This article was originally published in Kitchen & Bath Business Magazine on Oct 2, 2019.
It’s not good enough for businesses to be better or faster at doing things, they need to be doing things differently than the way they’ve always been done to win in this global marketplace. I’ve been talking to innovative startups in the kitchen and bath industry: Signature Kitchen Suite (SKS), a division of LG that is offering a new line of luxury appliances, and Cabbonet, a London-based company offering designers, architects and showrooms modern European-style furniture/kitchen designs and materials manufactured in Italy.
I sat down with Zach Elkin, general manager of SKS and LG Builder, to talk about starting up a new luxury appliance brand and the challenges he faces. We talked at length about innovations and technology – and, of course, appliances. The biggest challenge for Elkin’s team is standing up and scaling a business while putting processes and procedures in place at the same time.
I also chatted with Andrew Hays, CEO of Cabbonet, and Neil Bailey, president of Cabbonet Inc. – the company’s U.S. division – about starting up a new brand and about their company’s innovations. Hays explained that the quantity of work and vision involved in creating this brand has been all-enveloping for a long time. European product designs and materials will be disruptive in the kitchen and bath industry, according to Bailey.
A close look at two industry startups
Hays describes Cabbonet’s offering as, "Relatively simple and beautifully constructed furniture for the kitchen and every other room in the house. It’s simple to order and easy to fit with a gorgeous selection of materials and finishes."
Cabbonet’s mission is to bring to market artisan-style craftsmanship, beautiful timbers and fantastically engineered and high-quality products at an affordable and accessible level.
“We design our products and then find machines to build our beautiful designs,” said Hays. “We have a design-born vision.”
Elkin shares Signature Kitchen Suite’s product offering to the kitchen industry at the brand new 22,500-sq.-ft. Experience and Design Center (EDC) located in Napa, California.
"The EDC is the stage where we are introducing SKS to thought leaders within the design community and throughout the building community, as well as the best of the best in distributor networks,” he said. "The EDC allows us to bring our brands to life and lets designers, builders and trade partners see first hand the precision, performance and detail we put into the products."
Elkin uses the word “prosumer” to describe a consumer who has a design professional attached to them who understands the consumer and what they are looking to do in that kitchen. No two applications are ever the same he says, so the expertise of a kitchen designer is priceless.
It’s really great to see two large international kitchen industry manufacturers focus on designers as their key to success. Hays has a creative vision that encourages the design community to engage with Cabbonet. He says most European brands require that a designer has a showroom to be allowed to sell their products. He doesn’t want like-minded designers or architects restricted by bricks and mortar, so Cabbonet will offer its product to designers, architects and showrooms that fit the company’s distribution plans.
Mass production to designing for individuals
The new luxury is all about experiences,according to Elkin, who said it’s not about what you own, it’s about how you experience what you own. He and his team are designing and building appliances for people who really enjoy cooking and entertaining.
“Everything in the kitchen might not be a luxury item by category, but people will pick things they love, making their kitchen personal,” he added.
People want their kitchens to have personality and individuality, and according to Hays, "The kitchen is the ultimate place for self-expression now."
Innovation, technology, & people
Hays and Elkin both talked a lot about the importance of getting the right people on their teams. Hays describes the task as getting the right group to help create something they love.
“We are passionate people who are knowledgeable and committed,” said Elkin, who describes SKS as a collaborative culture and sees the company as helping folks design and build their for- ever kitchen.
Signature Kitchen Suite’s innovative processes have already produced industry firsts, including built-in sous vide cooking and integrated wine columns designed to preserve wine by protecting it against vibration, light and variations in temperature and humidity. When we discussed technology, Elkin said that the tipping point is coming for this and sees it helping with time management and efficiency.
"Technology in the kitchen is all about making the home chef better and making things easier from a repeatability standpoint,” he added. “It’s about saving time by managing better and becoming a more proficient and better cook and entertainer. It comes down to having more time to do the things you want to do and spending less time on repetitive tasks."
Innovation means doing things differently instead of just doing things better or faster. I was impressed with Cabbonet’s mission to bring high-style European designs and materials from Italy directly to kitchen designers in the U.S.; I think it’s innovative and brilliant. Signature Kitchen Suite’s focus on customer experiences and technology leads its drive for innovation. Cabbonet and SKS are definitely two kitchen industry innovators to watch in 2020.