As cooktop extractor brand Bora makes its move into more new product categories, Willi Bruckbauer talks to Nicola Hanley about creating innovative appliances with clear USPs and not being a 'me too' brand.
Willi Bruckbauer, the founder and CEO of German manufacturer Bora, likes to do things a little bit differently. When he founded his company 16 years ago, Bruckbauer, a master carpenter who specialised in kitchens, had a vision to ‘end the extractor hood’. Believing them to be ‘loud, ineffective and visibly intrusive’ (as well restricting the ‘possibilities when designing a kitchen’) he set to work creating an alternative.
The result was Bora’s innovative Professional cooktop extractor, which draws vapours downwards. According to the company, the premium-quality systems are ‘more effective than conventional hoods, extremely quiet, energy efficient, easy to clean and allow design freedom in the kitchen’. Over the years, Bora’s award-winning offering has grown to include the Classic, X Pure, M Pure, S Pure, Pure and Basic ranges, which are now sold in 60 countries worldwide.
Satisfied that “most of the job is done” in terms of providing an effective alternative to the conventional cooker hood and, not one to rest on his laurels, 4 years ago Bruckbauer looked for his next challenge: reimagining and redesigning the steam oven. “Our customers were saying to us, ‘please do something more’,” remembers Bruckbauer. “They asked us ‘why don’t you do an oven’? But if we were to develop a new oven, it had to have some USPs, some outstanding advantages. Because at Bora, we don’t like ‘me too’ products. We like outstanding products with clear advantages for our end customers.”
It led to the development of the Bora X BO steam oven, which launched in the UK last year. Its USPs include its large touch display, which Bruckbauer says is as easy to use as a smartphone; pre-set programmes with additional features such as bursts of steam and moisture extraction; an automatic cleaning function and steam extraction function.
“We are really proud of our R & D team – they’ve done a great job,” says Bruckbauer. Since its launch, the X BO oven has picked up numerous awards, including the 2022 KBBFocus Best Kitchen Product of the Year award. “In the UK market, people who use the X BO oven are really big fans and if you’re a fan of a product, you recommend it to others. So it’s not that dominant yet but it’s like a domino effect. Word of mouth is really important at this price level.”
“The next step, our customers tell us, is that they want a complete solution. And that is our new strategy,” says Bruckbauer. Set to launch in the UK early in 2024 are refrigeration and freezing systems. Designed to be quiet, odourless and aesthetically pleasing, Bruckbauer says they were a logical progression for the Bora brand, although not without their challenges. “It’s not that easy to enter a completely new product category. You need a huge amount of knowledge. So we are working with Liebherr on the range. We’re using Bora ideas, design and functionality but the chassis and technique is from Liebherr.”
Also coming next year is a new lighting range, designed to provide optimum task and ambient lighting.“It won’t be a main product category for us,” says Bruckbauer. “But solving the problem with cooker hoods created a new problem with lighting.” More ovens might be on the cards in the future too, but they aren’t a project at the moment, says Bruckbauer.
At the moment, 95% of Bora products are made in Bavaria but soaring R&D costs mean this may soon change. “If we want to be successful for the future, we have to make products scaleable,” says Bruckbauer. “So we need manufacturing across Europe and maybe further afield too. It’s a challenge and an opportunity.”
The UK is an important market for Bora, which has been welcoming thousands of visitors from around the world to its new flagship showroom in Herford. The 2,000sq m futuristic building was officially opened in time for Küchenmeile 2023 with six days of events. UK dealers who didn’t make the opening will be able to see the new Bora products at KBB Birmingham in March 2024. And what else is planned for the UK? “I would like to create an even more beautiful flagship store in London,” says Bruckbauer. “To get even closer to customers and strengthen our dealer network further while making the Bora brand even more well known.”