With the growth trend towards mains-fed coolers continuing, this looks set to be a year full of innovation. Hannah Oakman talks to some of the industry's major players to find out more.
Just a decade ago, mains-fed or point-of-use (POU) water coolers were seen as a new-fangled invention. Today, there are nearly 1.1 million units in West Europe, with growth of 8% in 2011.
Some markets are now seeing a 60% bottled water cooler versus 40% mains-fed split. While it's true that some mains-fed markets do remain quite underdeveloped, on the whole due to perceptions of water quality, there is a growing demand for clean, readily available drinking water via a mains-fed water cooler.
Sectors such as the hospitality market and public sector facilities are showing greater demand for mains-fed machines, as the technology is perceived as greener, cheaper and less obtrusive in the workplace. So, where do the leading manufacturers think the industry is going? I asked a few of them to share their views …
Where do you think the technology in mains-fed coolers is headed in 2013?
Pete Benua, Oasis: The industry is looking for units that are stylish, easy to maintain and reliable. The technology needs to be useful, simple and performance-oriented. Some technology will be geared towards improving the environmental efficiency of coolers.
Federica Diotallevi, Cosmetal: We believe that hygiene is still the main challenge facing the industry. In collaboration with the Università di Camerino, a 700-year-old Italian academic institution, we have analysed the factors responsible for water cooler contamination and developed a new technology: Cu+ Safepath.
The patented Cu+ Safepath system provides a simple, yet effective solution to the problem of bacterial pollution in water coolers. It guarantees the bacterial immunity of the dispenser, which is then no longer subject to contamination or a source of bacterial proliferation.
Extensive use of copper means the solution is capable of preserving the quality of water coming from the water mains without altering its taste and saline characteristics.
Christina Dantas, Mistral: More than ever, innovation will be driving our efforts. We believe technology in mains-fed coolers is headed to quality of water. Coolers need to become even more multi-functional. We will see more eco-friendly materials, while increasing cold water production.
Sebastian Labat, Winix: Growing environmental concerns have influenced the mains-fed cooler market industry, which is now focusing on recyclable materials and energy saving technologies.
However, hygiene is, and will still be, the first priority for customers. Research and development is now headed to more hygiene control through auto-sanitisation processes, for instance. Brand new technologies ensure high cooling efficiency and high hygiene control. The Winix IceCore patented direct chill system responds to all customer needs, providing a reliable, cost-effective, energy saving, highly efficient and hygienic technology in water coolers.
Chris Garner, Waterlogic: Waterlogic believes that it will become apparent to an increasing number of end-customers that water coolers are delivering a food product, the most important food product that we consume. Furthermore, the water cooler will be viewed in a similar way to other food production equipment, in that customers will look for a reassurance of hygiene. Whether this comes from a quality service and regular maintenance, or from product design features such as quality filtration, UV purification or silver based antimicrobial treatment of key external parts.
Most of us will agree that customers do not buy on price, and most look for technologies that will deliver genuine value. In this respect, Waterlogic believe that its breakthrough innovation – Firewall UV technology – is one of the most effective water purification technologies for mains-fed water dispenser applications currently on the market, and its dispensers are certified by the Water Quality Association as being able to guarantee 99.99% pure water 100% of the time.
Antonio Zerilli, Zerica: Lately, there seems to be a rush for cheaper solutions. Bigger companies use similar and cheap technologies which are, sometimes, not easy to recycle and not best suited to use with drinking water.
Zerica only invests in evaporators (where water is chilled) that are exclusively made of one part in stainless steel without any kind of plastic parts. They are hygienic and 100% environmentally friendly. This is the basis of our Silver TC system.
How important are design and looks over function and performance?
Pete Benua, Oasis: They are equally important. A mains-fed cooler has to stand on its own, as there's no branded bottle of water sitting on top of the machine. It needs to be stylish so that the end user is happy to have it in their office. At the same time, it must gain the end user's confidence by performing well.
Federica Diotallevi, Cosmetal: Design and looks are very important, especially in the first place. However, aesthetics are not the only aspect in determining a water cooler's success. Performance, in terms of dispensing capacity and product reliability, are what matter in the long-term achievement of a product.
