By David H. Martin

Charlie Couric, retired former president of Brita and cousin of NBC talk show host Katie Couric, once commented on the tendency of Housewares Show point-of-use (POU) also-rans to pin their hopes on “riding the coattails” of his company’s aggressive brand-building program, which spent as much as $70 million annually on marketing. “Good luck to them, but we’re still sewing the coat,” he said. Again in 2001, pitchers (or carafes) and end-of-faucet filters accounted for more than 93 percent of POU dollar sales in department and discount stores, supermarkets and drugstores across America.

And once again, Brita and PUR — another big spender in consumer broadcast and print advertising — together control more than 90 percent of all retail POU sales in the mass channels representing the U.S. housewares industry. The two are still “sewing the coat.” Brita will spend up to $49 million for consumer ads this year. Other established POU brands like Culligan and Waterpik command less than 8 percent between them in combined end-of-faucet filters and carafe drinking water products sales. Are their products noticeably inferior? Hardly, but their commitment to driving the business with ad dollars and solid merchandising is lacking.

While this year’s show — held in Chicago on Jan. 13-15 at McCormick Place — was represented by fewer new competitors in the POU category, some exhibitors reported modest increases in sales in the weeks immediately following the tragic events of Sept. 11. Elkay’s Greg Speer saw “a short-term sales increase in the first 30 days after” the terrorist attacks. David Webb, of Filtration Plus, reported “ an immediate large bump” in sales and said, “They are still slightly elevated months later.” Stan Magidson, of Genesis, saw a slight increase in retail sales after Sept. 11 as well.

Noticeably missing at the show was Culligan, whose commitment to the housewares retail segment is questionable. Meanwhile, one-time POU players Honeywell, Nordic Ware and Singer presented non-water treatment products.

Pitcher filters
Category unit sales declined for the second year in a row, from 4.13 million pitchers sold in 2000 to 4.09 million units in 2001, according to HomeWorld Business. Dollar sales of pitchers rose slightly from $71.77 million to $72.49 million in 2000 reflecting, in part, aggressive marketing of replacement cartridges. Pour-throughs, though still the largest POU category, lost significant share of market to faucet-mount filters in 2001. Last year, they commanded a 53.5 percent share of unit sales vs. a 61.7 percent share in 2000. Dollar share also declined from 58.9 percent in 2000 to 50.7 percent in 2001.

Category leader Brita, with an estimated 80 percent market share, is promoting new pitchers and cartridges in print and TV ads. According to marketing director Mira Kim, Brita is introducing three new pitcher colors—red, blue and green.

PUR introduced new versions of its Ultimate Filter line last year—all rated for lead, TTHMs, cysts and taste. The two-gallon pitcher retails for $29.99. This year, the company introduced a new pitcher designed for baby nurseries priced at $24.99 suggested retail price (SRP). Paul Schacht, PUR’s category sales leader, says the P&G unit seeks product exposure in multiple departments.

Water Applications Ltd. (WAL) is standing pat with its stylish line of pitchers. Serge Heinich, the company’s owner, reported an agreement to provide replacement filters for Tupperware’s new line of pitchers, which are not made by WAL. Their pitcher filters do well in Europe and Africa, claims Heinich, and the company continues to pursue private label business in the United States.

H20 and a new Sunbeam licensee, Prestige Home Comfort, of Montreal, both showed pitcher filters in Chicago. The H20 pitcher is cartridge compatible with Brita. The Sunbeam two-quart pitcher will be aggressively marketed to discount stores and carries an SRP of $7.99.

Faucet-mount filters
For the third straight year, faucet filters were the fastest-growing segment of the mass retail water improvement market. Unit sales rose from 1.83 million in 2000 to 2.56 million in 2001, reported HomeWorld Business. Dollar sales climbed from $49.14 million in 2000 to $68.80 million in 2001. The 34.5 percent unit share confirmed faucet filters are becoming the entry-level products of choice for many Americans. PUR’s Schacht expressed his belief that “consumers are more and more moving from bottled water, directly to faucet mounts.” Dollar share for faucet-mounts rose from 34.3 percent in 2000 to 42.4 percent in 2001.

