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issue: November 2010 ApplianceMagazine.com

Market Trends
Kalamazoo Thrives on Outdoor Kitchen Growth

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Outdoor kitchen trend puts this outdoor appliances OEM on track for its best year ever.

An outdoor kitchen on a rooftop in Manhattan is equipped with a wine chiller, refrigerator, grill, wok-ready cooktop, and clear icemaker. Designer Kokobo Plantscapes also included a green wall garden. Photo courtesy Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

The recession years haven't exactly been hard times for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. 2008 was its best year ever in terms of sales, but 2010 will probably be even better. More of the company's outdoor kitchens are being installed, and the average outdoor kitchen price tag just keeps getting bigger.

For the first nine months of 2010 the Chicago-based company is seeing record demand for full outdoor kitchens and posted a 46% increase over 2009 sales. Kalamazoo is tracking double-digit growth over 2008, which was its best full year so far.

Kalamazoo is a privately held company with a plant in Kalamazoo, MI, where grills, pizza ovens, and cabinetry are hand-made. Refrigerators and freezers are made in Milwaukee, WI.

Company President Pantelis A. “Pete” Georgiadis said consumers at the high end of the market are being "mindful" when they spend their money. "They are making purchases that have the ability to add enduring value to both their home and their lifestyle,” said Georgiadis. “We attribute our strong growth to the non-consumable nature of our products," as well as the quality of the product and the broad selection the company offers.

Georgiadis said Kalamazoo's sales of outdoor kitchens in the first three quarters of 2010 have already surpassed all outdoor kitchens sold in 2009, and 2010 kitchens are larger and more comprehensive. Sales are up 58% over the same period in 2009 and, more significantly, 24% over the same period in 2008, the company’s best year on record.

An outdoor kitchen in Poway, CA, designed by J. Horgan Designs, has an outdoor TV, ceiling fans, fireplace, and numerous Kalamazoo appliances: hybrid grill, pizza oven, cooktop, refrigerated drawers, and cabinets. Photo courtesy Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

Average Backyard Kitchen Price Tag: Up 30%

The average price of the 2010 outdoor kitchen is 30% more than in 2009, and that's due in part to all the extras going into them. There are grills, sinks, standard refrigeration, and cabinetry – but other specialized equipment is becoming more popular as well: pizza ovens, lobster boil pits, keg tappers, wine chillers, and weather-tight cabinets specifically for holding spices or for keeping food warm.

Georgiadis said the upper-end of the market is looking for products that have an exceptional value proposition. The outdoor kitchen needs to help users express themselves, creating the right experience and meeting their unique outdoor cooking and entertaining needs. "Our customers are making an investment and are looking for a return,” he said.

One of the most important attributes consumers are looking for is outdoor kitchen usability and versatility that is on par with indoor kitchens, Georgiadis said. That's helped drive popularity of the company’s weather-tight cabinetry.

“They want to store their cutlery, linens, and dinnerware outdoors without getting wet," Georgiadis said. "They are not satisfied with traipsing into and out of the house to set up their cooking and entertaining areas."

One interesting product success is the company's Hybrid Fire Grills, which allows the user to cook with gas, charcoal, or wood. The Hybrid capability adds $600 to $1000 to the retail price of a grill that starts at $7495 for a gas-only unit - but the Hybrid is outselling gas-only units 17 to 1. "When a homeowner sees that they can cook with wood, charcoal and gas all at the same time in our Hybrid Fire Grills, the decision for them becomes quite easy,” Georgiadis said.


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