Bodum Design Group AG
Bodum Design Group AG
Sales: CHF 200 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 335211 Electric Housewares and Household Fan Manufacturing; 332214 Kitchen Utensil, Pot, and Pan Manufacturing; 327215 Glass Product Manufacturing Made of Purchased Glass; 327212 Other Pressed and Blown Glass and Glassware Manufacturing
Bodum Design Group AG is a Switzerland-based manufacturer of household appliances, table service, and utensils featuring Scandinavian design. Led by Jorgen Bodum, who, together with other members of the Bodum family, continues to control 100 percent of the company founded by his father, Peter Bodum, the firm has long been synonymous with its Santos and other vacuum-type coffee makers. Since the early 1980s, however, Bodum has diversified its product range to cover nearly all aspects of table service. The company’s products include both vacuum and “French press” coffee makers, tea pots, presses and kettles, silverware, coffee, tea and drink glasses, china, serving and storage items, and kitchen utensils. The company also has its own branded line of teas. Most of Bodum’s designs are created by Carsten Jorgensen, Bodum’s longtime director of design; the company has also hired outside designers from time to time. In addition to designing and producing its products, Bodum operates an international retail store network, with nearly 20 stores in ten countries. The company’s products are also sold through third-party retailer channels. Bodum’s sales in 2001 were estimated to be CHF 200 million.
Designing a Good Cup of Coffee in the 1940s
The 20th century saw a number of innovations in coffee brewing. Among these was the so-called “French Press” method, developed in fact by an Italian named Calimani. This type of coffee maker, also called the “presso” or “plunger” maker, separated coffee grounds from the brewed coffee by means of a plunger, which pressed or pushed the grounds down in the beaker. The result was more full-flavored coffee than other common methods.
Yet many coffee purists considered another method as the best method for brewing coffee that tasted as good as it smelled. This method had been originally developed in 1840 by Robert Napier, a marine engineer in Scotland, who devised a means of brewing coffee using a vacuum. Napier’s system used two separate glass compartments connected by a tube. As water in the lower compartment was heated, it flowed into the upper compartment containing the coffee grounds. The cooling of the air in the lower compartment then created a vacuum that sucked the coffee back into the lower compartment, from which it could be served.
The “Napierian” method caught on to some extent in the mid-19th century, winning an award in 1856 from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Yet despite the method’s success, Napier never took out a patent on the device. Its fragility, and other factors—such as a means to prevent the buildup of too much vacuum pressure and the difficulties in filtering out the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee—meant that the vacuum method did not achieve widespread popularity.
The vacuum method might have passed out of use altogether had it not been for Peter Bodum, a merchant based in Denmark. Bodum had founded his business in 1944 with the initial purpose of importing glassware from Eastern Europe. Over the next decade, Bodum’s business expanded to include imports from other countries as well.
One of the products Bodum had begun importing during the 1950s was a French-made vacuum type coffee maker. The product proved not only expensive, but also had the same filtration and pressure problems that had long been associated with the Napier design. Yet Bodum was won over by the taste of vacuum-filtered coffee and decided to improve upon the design. Working with Kaas Klaeson, a Danish architect and designer, Bodum began to improve on the vacuum method, launching his first design in the mid-1950s, called “Mocca.” Bodum and Klaeson continued to make improvements to the company’s vacuum maker design and in 1958 launched Bodum’s breakthrough product, the “Santos.”
The Santos was to become one of the most popular coffee makers in Scandinavia—to the point where it was said that nearly every household in the region owned one. With the Santos, Bodum was able to solve a number of the problems associated with the vacuum method. The company devised and patented a new type of nylon filter that proved more effective in removing sediment than the cloth and paper filters available at the time, which, unlike the nylon filter, also altered the flavor of coffee. Bodum also solved the pressure problem, patenting a “valve seal” to prevent the Santos from developing too much pressure. The Santos was also one of the first coffee makers that could be used both on the stovetop and on the tabletop—the water chamber was heated with a bunsen type burner and brewing coffee suddenly became a dining spectacle.
Bodum solved another problem with the Santos—that of cost. By mass producing the Santos the company was able to meet its slogan that “design should not be expensive.” Through the 1960s, Bodum concentrated on its highly successful coffee maker line, releasing variations on the design, such as the Domingo, a smaller maker for brewing four to six cups, and the Rio, a 12-cup brewer suitable for the restaurant circuit.
Diversified Design Group for the New Century
Peter Bodum’s son Jorgen went to work for the company, then took over its leadership in the early 1970s. Joining the younger Bodum was a young designer, Carsten Jorgensen, who became Bodum’s director of design and whose designs were to become the driving force behind the company’s expansion in the 1980s. Bodum and Jorgensen’s partnership got off to a strong start with the 1974 launch of the Bistro coffee maker.
The Bistro was Bodum’s first “French press” style coffee maker. Its simple design set a standard for the category and became another perennial strong seller for the company. The Bistro also continued the company’s commitment to affordable, high-quality design. By the end of the 1970s, Bodum began plans to expand beyond coffee makers. In 1979, the company moved its headquarters to Lucerne, Switzerland.
