In a candid chat with Philipe van der Loo, managing director, Quooker Emirates, on brand’s history, the current state of business, expansion plans in the region, and future goals
Interview by Roma Arora | Photos by Farooq Salik
Location courtesy: FIVE Jumeirah Village, Dubai
Who would have thought that boiling water from the tap would be a reality one day! Quooker made it possible and it’s an indispensable tool in the modern kitchen. Quooker was established in 1970, in the Netherlands with a simple yet revolutionary idea by Rotterdam-born Henri Peteri. He worked for Unilever and was visiting the head office in London when he had an idea that would change his life forever. It was during a presentation about instant soup. They showed how you could dissolve soup in boiling water in just five seconds. ‘And to do that, you have to heat water for five minutes?’ Peteri thought. ‘That’s stupid! Why can’t we get boiling water from the mixer tap in our homes?!’ When he got home, Peteri went down into his basement to develop a prototype of the first boiling-water tap in the world. It took a lot of time and money. But when the first model was made, Peteri sold it to friends and acquaintances who were very enthusiastic. Once people had used a Quooker, they couldn’t live without it. In 1992, the first Quooker was introduced, the Quooker Basic. The things started rolling for the brand and in 2004, the first batch of Quookers was exported abroad. Now, Quooker produces 110,000 Quookers a year. Nowadays, millions of consumers in Europe have a Quooker in their houses.
This groundbreaking product came to UAE in 2015, by Jakob Johannsen, partner at Quooker. After creating a solid foundation for the brand, Johannsen is returning to his homeland, Denmark, handling over the reins to Philipe van der Loo who has joined as the managing director. Young and dynamic, van der Loo has great business acumen and he wants to make Quooker an absolute kitchen essential. He elaborates: “It is our mission to make the boiling water tap a kitchen essential in all kitchens worldwide. And not only because of the convenience a Quooker offers, but also because it helps the planet. By using our products you massively reduce the usage of plastic bottles while also reducing water wastage and energy consumption. To fulfil our mission we established Quooker UAE in 2015, and we are very satisfied with the progress so far. More and more people here use a Quooker, whether it is in their own home or in their office, and we also see huge potential in other markets in the region.” He further discusses: “To start with, there is a common misconception that tap water in the UAE isn’t safe to drink. Public authorities across the Emirate frequently state that tap water is suitable for human consumption at the point of leaving the desalination processing plant. The issue actually arises when water reaches water tanks belonging to houses, villas or apartment blocks, which need to be thoroughly cleaned at least every six months to avoid contamination. Quooker boils water to 110⁰C, thereby eradicating harmful bacteria. The boiler’s in-built filter further purifies the water, making water flowing from the boiling water tap safe to drink. So bit by bit we are working towards making Quooker a kitchen essential in kitchens in the UAE and GCC.”
The biggest advantage of having a Quooker and its filtrations system is having clean and fresh drinking water that is dispensed from a single tap and on demand: 100ºC boiling, chilled, still, and sparkling water – all filtered. Sustainability is at the forefront of the brand. In fact, in 2016, the brand’s premises were rebuilt and covered with 900 solar panels. Not just this, Quooker recycles old products and manages our waste flows in a sustainable way, in compliance with the WEEE (Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Act. Quooker taps also help in eliminating waterborne diseases because the HiTAC (High Temperature Activated Carbon) boiler filter purifies the water. Quooker is the market leader in many countries in Europe while still growing at a tremendous speed in big markets like the UK and Germany. van der Loo shares: “Even in the Netherlands, our home market where we have been present for many years, we are growing rapidly. For instance, nowadays more than 35% of all new kitchens in the Netherlands and Denmark have a Quooker installed. And while we are growing at a rapid speed there is so much more potential, not only in the UAE but also in the GCC region. So this is a next step we are now working on.” Five years ago, when Quooker came to this region, they faced their own shares of challenges. “There was some scepticism about the idea of drinking tap water, even when we showcase our special filtering system. Today the general public is aware that filtered tap water is many times better than bottled water. Seeing is believing and we hope to open people’s eyes and minds to what the future could look like, with having so many water functions from a single tap. A Quooker tap saves space, reduces plastic, and is better for the environment,” explains van der Loo.
