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Katadyn Produkte AG announced on Dec. 20, 2007, that it had acquired Optimus International AB, maker of outdoor stoves and accessories, from the Swedish company ThinkOut AB.
Optimus has been producing outdoor stoves since 1899. In addition to a line of gas, multi-fuel, and kerosene stoves, the company’s product range also includes cookware, cooking utensils, various fuels and accessories. Katadyn North America, a subsidiary of Katadyn AG, has been distributing Optimus in North America since 2006.
“Katadyn’s involvement will definitely help Optimus. In a very crowded category, few retailers are looking for more stoves. However, Optimus still represents high quality and is a better-performing alternative,” Alan Lizee, president of Katadyn North America, told SNEWS®. “Optimus approached Katadyn North America after severing the Brunton relationship (in 2006). They had seen what we had done in essentially re-marketing Katadyn in the U.S. and successfully transitioning the PUR brand into Katadyn. Our market share has grown consistently and per the tracking data, Katadyn is the largest selling brand (of water-purification systems) in the U.S.”
When asked what he thought the Katadyn acquisition of Optimus would mean to specialty retailers in the United States, Lizee responded, “What Katadyn will bring to the table in the U.S. is a very strong sales rep team, a good distribution network, and a history of helping retailers market and sell a brand. We know the stove market is challenging, but have high hopes of again making Optimus an important brand for specialty outdoor retailers.”
According to Katadyn, the company is the global market leader in the field of individual water-treatment systems and products, with a market share exceeding 50 percent. Katadyn has been developing water filters, sterilizing agents and mobile desalinators for trekking and marine applications for more than 75 years. The company is additionally diversified in the outdoor market with two of its own brands: “PharmaVoyage” first-aid solutions for trips and “Trekking-Mahlzeiten” freeze-dried specialty foods. Katadyn is headquartered in Wallisellen-Zurich, Switzerland, and in addition to the United States, it has subsidiaries in Germany, France and Singapore. The company is one of the 60 most profitable Swiss companies and has 80 employees worldwide.
The company will introduce Optimus as part of its family of brands to retailers officially at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah.
SNEWS® View: Well, there is no questioning the success Katadyn North America has had with the Optimus brand since it took over distribution from Brunton in 2006. Sales are up 35 percent, we are told. Of course, sales weren’t exactly on fire before Katadyn’s involvement, which is one of the reasons Optimus went shopping for a new distributor in the first place. Jetboil and MSR were kicking the venerable brand’s proverbial butt. But, with this acquisition, things are about to change, we suspect, for the better all around.
Katadyn and Optimus have very similar historical backgrounds. They’ve both been around forever in the global market, were clear market leaders in the 1970s and 1980s with highly recognizable brand names, and they both experienced a plummet in market share in the 1990s. Of course, the similarities end there. Katadyn was purchased by its key employees in 1998 and is led by a dynamic and personable female CEO, Trix Ammann. Since the reorganization, Katadyn has acquired seven companies, opened subsidiaries in five countries, and successfully transitioned the PUR brand to Katadyn in the United States to become the largest manufacturer of portable water systems globally. The company is privately owned, profitable and growing.
In our view, we would agree with Lizee when he told us that Katadyn will bring Optimus new financial resources, production and sourcing strength, invaluable research and development collaboration, and a powerful global marketing arm to better promote a brand that has been decidedly lacking in that department for quite some time. And all of that bodes well for specialty retailers who are clearly seeking to find brands that give them a competitive edge in an increasingly competitive market — all while trimming the number of brands offered on any particular shelf at one time.