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issue: August 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Article: Engineering Cooktops
A Productive Partnership


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Gas stove manufacturer Rinnai Corporation is enjoying success in the Japanese market with the help of Schott Ceran glass ceramic cooktops.

"People should constantly set themselves higher goals," declares Susumu Naito, chairman of the Board of Management of gas stove producer Rinnai Corporation in Nagoya, Japan. Ever since its founding in 1920, the Japanese company has acted according to this motto and satisfied its customers with continuously improved technologies. "Rinnai would never have survived if we had concentrated on less-expensive and technically less-sophisticated products," Mr. Naito says. "Our aim is to improve people's quality of life by offering high-quality products and good service."

Rinnai began to establish ties outside Japan very early on. Its first contacts were in 1955 to a German manufacturer of radiant IR gas burners. Convinced by the potentially high demand of such appliances on the Japanese market, Mr. Naito began a cooperation agreement.

The radiant gas burners with "Ceran," developed jointly by this German manufacturer and Schott Glass (Mainz, Germany) in the 1970s, further aroused Rinnai's interest. Thus, the company contacted Schott for the first time about the product for the Japanese market.

The partnership between Rinnai and Schott has existed for 25 years. "Our collaboration with Schott is based on mutual trust," Mr. Naito says. One of the highlights of the cooperation is a gas burner system, or inner burner, that Rinnai designed in 1999. From this idea, Rinnai engineers developed together with Schott a gas stove with a Ceran glass ceramic cooktop panel. The high-temperature resistance of the glass ceramic made it possible to combine the efficient burner with the cooking surface.

 

The stove with a burner system from Rinnai Corporation and a Ceran glass ceramic cooktop panel from Schott Glass is a successful joint development.

Convincing Product Advantages

Ceran cooktop panels are gaining popularity in Japan, mainly because of their design. The smooth, even surface of the robust and durable products is also a desirable feature.

According to national consumer surveys, Japanese customers prefer gas stoves with Ceran because the stoves are simple to handle and easy to clean. This is a big advantage, especially in light of typical Japanese deep-fried dishes. In addition to the kitchen makers that are now increasingly offering these appliances in their product programs, many prominent Japanese cooking schools also use the gas stoves. In this application, the crucial factor is that the new type of cooking stove has to be equally suitable for preparing French, Chinese, and Japanese meals. According to Schott, this has been achieved by a new burner system, which features high-efficiency, good adjustability, and excellent temperature distribution at all heating levels.

Joint Marketing Efforts

The Japanese are also known for their extremely high brand consciousness. The name "Schott," which stands for good quality and reliability in the opinion of Japanese consumers - like many other German brands - plays an important role in marketing the new gas stoves. The cookers are thus advertised with success in the combination "Rinnai and Schott Ceran from Germany." According to Rinnai, many Japanese customers - as enthusiasts for detail - even want to see the German flag as an adhesive label on the Ceran cooktop panels.

With its current success, Rinnai is optimistic about its future in the Japanese market. "Customers are always our top priority," says Yoshio Yamazaki, president of Rinnai. "And 2003 is an important year for us. With our gas stove products with Ceran we hope to become the market leader in Japan with a share of between 70 and 80 percent."

Intensifying the Partnership


The Jewell, a gas stove with exquisite design and high-quality technical features, is increasingly popular in Korean kitchens.

In the meantime, Rinnai and Schott have extended their cooperation agreement. The goal of both companies is to expand and intensify the partnership they have in Japan and Korea to all of Asia.

The Japanese market for gas stoves currently amounts to 5 million cookers. Rinnai's market share is about 55 percent, but the number of gas stoves with Ceran is already substantial. Rinnai is convinced that many consumers will soon prefer mostly Rinnai gas stoves with Ceran, and that its market share will increase.

Rinnai's main target in Eastern Asia is South Korea. With the considerable purchasing power of the population, South Korea has developed into the second most important market for Rinnai in Asia. Koreans not only attach importance to high-quality products, they are also very discerning about style and design.

"The new gas stoves with Ceran glass ceramic cooktop panels have revolutionized kitchens in Korea," says So Mo Kang, president of Rinnai Korea. The high-quality technical features of the cooking appliances sold under the "Jewell" brand name have catapulted Rinnai to the position of market leader for gas stoves. "This is an important turning point for us," Mr. Kang says. "While functionality used to play the central role in household appliances, design aspects are increasingly more important."

Mr. Yamazaki adds that in addition to Korea, Rinnai has set its sights on the Chinese market, with hopes to secure a 5-percent market share within the coming years.

 

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