Brita again showed its unit with built-in LED filter replacement indicator and an SRP of $35. Replacement cartridges sell for $16.99, or $29.99 for a two-pack. Brita’s Kim stated that most retailers who carry Brita pitchers also carry their faucet-mount filter.

PUR showed a horizontal-mount filter, introduced last August, available in white or chrome. According to PUR’s Schacht, it’s “less obtrusive than vertical mount models, and makes it easier to fill pots and pans for cooking.” The SRP is $39.99. This year, the company is focusing its advertising faucet filters and testing a new 30-second TV spot featuring both PUR pitchers and faucet-mounts, said Schacht, who stated that “PUR has the only faucet-mount and the only pitcher to take out TTHMs.”

Waterpik, once the category leader, showed the same two faucet mount filters as last year, with “elapsed time” and “gallons used” indicators. The F-7 carries a $29.99 SRP, said Waterpik marketing director Stanzi Prell.

CanPro, of Richmond Hill, Calif., introduced a new faucet-mount filter with KDF/carbon media rated for 200 gallons with water-use indicator and an innovative drinking water “fountain” feature. Owner Y.C. Chan said its SRP is $40-50. H20, of Deerfield Beach, Fla., will introduce a new faucet-mount filter, rated for lead and other contaminants, later this year.

Culligan, Omni and GE faucet filters weren’t exhibited in Chicago, reflecting the brands’ focus on do-it-yourself market channels.

Countertop filtration and purification
Countertop water improvement products are often viewed as “counter space wasters,” represented only 0.9 percent share of market and 1.8 percent dollar share in 2001.

H20 again showed carbon filter countertops. (H20 combines GAC carbon with KDF redox media.) AquaVitae, of Newport Beach, Calif., also showed two KDF/carbon countertop POU systems.

Genesis showed the Ultratek countertop filter and several Sterling Spring countertop units for catalog distribution.

Filtration Plus showed a 27-oz. sports water bottle filter with hollow fiber membrane said to reduce bacteria, cysts and heavy metals. The unit is rated for 75 gallons. Brita and H20 also showed filter sports bottles.

Other notable POU drinking water products
Genesis America, of Morristown, N.J., showed two countertop distillers, both with carbon post filters. Model 6000 features twin, three-liter glass containers.

Filtration Plus, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., showed its line of Carbon Plus coconut shell carbon block cartridges rated for multiple contaminants reduction. It also showed the NutriTech ceramic filter in a 15-inch stainless steel housing. The company also markets Dolton ceramic/carbon block filters, available in 10 ceramic colors and four decorative designs. It also showed terra cotta gravity-feed water units with ceramic/carbon filters. A prototype of a wall-mount (under cabinet) filtration system was on display as well.

AquaVitae exhibited a five-stage reverse osmosis system for undercounter installation. The SRP is $299. An optional disposal UV component is available.

Silver Lake Research, of Monrovia, Calif., showed its Watersafe test kit for bacteria, lead, pesticides, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, pH and hardness. Watersafe uses dry test strips in antibody-based amino acid technology. Kits are sold to professional water improvement dealers as well as at retail outlets.

Coolers & filter conversions
Addico Products, of Montreal, showed its line of Addi high-style cylindrical water coolers in white or black. The units fit 3- or 5-gallon water bottles. The tanks are stainless steel with matching plastic bottle water covers. New at the show was a unit with the exclusive “addiglo” night light, which illuminates the water cooler’s dispensing area. Addico also showed a 1.65 gallon, thermoelectric POU cabinet model. Koola-tron, of Brantford, Ontario, Canada, showed its own thermoelectric counter-top cooler with carbon filter.

Avanti Products, of Miami, showed its line of three refrigerated cabinet water coolers and one countertop model. The SRP’s for cabinet models range from $119 to $159.

