The British Are Here
By Bill Sendelback
Paul Revere never actually proclaimed, “The British are coming!” during his famous ride in April, 1775, through Lexington, Massachusetts, but he certainly could say that now. Hearth products manufacturers from the UK have for decades taken aim at the North American market. A few have found success with brands such as Valor, a brand now owned in North America by Miles Industries. Glen Dimplex is another such success story, with world-headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, and North American headquarters in Cambridge, Ontario.
Recently there has been a modern British invasion, as witnessed by the number of UK companies who were displaying their wares at the recent HPBExpo in New Orleans. A few made big splashes at that trade show with impressive victories in the Vesta Awards Program.
UK manufacturers are not novices when it comes to hearth products. Ceramic-fiber gas logs had their beginning in the UK, and “balanced flue” was what the Brits called what we now term direct-vent. Vent-free, too, originated in the UK as “flueless.”
Decades ago while we were selling funky looking Rustic Craft electric log sets featuring red cellophane revolving around a 60-watt light bulb, the Brits were developing and refining electric fireplaces. Granted, North American manufacturers have taken each of these innovations to impressive new heights, but the Brits lead the way in each. Now they are hopeful of making new inroads into the North American hearth products and outdoor markets.
Evonicfires has been the rising star of electric fires in the UK since it was established in 2005. Headquartered in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the company’s sales have grown an average of 15% each of the last three years. In 2018, Evonic was purchased by NIBE AB, the company that also owns Regency Fireplace Products.
Evonic offers a complete line of “innovative, high-end, premium electric products to independent retail outlets,” according to Chris Cook, Sales director. The company entered the North American market in 2017 and has European Home as its North American distributor (781-324-8383, www.evonicfires.co.uk).
Evonic electric fires feature apps for smart phone fire effect control, remotes, digital thermostats, and seven-day timers. The most recent innovations from Evonic include fire effect control through Amazon Alexa, and widescreen electric fires to 95 inches wide.
U.S. suggested list prices for the Evonicfires models range from $2,900 to $4,600.
Farringdon 16 in Slate from Arada Stoves.
Arada Stoves began in 1966 in Devon County, UK, as a small, family-owned engineering business designing and manufacturing wood stoves, then under a variety of brand names. Today, Arada has become one of the largest wood stove manufacturers in the UK, with 70 employees. Arada management purchased the majority of the company in November, 2019, and now offers only that brand.
Arada entered the North American market in December, 2018, with Powrmatic of Canada (905-660-0033, www.aradastoves.com) as its North American distributor. Offered in North America are Arada’s Farringdon 12 and Farringdon 16 catalytic wood stoves. These models originally were developed to meet the 2022 European LOT 20 emissions regulations, as the only catalytic wood stoves in the UK. But while considering entering the North American market, Arada found that its Farringdon models also surpassed the more stringent EPA NSPS 2020 standards.
U.S. suggested list price for the Farringdon 12 model is $2,239, and for the Farringdon 16 model it is $3,039.
New Forest Electric Fire from British Fires.
British Fires is a division of Focal Point Fires, which was established in 1983 as a “hobby” in Christchurch, UK, and today Focal Point Fires is the UK’s largest manufacturer of “fuel effect fires” including electric- and gas-fire models. The British Fires brand was launched in 2019 to enter the North American market with a line of high-end, premium electric fires with U.S. suggested retail prices ranging from $1,900 to $4,000.
Brand new to the North American market, the company still is finalizing its distribution in North America; it’s aiming toward a network of “selected” specialty hearth products dealers. “The North American market has seen growth in the electric fires category, and our designs are very unique, which we know will suit this market,” says Michael Athay, Sales and Marketing director and North American sales contact (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.britishfires.com).
The company’s introduction into the North American market at the recent New Orleans HPBExpo proved to be a sensation as its New Forest electric fireplace was the winner of the Art of Fire honors at the Vesta Awards Ceremony. The New Forest model is just one product in British Fires’ North American lineup of European-styled barrel and square electric stoves and fireplaces.
Each features the company’s patent-pending Air Curtain Technology, allowing a wider distribution of heated air into the room from the built-in heater. Each electric fire in the company’s offering features four installation options: front opening, left or right corner, three-sided, and “floating.”
Charnwood Skye E700.
Another UK company featured in the 2020 Vesta Awards was Charnwood, with its Skye E700 wood stove, a finalist in the Wood Products category and described by the company as “the world’s first intelligent wood stove,” according to Richard Jelfs, vice president of North American Sales.
Charnwood is a division of A.J. Wells & Sons, the UK’s second largest manufacturer of wood stoves; it is based in Isle of Wight, UK. A.J. Wells began in 1972, and has grown from a 1,500 sq. ft. factory producing a few hundred stoves a year to today’s 75,000 sq. ft. facility with 200 employees producing “tens of thousands of units sold worldwide,” according to Jelfs. “Our stoves are designed and built to last,” he says. “Even 45 years after building our first stove, there still are many of our original models giving good service.”
