrated even more on its products’ performance.
For instance, while some of its competitors’ products fade or crack when cleaned in dishwashers, KitchenAid has ensured its items are built to endure.
KitchenAid is preparing for further growth. This March, the company will attend the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, where it will introduce more than 250 new kitchenware products, including nine full lines of cookware, cast iron cookware, and a full line of sheet metal bakeware, ceramic bakeware and tea kettles.
“Our challenge at the beginning was to find [the] right suppliers [for] these,” Huie admits, but notes that the company has been successful in recruiting high-quality suppliers.
This also will mark KitchenAid’s first collection of non-licensed cookware, bakeware and kettles in the company’s nearly 100-year history. The company previously offered these lines through an agreement with Meyer Corp.
“While our licensing agreement with Meyer was a success for many years, the truth is that nobody knows our brand and consumer better than KitchenAid,” Huie explains. “Beyond elevating the impressive quality of our previous products, these newest KitchenAid offerings look, feel and perform like the many other premium products that built our strong reputation as a brand.”
A Premium Brand
A 24-year veteran of KitchenAid, Huie says the firm fosters an entrepreneurial environment. “We focus on creating great new products [for] our consumers who enjoy cooking and entertaining,” he says.
When hiring, Huie looks for who share the company’s philosophy. “They [need to] want to come in here to work with an entrepreneurial team,” he says. “If [you’re ready to work hard], and focus on our consumer and retail customers, you’ll fit in great here.”
Huie adds that he is proud of how KitchenAid stays committed to quality. “It would be easy to have a premium brand like KitchenAid, exploit the strength of it, go into lower price points and not make as good a product,” he says.
Although that would allow KitchenAid to make a faster profit, the company has avoided that approach and continued making more expensive, higher-quality items. “We’ve continued to grow our consumer strength, which is the customer’s feedback,” he says. “We’ve stuck to the principles of our brand.”
Huie sees a strong future for KitchenAid in the housewares market. “It’s a huge industry,” he says, noting that the company plans to grow.
“I see many years of significant opportunities,” he says. “One of the things that makes us unique is we’re one of the only brands that focuses on the kitchen and does everything in the kitchen.”