Water cooler manufacturer Dieau-Edafim prides itself on its high tech approach to the industry. cooler innovation Editor Hannah Oakman visited its new base in the South of France to see the current focus of the business and discover what is in the pipeline for 2007.
The Dieau-Edafim plant, based in Le Pouzin, France in the beautiful Rhône Valley region, is hard to miss – a gleaming, purpose built 7,000 metre square factory set in a large valley plain, surrounded by rolling mountains.
It houses one of the biggest water cooler manufacturing bases in Europe, with output capable of one cooler every two minutes. A team of research and development staff work behind the scenes, putting the company’s established cooling and filtering technology to new and even more innovative means.
From direct chill systems and automatic sanitisation to traceability products and anti-scale systems, the company has, in fact, invested around €6 million in research and development since 1999, placing quality and hygiene at the top of the agenda. Its recent turnover stood at around €15 million, with more than half of this realised in export markets.
Today’s Dieau-Edafim company was founded at the end of 2005, as a result of a merger between Dieau, which was founded by the Swiss Dietschi family, to enter the water cooler market with new technology, and Edafim, France’s leading point of use manufacturer at the time. Today there is a team of 15 managers, with an average age of just 35, reflecting the young and energetic nature of the company.
Dieau, named after the first two letters of the Dietschi name and the French word for water (eau) was founded in 1999 and Eric Dietschi remains as Board Chairman. At the helm now is Corsican born General Manager Dominique Casta, who works a long week at the base in Le Pouzin before flying back to his family in Corsica at weekends.
When Dieau announced its purchase of Edafim at the end of 2005, it was decided that both the Dieau and Edafim brand names would be kept in operation under one company. Dieau then relocated to the south of France and joined the Edafim team at its Loriol headquarters, close to the Provence border, before both companies relocated to the new Le Pouzin base last year.
The deal was pursued thanks to Edafim’s continuous focus on quality and innovation, which had effectively positioned it at the top of the French market and Dieau’s recognition of the need to keep up with the fast growing pace of the POU market. A range of complimentary products sealed the new deal.
Edafim (which stands for Entretien, Dépannage, Appareils, Frigorifique, Industriel, et Medicaux) was viewed as a traditional family company, whereas Dieau was more of an industrial corporation in comparison. Edafim’s watercooler business has increased steadily, partly due to growing demand from hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
Founded in 1983 by Yves Defrés, Edafim started out specialising in the cleaning of medical and industrial cooling equipment. The company then began operating an after sales team for American imports but a high US dollar exchange rate at the time pushed the price of supplying US coolers and parts too high and so Edafim decided to develop its own cooler.
By 1995, Edafim’s commercial and administration teams remained at the Loriol base, with service and maintenance teams operating from Paris. In 1999, due to the unfortunate death of Yves Defrés, his daughter Sylvie Loncelle took over and continued to develop the business. She is currently Delegated General Manager of the Dieau-Edafim business, working alongside Dominique Casta.
The Edafim range, which was incorporated into the joint company offering, includes a collection of coolers, all with the direct chill system, which are now distributed via more than 3,000 French distributors.
It includes modern designs such as the Lago, through to industrial products with mass throughput, including chillers with a 200 litre per hour capacity. The Rond’O and Apoll’O models, introduced in 2000, are equipped with an electronic card which rinses the cooler every three hours, plus an electronic system to remind customers when the filter expires.
The company also manufactures cafeteria coolers in stainless steel, available with added flavours and sparkling water, as well as wall-mounted drinking fountains.
Commenting at the time of the deal, Dieau stated: “This acquisition means that we can now offer a complete range of coolers to suit all markets, from domestic to industrial. We firmly believe that the combination of revolutionary technology, including self-sanitisation, huge chilled water capacity, direct chill with ice bank plus great product design will really create a stir in the cooler world for distributors and end users alike.”
Bruno Maurin, Export Manager at the company, explained the company’s current philosophy in terms of position in the marketplace.
“We don’t produce just a standard white box cooler as we don’t want to be competing purely on price. We want to operate in a niche market either due to specific technology or suitability to a certain sector.”
In terms of markets, France is obviously a huge and important market. “But we are also focusing on building up our exports in established European countries such as Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal, using our full range of
products and gaining market share,” continued Bruno.