Sunbeam electric water coolers were introduced in Chicago by Prestige Home Comfort. The floor model ($199 wholesale) has a built-in refrigerator and stainless steel tank. The countertop model ($99 wholesale) features hot, cold and room temperature water and takes 3- or 5-gallon bottles.

“Water cooler conversions will be taking place in kitchens across America with the introduction of Elkay Drinking Water Systems with Pure-Smart filter,” said Dennis Skully, president of Elkay’s Dispensed Water Division (formerly called MTM). The Oakbrook, Ill. division focuses on retail gravity feed filtration bottle systems in attractive cabinets.

The PureSmart water filter, the heart of the Elkay dispensing system, contains a new PID device that counts uses automatically. Rated for 150 gallons, the cartridge contains Microban media for bacteriostatic protection and carries an SRP of $24.95.

Ozonated water appliances
Waterpik, of Ft. Collins, Colo., again showed its Aquia household disinfecting and sanitizing system that utilizes “natural” ozone and tap water to remove 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses on contact. Representing a new product in the “healthy home” category, the Waterpik ozonation system addresses growing concerns about E. coli and Salmonella. According to Waterpik’s Prell, the system “kills viruses found in almost any kitchen item including knives, cutting boards, baby bottles, even fruits and vegetables.” The SRP is $129-149. A new sanitizing system for infant-toddler areas of the home is being promoted at baby fairs and in an infomercial. Prell says, “Waterpik is committed to the category and there are other ozone applications that we are looking into, including oral care and drinking water.”

Aroma Housewares Co., of San Diego, unveiled an interesting water/air ozone purifier, claiming to oxidize bacteria and chemicals on foods and other items immersed in a separate container. The countertop appliance carries an SRP of $99.

Homeless product
Fantom’s Calypso ozonated water purification system appears to be a product without a home. Seen at the last two housewares show, the handsome batch-fill corona discharge unit contains a computer-controlled monitoring system to ensure disinfection. Last October, parent company Fantom Technologies Inc., of Toronto, filed for bankruptcy. The company has since ceased operations. Fantom’s better-known floor vacuum cleaner line has been acquired by Euro-Pro Corp., but the Calypso wasn’t acquired.

Shower filters
ShowerTek Inc., of Napa Valley, Calif., is known in the housewares industry for its unique line of fog-free shower mirrors. This year, the company introduced two lines of shower filters at the show. Made in Asia, according to ShowerTek president Tom Christianson, the massaging shower heads are fitted with a proprietary KDF filter cartridge, about the size of a hockey puck. Units come in wall-mount and hand-held models. ShowerTeck brand units, sold in department stores and specialty stores, carry SRPs from $29.99 for the wall unit to $49.99 for the hand-held unit. A second line of shower filters, targeting Walmart and Target stores, carries the licensed Sunbeam brand.

H20 once again showed its Rio-Vita KDF-based shower filter with pop-in replaceable cartridge and LED filter-life indicator. Canpro Water Treatment Inc. showed a shower filter with replaceable KDF cartridge and manual backwash. A twist of the filter body releases dirt and sediment, according to the manufacturer.

Sprite Industries, of Corona, Calif. — the originators and leaders in shower filters since 1988 — introduced its new upscale line of Royale shower filters, consisting of filtered showerheads and handles featuring a variety of color and spray options. “The Royale units have been redesigned with contoured lines with rubber touchpads,” explained Sprite president David Farley. The SRP is $49.95. Sprite uses a patented filtration media called KDF Chlorgon that performs well under high water temperature and pH conditions.

POU product evolution seemed to be suspended this year at the International Housewares Show, where few new players emerged. Perhaps the industry is catching its breath before introducing a new generation of water improvement products at “starter” price points.

About the author
David H. Martin is president of Lenzi Martin Marketing, of Oak Park, Ill., a firm specializing in water improvement and environmental marketing that integrates old and new media. He can be reached at (708) 848-8404, email: [email protected] or website: http://www.lenzimartin. com.


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