INTERVIEW: Steve Punter

‘Magimix is the Rolex of food processors’


Steve Punter, managing director of Magimix UK, tells Sean Hannam why he feels privileged to work for the premium SDA brand and how he’s passionate about spreading the word to retailers and consumers

When Steve Punter got the job as managing director of Magimix UK, he went back to his roots in more ways than one.

Based at the premium French small appliance brand’s offices in an historic townhouse in the Surrey commuter-belt town of Godalming, the role saw him return to the area where he was born and grew up, and to the SDA sector, which was where he cut his teeth in the electrical industry.

“It sounds corny, but years ago, I remember looking at the nameplate on the front of the Magimix building and thinking, ‘what a cool place to have a head office’,” he tells ERT.

“When I was 15, my first job was working in the kitchen of a hotel that’s just up the road – my French colleagues from Magimix stay there when they’re visiting the UK. I had to peel a lot of potatoes using a Robot Coupe food processor [which is the commercial side of Magimix] – it saved me hours of work. I told the president of Magimix that story and I think it made an impression!

“I was born and bred in Godalming – after working in and around the area, I went out to Hong Kong and worked for Philips for four years. I had reached a junction in my life and then I got a phone call saying there was an opportunity at Magimix. They dropped the G word – ‘Godalming’ – and I thought, ‘that sounds amazing’.”

Responsibility

Mr Punter started working at Magimix in November 2016. He says: “They were looking for someone to provide a long-term input into the brand and I was looking to re-establish myself back in the UK. There was a marriage of interests and given my background – I’ve worked in the SDA business in the past – they felt that I had something to contribute. When I was at Groupe SEB, I launched steam generator irons and also Nespresso with Krups. I also had responsibility for SDA at Philips – I was on the sales side when juicing was big business. I then transitioned over to consumer electronics at Philips.”

So, how does it feel to be back in Godalming and in SDA?

Steve Punter“It feels fantastic. I’ve joined a company that has pure integrity. It’s a privilege to work for Magimix – there aren’t many companies like it in the UK or the world. Magimix is family-owned and we’re all about longevity – that’s what our strategy has to be. Longevity is about providing someone with something that they will find useful for the rest of their life. If you don’t underpin that with your strategy, then you’re confusing the customer.

“I think of Magimix as the Rolex of food processors – our products are desirable, emotional and lifelong. Once someone owns a Magimix, they say, ‘I love it’ – it turns into a personal and emotional thing. When I meet high-profile people like Mary Berry, the late Antonio Carluccio or The Hairy Bikers and say I work for Magimix, their eyes literally light up – they are filled with happiness. It’s gold dust and it brings so much excitement and opportunity for us as a brand. We don’t exploit it, but we try to leverage it to bring our products to market.

“The consumer reviews and the customer feedback that we get all the time tell us that people love our products and they desire them. My job is easy – it’s just spreading the word in the UK. The trouble is that the market is very fragmented – how do we get a single message across in a market that’s also quite noisy?

“We have to cut through that noise and be consistent, but it’s fun. We’re working with new social media channels, building up our fan base and looking at getting involved with more cookery schools to expand the understanding of how to use a Magimix. We also want to tie in with more independent shops. If they have demonstration areas, we can look to put on evenings. The products sell themselves – I just need to bring people in touch with them.

“We’re connecting with influencers to help show how easy our food processors are to use – it creates an emotional connection.”

He adds: “Are retailers interested in selling lots of stuff, lots of times, or are they interested in selling one expensive product once? We have a 30-year guarantee on our motor. It’s like buying a car that’s never going to go wrong – you might need to replace the tyres and the windscreen wipers once in a while, but the engine is good for life. We are about selling a premium product to the right customer and making them delighted with it.”

Steve PunterQ: Magimix is famous for its food processors, but do you think you need to promote your other products, like toasters and coffee machines, more?
Steve Punter:
I think you’re right – we do. Part of the game plan in the coming years is to expand that realisation – to improve the strength of the product awareness, rather than to distract from our core area of competency in food prep. I’m not happy until every household that needs a Magimix food processor has one – then we can talk about the toaster, the coffee machine and the food slicer that complement it.

Q: How’s the market?
SP: It’s relatively tough. However, at Magimix we’re not a volatile organisation – and so we can ride waves and don’t need to react to short-term trends. I don’t panic if five minutes of sales are lower than expected.

Christmas was a good trading period for Magimix, especially for our food processors, which saw double-digit growth. We’ve seen positive growth year on year and our market share is growing. The statistics speak for themselves – in food processors over £100, one in two machines sold is a Magimix. I don’t even look below £100 – that’s the commodity market. Although the total market is declining, we’re seeing growth in higher price points – that’s important, because it means people are making more conscious decisions.

That’s a positive for retailers in this tough economic climate. People are less susceptible to fads and fancy marketing and are making decisions because they have less money – it’s buy once and buy right. As we have multifunction machines – they do eight functions – that means eight [different] machines don’t have to be bought for 30 years. Do the maths – you’re literally able to save thousands of pounds by buying a Magimix food processor.

Q: What’s Magimix’s approach to retail?
SP:
We don’t sell direct – we’re one of the few brands that doesn’t. That’s down to the integrity of the brand. We’re not trying to cut out the retailer – I know that a lot of brands find it acceptable to go direct to the consumer. We value our retail partners and the in-store experience that retailers can give. From what I see, retailers are very happy talking about Magimix because they’re not trying to falsely sell it, if they’ve had training. If anyone wants training, they can send me an e-mail – it’s stevepunter@magimix.co.uk.

Steve PunterI have a dedicated team of people who go round stores, spending time educating staff on our machines and training them on what they do, how they work and how to merchandise and sell them.

Q: What are Magimix’s latest products?
SP:
We launched the Nespresso Vertuo large-cup coffee machine in October last year – it’s designed for the UK market, where eight out of 10 coffees drunk are in a mug. Coffee is now bigger than tea in the UK and we’re a nation of people who love it in mugs. It’s the first machine on the market – from Nespresso – that delivers that fulfilment.

We’ve launched a power blender, which rolled out to wider distribution last month. That’s taking on board the growth of the blender and power blender markets – we’ve upped the wattage and we have 22,000rpm versus 15,000. It’s about getting a smoother finish, faster.

We’re very proud that our machines are Quiet Mark approved – it’s a third-party endorsement. We’ve also launched Spiral Expert – the world’s best spiraliser. It’s a fantastic bit of a kit – as an accessory for our food processor range.

Q: You’re very passionate about the Magimix brand, but are you a foodie?
SP:
I am passionate about food – you can define a place in the world by what you eat. I’ve travelled around the world and I can remember the best meals I had in Vietnam or Australia. I’m quite a healthy guy – you’re born with a Ferrari engine and it’s up to you if you put good fuel or rubbish fuel in it. I’m a passionate juicer – I juice every day. It’s my five-a-day the easy way.

Q: What about tech? Are you a gadget freak?
SP:
I’m not a fan of tech for tech’s sake – I need it to be valuable to my life.

Q: If we sat down and talked again in a year’s time, what would you like to have achieved?
SP:
I’d like to have brought about more awareness of Magimix to a younger audience who are setting up their first homes or getting married. We need to better embrace social media like Facebook and Instagram and let people come into contact with the products and our brand. We’ll have had strong presence at food festivals and shows and in-store theatre. How can we bring the products to life for our retail partners? It’s about staying relevant.