Charnwood, too, is a newcomer to the North American market, making its entry at the New Orleans HPBExpo. “We’ve been keen to launch products in North America for a long time,” according to Jelfs, “but we knew we had to come with something amazing in order to be successful. We think our Skye E700 is such a product. It uses sophisticated new technology we’ve been perfecting for seven years.”
The Skye E700 wood stove features “intelligent micro-processor control” to achieve 2.4 gph of emissions, and 84% efficiency to earn 2020 NSPS certification with U.S. suggested retail prices ranging from $3,000 to $3,500. “It is difficult for a user to control a wood stove to ensure good operation,” Jelfs says. “The Skye E700 takes user error away and gives a clean, fully automated, efficient burn every time.”
Charnwood Skye E700.
As a newcomer to the North American market, Charnwood is establishing its distribution, but already has a warehouse and offices in Redding, California (530-355-1025, www.charnwood.com). “Our longer term vision is to open a manufacturing facility over here so we can put “Made in the USA” on our range of products,” Jelfs concludes.
Ekol Stoves is the brand of wood stoves Saltfire Stoves of Dorset, UK, is bringing to the North American market. Established in 2008 and specializing in “more affordable, small stoves,” Ekol models such as the Apple Pie and Peanut have U.S. suggested retail prices ranging from $620 to $3,100, according to Ross Penman, managing director and co-owner with wife Penelope. “We see North America as a large potential market, especially for compact stoves for small houses, cabins, and even camping.”
Having enjoyed a 32% sales increase last year in the UK, Ekol was the first brand in the UK to certify a double-sided wood stove to the strict DEFRA emissions testing, the equivalent of our EPA, says Penman. The company was the first in the UK to have its complete line certified to SIA Ecodesign Ready, a European standard due to take effect in 2022.
Ekol models are being distributed in North America by Grills’n Ovens (800-801-7339, www.defrastoves.com) with warehouses in New Jersey and Ontario, Canada.
Samba firelighters from The Flame Group.
The Flame Group is a manufacturer of firestarter products headquartered in North Wales, UK, with a sister company in The Netherlands. “We began in 1972 when we realized there was a growing market for firestarters to ignite coal fires in the UK and Europe,” according to Corjan Versprille, Sales director. “We specialize in the production of solid firestarters, now with the growing demand from charcoal and wood grilling enthusiasts after the 2005 European ban on lighting fluid.”
Selling under the brand names of Tiger Tim and Samba, plus private label brands, the company’s products include grill lighting cubes, sachets, and lighting gel, plus all-natural wood firelighters.
Along with a warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina, the company sells through two-step distributors throughout North America (www.firelighter.com).
Unlike most UK newcomers to the North American market that are offering hearth products, Gozney is one of two UK manufacturers bringing pizza ovens across the pond. Headquartered in Dorset, UK, Gozney began in 2010 manufacturing portable wood- and gas-fired outdoor stone pizza ovens for residential and commercial use.
Gozney entered the North American market last year, “because we saw over here this phenomenal passion for outdoor cooking,” according to Rich Welbey, global Marketing and Commercial director.
The Gozney Roccbox is the model the company currently is offering in North America, with U.S. suggested list prices starting at $499. Advertised as a “restaurant-grade, portable, outdoor pizza oven for home use,” the Roccbox features wood- or gas-burning, retractable legs, thicker stone floor, and dense calcium silicate insulation for heat retention, 304 stainless steel construction, and a “safe touch” silicone outer skin to reduce the danger of skin burns.
Gozney is selling dealer-direct to specialty retailers in North America from warehouses in Virginia, Los Angeles, Connecticut, and Atlanta. Freddy Eppleman heads North American Sales (407-450-5721, www.gozney.com).
Also bringing pizza ovens from the UK is Ooni Pizza Ovens, headquartered in Scotland and offering a full range of tabletop, stainless-steel pizza ovens fueled by either natural gas, LP, pellets, wood or charcoal, with U.S. suggested retail prices ranging from $199 to $599. The Ooni Koda 16 model was the winner of the Gas Barbecues category at the 2020 Vesta Awards at the New Orleans HPBExpo.
Co-founder Kristian Tapaninaho was really into making pizzas, “but my pizzas were good but not great,” he says. His pizzas lacked the restaurant-quality taste that he felt comes from high heat. So he and wife Darina Garland set out to develop a wood-fired pizza oven for their backyard, and the first Ooni model was the result.
Ooni Koda 16.
Today Ooni sells in 90 countries, but North America has the company’s most significant customer base, selling consumer-direct and through retailers such as Ace Hardware, Williams Sonoma, and Bloomingdales, from warehouses in New Jersey and Nevada. Ooni offers seven tabletop models plus complementary accessories and cookware.
Ooni’s North American sales contact is Amy Tolley (Email).
The Brits are taking on some strong, well-established, heavy hitters as they come to North America. But they’re bringing some interesting products that just may find some market niches that provide success.