“It depends on the product, but our most successful export market is Germany with carbonated models, and the Star cooler is enjoying a lot of success in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. The Star is our leading product for export, even as far afield as Australia.”
High tech approach
A visit to the factory highlights the scale of proceedings and is dominated by a fast paced tour of new technology and patents pending. Dominique Casta is thrilled by the innovation currently taking place, and excited about where it will lead in the future. The company claims to have over 30 protected patents, with
more to come.
Of course, looks matter too. There has been an important design aspect to the Dieau range from the outset, working with French product designer Philippe Starck on the first incarnation of the Diva cooler.
Models since then have been sleek and rounded, available in a range of metal finishes and modern colours which would be equally at home in a boardroom as front of house in a salon or retail environment.
But back to the technology. Aided by expert Quality Manager Céline Rimbault, who previously worked for Eden Springs’ distribution business in France, we were shown several new technologies, which the company are sure will be of benefit in the new year.
Models for the future*
Dieau-Edafim is currently working on several new research projects and prototypes, combining a desire to tackle new technology with the latest materials to produce innovative designs which will have a place in the competitive market.
The company is now at the advanced stage of a new chiller, aimed at the alcoholic drinks market, which, if successful, could prove massive and open doors for an infinite range of machines. Dieau-Edafim has taken its developed chilling technology and applied it to other sectors, thinking “outside the box”.
A further project – currently named the nanosterile machine until a worthy name is chosen for the product – is a point of use cooler designed for high risk environments which uses the disinfecting power of UV light to sanitise every drop from the tap. In tests, it has been proven to kill powerful viruses such as the deadly cholera bug. The company sees huge potential for this machine in the high-risk sector – such as the military, schools and hospitals and care homes.
A team of research and development staff are also working away on new filters which have technology fitted so that once the filter’s lifespan has ended, there is no way it can be continued or reused. A further product has been designed to avoid scale build up in hard water areas, important in many of the geographical areas in which Dieau-Edafim distributes.
In terms of recent successful models in the marketplace, the newly launched Lag’O Néo has proved popular, thanks to its robust chassis and high tech core. The cooler has a high performance ice bank system with a capacity of 45 litres per hour and is available in hot, cold and ambient options. Edafim’s Rond’O was also upgraded to the Rond’O Néo, concealing the same new technology.
Dieau’s Star model has also been a best seller for the company in 2006, equipped with Dieau’s patented self-sanitisation, direct chill and ice bank technology. Besides its innovative technology, the company believes the Star offers a modern and colourful cooler, which has easily interchangeable coloured panels. The Star is also available in a Point of Use version, which Dieau-Edafim predict will be its most popular model in 2007.
As Bruno added: “Different markets, different targets, different products – it’s vital to have all of these areas covered today.” With the nanosterile product, the carbonated version of the star POU and the MiniFontaine, Dieau-Edafim feels it has all bases covered.
Via a clever combination of both acquisition and new product development, Dieau-Edafim looks set to move fast, explore new opportunities, and remain one of the key players in today’s European water cooler manufacturing market.
MiniFontaine – homing in on the domestic market
The MiniFontaine machine, acquired as part of the recent acquisition of Alpconcept, is a countertop, compact model which fits a five litre bottle.
Dieau-Edafim announced the acquisition at the recent European Bottled Watercooler Association trade show in Bergamo.
Philippe Bianic, former Director at Alpconcept and creator of the tabletop unit willnow be heading up the Mini Cooler branch of Dieau Edafim’s research and development department.
Available as a bottled water or filtered water model, the Mini Cooler is popular in the home market, both in the kitchen and as part of the home office, following the growing trend in Europe for working at home. Dieau-Edafim is now looking to innovate further in this area and is really hoping that 2007 will be the year that the home cooler takes off.
Manufactured in France with an inox tank and polycarbonate body, the cooler has no compressor but rather uses the patented “Peltier” (or thermoelectricity) system so all parts in contact with the water are easy to take apart and wash. Water is regulated from 5 to 15°C.
Inside, the W-MIXX system keeps the water in constant motion within the tank, which means the original composition of the spring water is not altered.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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