Over a period of time, the kitchen is growing in its importance in the UAE. Clients are making more conscious decisions when planning and designing their kitchens. van der Loo is extremely happy to witness this much-needed change. van der Loo says: “Form and function need to meet- it is no longer just about having a beautiful kitchen that is rarely used- something that we previously saw a lot in the UAE. It feels as though kitchens are gaining a new wave of importance, once more becoming the heart of the home. I believe it has very much to do with the global atmosphere at the moment, where people are in need of extra nesting and sheltering. We are once again spending much more time in our homes and the kitchen has become the place to socialise. People are also generally becoming a lot more health-conscious and aware of what they are consuming.” Innovation is at the core of the brand and van der Loo swears it. He says: “Quooker invented the boiling water tap in the 1970s, making them the first in the market to offer such a product. Throughout the years we have continued to use this innovator experience to make taps that offer the best not only in quality but also in design, as demonstrated by our product range – we are the only ones that provide innovative design and 100ºC boiling, hot, cold, chilled, and sparklingly water – all filtered and in one single tap. Clearly, one tap does it all!” Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance and the brand works closely with its clients. “Clients should be happy and their satisfaction matters the most. Most of our main clients are kitchen suppliers, fit-out contractors, corporate offices, retail stores, and hotels. We have also delivered full filtered water tap solutions to many corporate companies such as Jumeirah Group, Emaar, Dubai Customs, Huawei, HSBC, and others,” says van der Loo. Apart from client satisfaction, another important aspect that Quooker values is the service they provide. van der Loo considers service an extremely important part of their success.
He emphasises: “We are not here just to sell a product but to ensure consumers have a great experience when buying and using a Quooker. Unfortunately, service in the UAE generally isn’t always at the desired level. For Quooker that isn’t acceptable, so we have our own in-house service team that caters to our clients directly. Our local retail partners will tell you that our service goes above and beyond to ensure the best experience at all times.” Research and Development (R&D) plays a critical role in the innovation process in the success of Quooker. It’s essentially the biggest investment the brand makes. van der Loo tells: “Quooker was created as a result of innovation, so R&D is the basis of our company. In our HQ in the Netherlands, we have a team of more than 35 people working directly in R&D and we have over 80 registered patents. We know that our future depends on new innovations and it is our ambition to bring new, breakthrough innovation to the market every three years.” Talking further about the latest innovation, van der Loo excitedly shares the features of the latest breakthrough product —Quooker CUBE. “Quooker’s latest invention— Quooker CUBE gives the convenience of filtered, boiling water, chilled still, and sparkling water – all from a single tap. No more waiting for the water to boil to make a cup of the tea or coffee, blanch vegetables, make couscous or sterilise baby bottles. It means you can always have filtered, boiling, chilled and even sparkling water at your disposal- making plastic bottles a thing of the past. It’s a great product and one tap does it all!”
There is a whole range with great options and features from Quooker for different areas. van der Loo says: “For example, for offices and F&B, Quooker’s Nordic Twin tap collection with high capacity chillers is the most popular one. We can serve 100ºC boiling, chilled, and sparklingly water – all filtered for 200-300 people with a single Quooker system. In private residences, a few years ago we came to the market with integrated taps meaning ‘one tap that offers all’. Recently, we added a tap that has a pull-out hose and this has quickly become the most popular from our range. We also introduced a range of sleek matte black taps that have a very Nordic/Scandinavian feel to them, which have been very well received.” “We have recently launched the Flex in black colour and we are super excited with the launch of the Fusion in Patinated brass in 2020 – it will be an art piece,” van der Loo adds. He is working towards the expansion of the brand. van der Loo affirms: “We are focussing on further growing in the UAE and the rest of the region. Within Quooker globally we have recently branched out to Hong Kong as a gateway to the rest of Asia. We know our products will be very popular there as people drink a lot of tea and boil water for sterilisation. Quooker taps fit right into that tradition and can help bring easy accessible clean water there.
Today Quooker is present in 12 countries.” van der Loo is optimistic and feels that further awareness will help them in attaining a greater market share. He signs off on a positive note: “While Quooker is growing rapidly, there are many consumers that aren’t yet aware of its convenience and other benefits. This offers huge potential for Quooker as we are top of the line in making multi-functional innovative taps. We are working on some truly game-changing innovations that are guaranteed to change the market as we know it.”