Christina Dantas, Mistral: Of course, design must be considered. If a product looks stylish, you will want to find out more. But at Mistral, we believe that quality and safety are the two most important things for a water cooler dedicated to the end user. We have to offer to the market a cooler's range, which will be able to combine a high quality design with high performance and safety, plus intuitive use and maintenance.
Sebastian Labat, Winix: As the mains-fed cooler industry is now looking for both home and office markets, modern design and looks are becoming as important as function and performance. In the current economic situation, design and looks are also a good way to differentiate products from one manufacturer to another.
Chris Garner, Waterlogic: In fact, both are important. In product design the phrase 'form and function' is often used, and the two should be in harmony. It's quite possible to produce products that win on both levels. Products absolutely need to be reliable and work efficiently, producing the purest and tastiest water possible. They also need to be user-friendly and look attractive so that customers find them easy to use and enjoy having them in their environment.
Our home customers are definitely more particular when it comes to design and looks, which is why we've focused so much on such modern, sleek designs when it comes to our new home products.
Antonio Zerilli, Zerica: Design is an important component of a product. Customers are often attracted by extra features and modern looks. It's important not to forget that a product must be easy to use, so features and design must be related to the market of destination. In our domestic under-sink solution, we decided to use only stainless steel and avoid any kind of plastic for both environmental and quality reasons.
Will you be launching any new models in 2013?
Pete Benua, Oasis: We are very meticulous about designing coolers that are sophisticated, yet simple. This enables us to maintain iconic product lines that appeal to markets for a number of years without becoming outdated looking. This helps our distributors keep their fleets modern.
Our innovations in 2013 for mains coolers will improve output and environmental performance of the Kalix and Onyx mains cooler ranges. We will also be adding more sophisticated, high-performance element options for our green filter range.
Federica Diotallevi, Cosmetal: Cosmetal has some amazing new products in the pipeline for 2013. The Aquality mains-fed model, launched in 2012 with either tank or direct chill, is now available in an ice-bank model. The new product combines the excellent cooling capacity of ice bank with the superior quality of cold carbonation.
In March 2013, we launched the Yumi, our most cost-effective solution in the range. It was developed with attention to the smallest details in order to provide the right combination of looks, quality and price.
Christina Dantas, Mistral: We recently launched a new version of our bestselling product, the mains-fed Evopure. Already available in five versions (cold/cook, cold/hot water, cold/sparkling water, cold/cook/hot water and cold/cook/sparkling water), the new Evopure offers cold, sparkling and hot in the same machine.
Sebastian Labat, Winix: Winix is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and will be launching some new models over the year among other promotions. We invite all your readers to come celebrate our anniversary and discover our new products at Aquatech Amsterdam 2013.
Chris Garner, Waterlogic: Waterlogic is launching its latest Firewall dispenser, the WL3 Firewall. This is positioned between our WL2 and premium WL4 Firewall models with a new, modern design. In addition to Firewall purification, the WL3 provides several innovative features, such as a system to maintain sparkling water perfectly chilled and carbonated by purging it from the dispense pipe (returning it to the sparkling tank) after each dispense.
Antonio Zerilli, Zerica: We will be launching the new EAQUA, a water purifier that can dispense cold, ambient and sparkling water. It can be installed to the mains or just filled with tap water, as the unit will purify and dispense anywhere.
Are there any sectors that will show growth in 2013?
Pete Benua, Oasis: Mains-fed growth will continue at a steady pace in 2013 across all segments of the industry.
Federica Diotallevi, Cosmetal: According to the evidence we have, there will be overall market growth but very different growth across countries. We believe our wide range can be suited to every sector and market. To maintain our competitive advantage, for 2013 we decided to strengthen those segments that needed to be improved.
Christina Dantas, Mistral: We hope all sectors will show growth in 2013 because we believe in the potential of each. We will try to develop the residential sector, which could enable excellent growth for us.
Sebastian Labat, Winix: The mains-fed cooler market industry will inevitably show some growth in home and domestic environments. The market is looking for all-in-one countertop or under-sink units able to deliver all types of water.
Under-sink products such as the Finecel water filtration system and under-sink chiller W10 series perfectly respond to that market trend. Under-sink units would also satisfy Horeca environments that are looking for compact, efficient and high hygiene control under-sink.
Hannah Oakman is deputy managing editor magazines at FoodBev Media.
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