By David H. Martin

CHICAGO—The National Kitchen/Bath Industry Show returned to the Windy City for 2000 with an opulent display of upscale appliances, faucets and fixtures for affluent America’s most frequently used rooms. Some 40,565 remodelers, designers and kitchen-and-bath dealers were in attendance to see products and attend business seminars geared to specialty retailers. The three-day attendance set a new show record.

Kitchen improvement is a $36.4 billion industry with 6.45 million kitchens scheduled to be built or remodeled this year. Bathroom renovations will count for 10.59 million new baths in 2000, representing $17.44 billion in retail remodeling sales.

Since many of the refrigerators and all of the faucets in these rooms are using water, the filtration of water has at last become a standard feature in product pitches.

Five feature filters
Five years ago, Franke was the only faucet marketer at this show with a filter, exhibiting its Triflow filter faucet with separate “hot,” “cold” and “pure” handles—consisting of a ceramic handle with carbon block core tucked away under the sink. Franke’s faucets were still on display this year, but now they’re far from alone in the category; also on display was its solid-brass Uniflow dedicated point-of-use (POU) faucet, with same ceramic undercounter cartridge found on Triflow models. The Little Butler dispensing system, also by Franke, features hot, hot/cold or filtered water instantly. Another model features hot/cold choices plus a second tap to bypass a water softener or connect to a chiller not included with the unit, and others include a pullout hand sprayer.

Moen and Price Phister were back for the second year, each with integral filter faucets of their own. Both companies feature designs that hide compact disposable filter cartridges in the spout of the faucet itself.

PureTouch integral filter faucets by Moen, available in Professional and Euro models with pullout faucets, were joined this year by four fixed-spout classic models that were available at lower price points. All feature quick-change, 200-gallon bayonet-style cartridges made by Culligan. High-end models feature electronic filter-life indicators that indicate remaining filter life. Classic series units have simpler flashing green, amber and red lights.

A Moen spokesperson said the company’s 1999 network TV schedule has been continued through the first half of 2000. The whimsical PureTouch 30-second commercials are positioned to sell directly against bottled water and pitcher filters.

The Pfilter Pfaucet by Price Pfister returned to show this year with more 200-gallon models and lower price points. Pfilter Pfaucets are now available in 12 different configurations, including chrome or white finishes; and with or without side spray. WaterPik replacements are available in home centers everywhere, according to the company. Unlike competitor Moen, the Pfilter Pfaucet is not represented in the company’s heavy 2000 consumer print advertising campaign; and, unlike last year, the category was not displayed with any emphasis in the Price Pfister exhibit.

Unique approaches
The Kohler Company debuted its own unique approach to water filtration in Chicago.

Its Aquifer water filtration systems mount under the sink and out of sight, similar to the Franke units. Twist-off filter cartridges house 0.5-micron carbon block filters which provide a constant 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm) flow rate—compared with 0.5 gpm for the Moen and Price Pfister filter faucets—and they’re rated for 1,500 gallons. The canisters are fitted with commercial brass fittings and braided stainless steel hoses that resist pressure surge bursts. Model K-201 is NSF listed for taste, color and odor; Model K-202 is also rated for lead.

Wellspring Beverage Faucets also by Kohler are of a handsome gooseneck design. Model K-6665 is a contemporary faucet with choice of polished chrome, brushed nickel, white, black, almond or biscuit finish. Model K-6666 is a traditional design faucet with choice of chrome, polished or brushed nickel, or polished brass finish. Homeowners may purchase a complete system or purchase the filter and faucet separately, according to Kohler. Said Kohler spokesman Peter Dircks: “Being a faucet manufacturer, we wanted to focus on the aesthetics but, at the same time, realized we first needed to address the need for a ‘powerful filtration engine.’”

American Standard, another famous brand name in tubs, sinks and faucets, has introduced its own version of an integral filter faucet called ClearTap (see Figure 1). The 250-gallon carbon block filter—built to American Standard specs by CUNO—is NSF certified for lead and cysts as well as for taste, color and odor, and has a flow rate of 0.75 gpm.

Like high-end Moen filter faucets, ClearTap features an electronic digital readout on the spout that automatically counts down “days remaining” in the filter’s life. The single lever faucet handle delivers filtered water through a separate tube in the spout. Shifting the lever to the right dispenses filtered water. What sets this faucet apart from others is a unique deck-plate mounting system that lets owners change filters without climbing under the sink. The faucet is cast-brass construction with ceramic lifetime disc valve. Models are available in choice of chrome, satin, white or bone.

A spokesperson for Delta revealed that the faucet manufacturer would launch its own integral filter faucets in the next year.

Exterior change
Refrigerator manufacturers introduced door exterior “filter change indicators” at this year’s show.

Whirlpool’s new Conquest side-by-side refrigerator sported a new eye-level filter change indicator light on the outside of the freezer door; its 500 gallon EZ-Change filter is hidden behind the base grille of the freezer. Frigidaire showed its PureSource Plus filter with its own eye-level filter change indicator on the door exterior. The filter itself is located on the inside back wall of the refrigerator.

EcoMaster has replaced Culligan as filter supplier for General Electric (GE) side-by-side refrigerators, according to an industry source. The filter manufacturer has for several years provided units for Amana’s side-by-sides. CUNO remains the main supplier to the appliance industry for retrofit icemaker filters commonly installed in top-freezer refrigerators.

GE exhibited its SmartWater line of reverse osmosis (RO), filtration and water softeners. Recent additions to this line include a new, single canister, whole house sediment filter (see Figure 2) and a new single stage undersink filter rated for lead, cysts, asbestos, taste, color and odor. Also shown: dual canister carbon filters as well as SmartWater gas and electric water heaters, marketed at the retail level alongside SmartWater water softeners.

CUNO showed its Aqua-Pure line of water softeners, ultraviolet (UV) units, carbon filters and RO systems for plumbing professionals. Everpure showed its new H-300 undercounter drinking water filtration system, rated for lead, asbestos, cysts, lead and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). The 300-gallon unit includes a composite of KDF media and Micro-Pure activated carbon and has a 0.5 gpm flow rate.

WaterBoss displayed a full line of compact, cabinet-style water softeners including the very small microBoss measuring approximately 16¾×14½×19-inches. The unit fits under kitchen cabinets, on a shelf and even in motor homes or trailers.

Mountain Plumbing Products returned to the kitchen show with an expanded line of high-style lead-free POU faucets including ones with push-button action and ceramic disc cartridges. Finishes include chrome, white, biscuit, antique copper and black. Concinnity also showed an assortment of decorator POU faucets and finishes.

Five kitchen faucet manufacturers displayed various filter-and-faucet configurations in Chicago this year, signaling the industry’s legitimatization in the category that has evolved to combine aesthetics with water filter changing convenience. This is also confirmed by the number of filter change indicators appearing on the exteriors of popular side-by-side refrigerator designs by such names as Frigidaire, KitchenAid and Whirlpool. It’s all part of a new world of kitchen merchandising where drinking water “filters are features.”

About the author
David H. Martin is marketing consultant and partner at Lenzi Martin Communications (—a Chicago-based marketing firm focusing on products protecting consumer’s personal environments. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, (708) 848-9062 (fax), or email: [email protected]


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