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Handcrafted Products, Transparency Resonates With Cookware Consumer

The growing demand for handcrafted and maker products has become a selling point for U.S.-based companies, offering them a unique story to tell at retail. However, cookware companies that distribute made in the U.S. assortments are able to offer something else to the consumer— a personal connection. This marketing tactic can be carried throughout retail channels of distribution for increased emphasis on the importance of buying local.

Bobby Griggs, vp/Hammer Stahl, which just re-branded its cookware collection as American Clad by Hammer Stahl in order to highlight its local roots, said that the company is developing a new marketing strategy around the brand in order to show potential consumers how connected the company is to the U.S.

“Hammer Stahl is making a strong effort in telling our story about how we approach manufacturing. We believe and have a history to support that manufacturing for the local independent business owner is a valuable and worthwhile venture. We have launched a video series that will tell our story in a unique and authentic way and will distribute this via social, digital media as well as in some in-store experiences,” he said.

To further showcase its local roots, the company is gearing up to launch a new marketing campaign featuring employees of all levels, humanizing the company and allowing consumers to feel confident about making a purchase.

“One unique component of this campaign is to bring our employees’ personality, commitment and dedication to life through featuring imagery and quotes from several of our staff,” Griggs said.

In the food industry, farm-to-table has been a rising trend. Reflecting the organic lifestyle trend is the maker movement. While, generally, the maker movement has been restricted to small local artisans, it is beginning to enter the cookware industry, albeit on a smaller scale. Alisa Toninato, founder of American Skillet Company, said that her company started on the artisan level, something that keeps consumers interested in both the company and the cookware.

“Our brand originated as a sculpture studio that turned into a product line and the artisan culture is very much who we still are today. I believe one major connection people have with our state shaped cast iron skillets resides in the fact that we have a unique story behind us, and that we are still the ones making our own products. That means something to a lot of people,” she said.

She explained that by maintaining this message through her channels of distribution, the U.S.-made artisan story has continued to resonate with customers and potential customers.

“It’s still important for us to tell our story as often and transparently as possible to our followers and consumers. It helps to explain our pricepoint, limited product availability and why we are not sold in every big box store nationwide,” Toninato said.

However, while some domestic producers may not be as grass roots as American Skillet Company, many of them have handcrafted and artisan aspects, which vendors agreed will only become increasingly important as selling points.

Mark Kelly, vp/communications and marketing for Lodge Manufacturing, explained that many pieces of Lodge’s cast iron cookware lines are made by hand, which has appealed to consumers in recent years.

“Our employees have individual tasks that they get very good at. It really is an artisan piece and we are so meticulous about our standards that if something isn’t right, we do it over,” he said.

While Hammer Stahl is a mid-size craft cookware company, it touts the ability to respond to market trends and create smaller batch, handcrafted cookware and ensures its marketing strategies encompass that as well.

“We are consistently on the road hosting live ‘Meet the Maker’ interactive cooking experiences with our retailers nationwide. This grass roots marketing effort fits our philosophy and ultimately wins fans for life by engaging the consumer in a personal way,” said Griggs.

Finex’s Whitehead explained that the increased desire of consumers to own something unique and crafted by hand has had an affect on both his cookware and his overall business.

“The maker movement continues to grow year over year and at Finex we see incredible interest in open house tours of our shop and production operations. I think there is a hunger to get back in touch with where the things we own or eat are made or grown. For those who have lost touch with it they seem to want it back,” he said.

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