Bodum released a new Jorgensen design in 1980, a line of cutlery based on the Bistro design. A year later, Bodum branched out into a new category, releasing the Osiris water kettle. The following year came a new member of the Bistro design family, a vacuum flask. Toward the mid-1980s, Bodum added other new product lines, including the Teabowl teapot in 1984 and the Chambord family of products, beginning with coffee glasses, that same year.
While Jorgensen became responsible for the company’s designs, Jorgen Bodum was making plans to expand the company’s business operations. In 1986, Bodum turned to the retail front, opening the first Bodum store in London. Designed by Jorgensen, that store served as the company’s flagship as it opened new stores in other major cities, including Paris, Copenhagen, Zurich, Lucerne, Porto, Tokyo, and Lisbon. Meanwhile, Bodum also pursued sales through a series of shop-in-shop boutiques, as well as through traditional retail channels.
“For more than two decades Bodum has aimed to produce articles that are designed and manufactured to the highest level of functionality and quality, making top design available to everyone throughout the world, thanks to affordable prices. Simplicity and functionality are the basic requirements for a Bodum design. Out of this basic concept grows a shape with a unique and simple beauty. Beauty—a quality that is eminently satisfying to our senses and intellect and that enhances our daily life. Often it is the small, scarcely noticed objects that display optimum functionality and design, simply because they were created from pure necessity. The Bodum design team hopes you will enjoy the fruits of our efforts.” —Carsten Jorgensen, Director of Design
- Peter Bodum founds company to import glassware from Eastern Europe to Denmark.
- Bodum launches its first coffee maker design, Mocca, based on vacuum-type makers invented by Robert Napier in 1840.
- Bodum and architect Kaas Klaeson develop an improved vacuum coffee maker, the Santos, which becomes the company’s first strong-selling product.
- Bodum launches variations on the Santos.
- Son Jorgen Bodum takes over company and with designer Carsten Jorgensen introduces the French-press coffee maker Bistro.
- Bodum moves headquarters and manufacturing facilities to Lucerne, Switzerland.
- The company launches the Osiris water kettle as part of a diversification of its product line.
- Bodum opens its first retail store in London, which serves as a flagship store for its international retail network.
- Bodum now includes stores in nine countries.
- Bodum adds new store in Birmingham and new 7,000-square-foot flagship store in New York City.
In the 1990s, Bodum continued to expand its product lines. The company launched its Shin Cha tea press and teapot line in 1991, which was followed by the Neptun water filter, part of the Bistro family in the same year. The following year saw the debut of an electric water kettle, the Ibis, a new line of tea glasses in the Bistro family, and the Kvadrant series of drinking glasses. In 1993, the company unveiled a new design family, Kenya, which included a French-press type coffee maker and accompanying coffee mugs.
Bodum’s design family remained strong into the late 1990s, as the company rolled out its Corona family of china, cups, and other tableware in 1997. The company also debuted an espresso type of coffee maker, the Verona, that used high heat pressure to force water through the ground coffee. At the same time, Bodum extended its product range again, adding serving and storage products, such as the Yohki group of storage jars in 1997, and the Tuscany cutlery caddy in 1998. The company also began offering other kitchen utensils, including the Allium garlic press, tongs, and vegetable peelers.
Preparing for the new millennium, Bodum remained a strong force in tabletop design, releasing such products as the Eileen series of coffee glasses in 1999 and the Piccolo Passione espresso cup and saucer set. The company’s retail network meanwhile continued to grow. By the end of 2001, Bodum’s retail network included new stores in Birmingham, England, and a new flagship store in New York City. The store, which at 7,000 square feet became the company’s largest, featured not only the company’s coffeemakers, tabletop and kitchen utensils, and other products, but also designs for the bath and home office, as well as matching the company’s Scandinavian designs with a 100-seat café operated by fashionable New York restaurant Aquavit. By now, Bodum had grown to a business with some 500 employees, with annual sales estimated at some CHF 200 million. Nevertheless, the company had not forgotten its origins: the Santos, though updated with a built-in heating element, remained an essential part of Bodum’s extensive product line.
Bodum (Skandinavien) A/S (Denmark); Bodum (UK) Ltd.; Bodum (France) SA; Peter Bodum GmbH (Germany); Bodum (Italia) Srl (Italy); Bodum Japan Co. Ltd.; Bodum (Benelux) BV (Netherlands); Bodum (Skandinavien) A/S (Norway); Bodum Portuguesa SA (Portugal); Bodum (Espana) SA (Spain); Bodum (Skandinavien) A/S (Sweden); Bodum (Schweiz) AG (Switzerland); Bodum Inc. (U.S.A.).
ARC International; Brown-Forman Corporation; Corning Incorporated; Guy Degrenne SA; International Cutlery, Ltd.; Lifetime Hoan Corporation; Mikasa, Inc.; Noritake Co., Limited; Oneida Ltd.; Royal Doulton plc; Swiss Army Brands, Inc.; Taittinger S.A.; Waterford Wedgwood plc; WKI Holding Company, Inc.
“Coffee, Tea and Bodum,” Gifts & Decorative Accessories, November 1, 2001.
Knoer, Eva Maria, “Ping-Pong zum ausgereiften Design,” Forum Magazin, July 2001.