I recently attended the Wolf and Sub-Zero media event in Madison, Wis., a one-and-a-half day program to introduce its New Generation line of preservation (integrated refrigeration) and cooking products. While in attendance, I also received a firsthand look into the company’s state of business and in-depth information on its various brands.
The program was rounded out with a variety of cooking demonstrations in both the traditional and contemporary demo kitchens at the Westye F. Bakke Center at the Wolf/Sub-Zero HQ campus, followed by factory tours of both brands, as well as an executive Q/A session with the company leaders.
Although the event featured multiple highlights (see my most recent blog at (http://kbbcollective.kbbonline.com), the true point of gathering multiple press personalities in one place at one time was to introduce the New Generation line – a culmination of five years of work and the 68-year-old company’s largest product launch to date.
On the Wolf side, New Generation includes three styles of cooktops and built-in ovens – transitional, professional and contemporary – which offer such amenities as LCD control panels and nine cooking modes. A one-touch, automated coffee system will also be introduced as part of the line in 2014.
On the Sub-Zero side, the New Generation line of integrated refrigeration offers dual refrigeration for the refrigerator and freezer components. Other features of the 23 different available models include an advanced preservation system, air purification and ultra-precise humidity control. New Generation wine storage units have also been designed to resist UV rays and prevent vibration.
Some of the New Generation line is already available to the public or will be later this year, including the E Series contemporary oven, 36-in. integrated tall refrigerator/freezer, 30-in. integrated column (all refrigerator and all freezer), E Series drawer microwave oven, cooktop downdraft ventilation, 30-in. integrated drawers, 30-in. integrated tall refrigerator/freezer and E Series professional and transitional ovens. Other items will have staggered entry dates throughout 2014 and into 2015.
Wolf/Sub-Zero and the Industry at a Glance
The company prides itself on quality, innovation, the ability to command a premium price and reliability. Jim Bakke, the current president and CEO, is the third generation of family ownership, which began with his grandfather, Westye Bakke, in 1945 and then moved onto his father, Bud Bakke, in 1972.
According to Jim Bakke, the company’s volume is up more than 13 percent this year, and the expectations for next year are similar. Steven Dunlap, the company’s vice president of sales, said Wolf/Sub-Zero has achieved double-digit growth since 2009 in what he says is a $24.7-billion business of major U.S. appliance sales. Single-family new starts are the company’s biggest driver.
As far as its customers, according to Michele Bedard, vice president of marketing, those include generationally diverse adults that make at least $100k annually and that usually purchase twice as much as the average customer.
Because of the recession, Bedard says there is a modest approach to wealth today, and customers now define luxury as quality, value and craftsmanship in their appliances, as well as a personalized experience and advancements in technology. “Consumers are looking for substance behind the status,” she added.