Click here to read the complete illustrated article as originally published or scroll down to read the text article.
How does this manufacturer deliver reliable solutions and smart kitchen and household advancements on a daily basis? Leo Rommel reports.
Open your kitchen cabinets. Take out a plate. Glance underneath and see what it says. Then, after you cut a generous piece of pie for yourself, turn the pie dish over and see the brand name and who manufactured that product.
And check the brand for that storage container you reach for when you go to put away the remaining food you were unable to finish.
You’re bound to see one of many iconic brand names on each item (including Pyrex®, Corelle®, Snapware®) – all owned by World Kitchen.
From consumer bakeware, dinnerware, kitchen and household tools, storage items, rangetop cookware, and cutlery, World Kitchen produces and markets brand name products that meet the growing needs and demands of households worldwide.
As a result, World Kitchen continues to outshine and outdo its competition in terms of what consumers see when they open their kitchen cabinets and pull out various household kitchenware items.
“We are a growth company,” says Kris Malkoski, President, North America at World Kitchen. “We are outpacing the housewares segment. Since 2008, on top of industry standards in terms of product testing and quality control. It’s part of our everyday manufacturing operation.”
World Kitchen – based in Rosemont, Ill., and whose corporate origins stem from a 1998 roll up of the consumer products division of glassmaker Corning Incorporated – owns nearly a dozen household brand names. Its three largest and most profitable brands, according to Lee Muir, Senior Vice President and GM of Global Business, are Corelle, Pyrex, and Snapware, in that order.
The majority of the manufacturing behind those brands is done in the U.S.
“Our Asia partners really love the “made in America” component of our business model,” Muir says. “And it resonates very well with our customers because it translates into trust and quality for them.”
Corelle products, launched in 1970 by Corning, are manufactured from a “unique glass material (Vitrelle®) that even today is made in the same plant that it was made in then,” Muir says.
“It’s the only place in the world where this material and this product are made,” she adds.
She’s referring to the manufacturing facility for Corelle dinnerware – a one-of-a-kind, 375,000-square-foot facility in Corning, N.Y. The plant covers 12 acres and houses about 550 employees who specialize in a 24/7 operation for the uniquely-made Corelle dinnerware made of Vitrelle, a tempered glass composition, which utilizes a still-revolutionary glass melting and pressing operation that includes bringing two types of glass laminated into three layers.
“Then we actually vacuum form the Corelle product,” Muir adds. “There’s no foot on it like you would see in ceramic. It’s all pure glass, smooth surfaces, non-porous and non-delicate.”
In essence, it’s flat-out more durable, Malkoski adds, not to mention far more lightweight, thin, stackable, and easier to clean.
“Unlike many pieces of bone China or even ceramic, if it accidentally drops off your table, the odds of your Corelle plate surviving the drop are very, very high,” she says. “That certainly would not be the case for other types of materials. Given its thinness and stackability, it’s also very efficient in consumer’s homes, especially in Asia, where kitchens there aren’t big kitchens.”
The Corelle brand has seen its business grow significantly over the years. In fact, to support that growth, in 2011, World Kitchen invested about $50 million to add additional capacity to the Corning plant. Muir says it’s the No. 1 glass dinnerware brand sold in the U.S. and Korea, and Malkoski says it’s been growing double digits in terms of year-over-year sales in Asia.
“We use Corelle as the lead brand when we expand into new markets,” she explains. “We also use glass frits in the decorating process that melt into the glass of the product itself so our decorations last forever. A plate will look the same 20 years down the road as it did the day you bought it. It never fades, stains, or scratches off.”
The Right Balance
Malkoski’s favorite part of the Pyrex brand is not how it was the bakeware brand used for the most recent Pillsbury bakeoff, but how the product got started, back in 1915. It was almost by accident.
Corning engineers, she says, had developed a more durable glass for lanterns that hung on the outside of trains.
“They developed these new glass lanterns to address breakage that sometimes occurred when the heat inside the lantern was exposed to the elements on very cold, snowy days,” she says. “They were trying to make a more durable glass.”
One day, one of the engineers wondered how the new product would perform if it was used for cooking.
