New Product Development at John Boos & Co.
Boos' Sales & Marketing VP Reveals How They Keep Boos Blocks #1
John Boos butcher blocks are the top-selling brand. They have been for more than a century!
Ted Gravenhorst, Jr. discusses keeping the Boos brand fresh and vibrant.
Mark: For more than 125 years John Boos & Co. has been the butcher block market leader. Some of your success has to stem from keeping the Boos product line fresh. Who is the target audience bull’s eye for whom you’re designing these new products?
Ted: When we design new products we have in mind females ranging in age from 25 to 35. We also try to appeal to different consumers by offering products at different price points, but that can be tough since our mission is to wow consumers with one-of-a-kind products they can’t get elsewhere. The way we think of it, there are two sets of consumers: those who currently buy Boos products and those who aspire to.
The best thing about someone who already owns a Boos product is that she’s probably eager to own another. If she already owns a Boos kitchen cart, it’s not likely that she’ll be looking to buy a butcher block table anytime soon, but with cutting boards it’s a different story. We find that owners of Boos cutting boards often own more than one board; in fact, they like to collect them. That’s why we put a lot of effort into introducing new cutting board designs every year. As a result, we’ve seen sales of Boos cutting boards double over the past 4 years.
Mark: Where do you look for new ideas in a category like cutting boards? To the outsider it might look as though you already offer all the possibilities anyone could imagine.
Ted: We need to come out with new designs every year in order to remain a major player in kitchen furniture & cutting boards. To be honest, we don’t do nearly as much market research as we probably should, but we feel we do have a good handle on our markets and on our customers. Our approach is really quite simple. The first thing we do is look to fill voids in our product line. If a particular cutting board or butcher block design is selling well in maple, we’ll consider introducing that same design in another species of wood. Here’s a good example. Walnut is very popular right now, even though it’s expensive due to supply vs. demand. Wanting to capitalize on walnut’s popularity, we just introduced walnut versions of our Country Work Table, Calais Butcher Block and Cucina Laforza.
Ted: We like to stick with things that we know are going to sell. We can’t afford to get caught up chasing fads that come and go. It can take up to 9 months to develop a new product since we typically cycle through 2 or 3 prototypes. So we’re looking for a furniture or cutting board design that we’re confident will sell, and that we know we can efficiently manufacture in our facilities.
Mark: But what about the new iBlock cutting board that Boos recently launched? That doesn’t seem to fit the mold.
Ted: You’re right. This one’s a bit different, but it makes sense for Boos since we’re always looking for unique products for contemporary kitchens. A high percentage of Boos products are purchased as gifts, so another factor we consider is giftability. We certainly see the iBlock as perfect for gift-giving.
Ted: Most importantly, products like the iBlock will help us keep the Boos brand relevant in the minds of young consumers. That’s how we plan to remain number one forever – by keeping the brand fresh, interesting and appealing to each new generation of consumers.