“So, he took the bottom of the lantern home to his wife and asked her to bake something in it,” Malkoski says. “She was delighted by the experience because compared to the metal bakeware that was available then, the product cooked more evenly and cleanup was much simpler.”
She adds, “That’s how Pyrex bakeware was born.”
Fast-forward some 99 years later. The Pyrex brand, according to Malkoski, is “by far” the leading brand in glass bakeware, prepware, and food storage in the U.S.
“Pyrex products are found in 90 million households,” she adds. “We continuously sell over 40 million units per year. It’s the No. 1 such brand in the U.S. and Canada.”
All thanks to train lanterns – and 360 mostly unionized employees at a high-tech, 586-square-foot plant that rests on 22 acres in Charleroi, Pa., where the bulk of Pyrex’s manufacturing is done.
Muir says what makes the Pyrex product exceptional is its unique tempering cycle, which melts and presses soda-lime glass for its products.
“The tempering cycle is where you put strength into the glass,” she says. “Pyrex has a balance between what they call mechanical strength, which is if it breaks when you drop it or bang it, and thermal strength, which is if it breaks when you go from hot to cold too quickly. The tempering we use gives us the right balance between those two things. In our testing, we make sure we maintain that balance between mechanical and thermal strength.”
This is why cooks and bakers have trusted Pyrex, World Kitchen’s second oldest brand, for nearly a century. “When you talk to people who like to cook and bake in their home, they talk about how they’ve always relied on Pyrex to be the brand that has allowed them to measure successfully and to cook successfully,” she says. “It’s a tradition we’ll always continue.”
In late 2010, World Kitchen acquired Snapware, an innovative, high growth manufacturer specializing in storage and organization solutions for the home and kitchen.
Despite being relatively young compared its older brands mentioned before, the Snapware brand, founded in 1994, continues to see double-digit growth in the U.S. through its innovative products targeting the home storage industry.
Snapware products utilize the high-quality plastic molding expertise, innovative culture, and short product development capabilities driven by a 300-employee, non-unionized labor force that directs a continuous assembly cycle inside a 170,000-square-foot facility in Mira Loma, Calif.
“What is really great is when we expanded into plastic manufacturing, it enabled us to bring much of our other plastic requirements in-house,” Malkoski says. “For example, the plastic lids for Pyrex basic storage are now made in the Mira Loma facility.”
Snapware products are more innovative than its competitors in the food storage space. Take, for instance, its Total Solutions line, which features easy-to-open, four-latch, air-tight, and leak-proof lids that are interchangeable between plastic and glass vessels.
Multi-purposed, the lids accommodate plastic Snapware vessels, as well as Pyrex oven-safe glass vessels. This, Malkoski explains, offers solutions for taking meals from oven to table, to refrigerator, and on the road.
“Never before have storage providers been able to engineer a product where a lid was transferrable across multiple materials,” she adds.
And, according to Muir, who says the lid technology is also available for various Corelle products, the Total Solutions line allows consumers to write-on the lids with a permanent marker and and erase with a soft eraser on a designated area.
“You can always know when you go to the refrigerator what the life span is of the food stored in the Total Solutions product,” she says.
The Snapware brand had “very little international presence” when World Kitchen acquired it. That’s changed since, and the brand now has a greater focus in overseas markets like Korea, China, and India.
“We’ve really been laying the groundwork to get the new product line over there to meet those consumer needs,” Muir says. “We’ve been able to provide them the products that they need to grow that storage business.”
Listening To Customers
World Kitchen, which has over 2,000 employees in North America, has centered more of its marketing efforts on providing relevant information where the consumer is looking for it – including online.
“It’s a very different consumer that’s shopping now, where they have the mobile devices to check prices, check product information online, all while they’re shopping,” Malkoski says.
The company also works with its retail customers to identify the solution that makes the most sense for the shopper in their store.
“What that means is we invest significantly in research to understand their shoppers,” she says. “We do regular business planning meetings with top management across our most important customers. We use blue ocean strategy and other innovation techniques and create product concepts that make sense for our customer’s retail environment and drives sales.”
And this successful, customer-oriented, sales-driven model will not change.
“We have a process here that we execute daily, and it works” she says. “Top-quality manufacturing, innovative engineering, making and marketing product lines and brands that continue to be trusted in households worldwide.”