By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: The company known as Groupe SEB today started in business 150 years ago manufacturing the popular products of the day — tin buckets and watering cans. Now the company has 26 factories at 22 sites around the world.

“Groupe SEB continues to offer a rich portfolio of powerful brands across a number of key cookware and electrical categories,” said Groupe SEB managing director Australia and New Zealand, Wivina Chaneliere.

“In Australia and New Zealand we have continued strong growth and success across all our core brands Tefal, Jamie Oliver Professional Series by Tefal, All-Clad, Krups and Moulinex.

“Our growth here in Australia and New Zealand is built around continued product innovation, quality in manufacture, strong brand portfolio all supported by extensive advertising, marketing campaigns as well as working closer with our retail partners and customers.”

Groupe SEB began in 1857 with the creation of the Antoine Lescure company in Burgundy, France. It started as a tinware company specialising in buckets and watering cans and gradually expanded its activities to include kitchen utensils, zinc tubs and other articles. The company began to mechanise production when it bought its first press at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The company took a major stride forward in 1953 when it launched the pressure cooker. The company was thereafter called Société d’Emboutissage. In 1968, SEB acquired Tefal, a company specialised in non-stick cookware. In 1972, it took over the Lyon company, Calor, a maker of irons, hair dryers, small washing machines and portable radiators. This established SEB as a leading operator in small domestic equipment in France. In 1973, it decided to form a group structure under a lead holding company, SEB SA, which was listed on the Paris Stock Exchange in 1975.

The 1988 acquisition of Rowenta, whose German and French factories made irons, electric coffee makers, toasters and vacuum cleaners, was a vital step in the international expansion of the Group. In 1997 and 1998, the takeover of Arno, Brazil’s market leader in small electrical appliances, established Groupe SEB in South America. Arno was a specialist in the manufacture and sale of food-preparation appliances (mixers/blenders), non-automatic washing machines and fans. At the same time, Groupe SEB acquired Volmo, leader in small electrical appliances in Colombia and Venezuela, with a product offer in food-preparation appliances (mixers/blenders), fans and irons.

September 2001 saw Moulinex, Groupe SEB’s main rival in France, file for bankruptcy. The Group’s offer of a partial takeover of the assets of Moulinex and its subsidiary Krups, was accepted by the Nanterre Commercial Court in October 2001. The integration of Moulinex-Krups began at that point. After discussions at the European Commission and in France, the final authorisation for the takeover was obtained in 2005.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2004 Groupe SEB strengthened its base in the United States with the acquisition of All-Clad, a premium-range cookware specialist whose product offer was an ideal complement to the Tefal brand in the US market. In May 2005, Groupe SEB once again enhanced its cookware offer with two more takeovers — Lagostina in Italy and Panex in Brazil. Lagostina, Italy’s leader in top-end stainless steel cookware gave Groupe SEB access to new markets and new specialist retail channels. The Panex acquisition gave Groupe SEB leadership in Brazil’s cookware market.

In August 2006, Groupe SEB embarked on a new phase of consolidation in cookware when it bought selected assets of the American company Mirro WearEver. This made it North American leader in the cookware sector, completing the Tefal offer in middle ranges and the All-Clad premium-range offer. At the same time Groupe SEB launched a procedure to buy a majority stake in Supor, China’s domestic market leader in cookware and number four in small electrical appliances. At the end of this process, Groupe SEB will hold a stake of 51 to 59 per cent in Supor’s capital.

Since the 1970s, Groupe SEB turned its attention to international growth and began by penetrating the Japanese and American markets. In 1992 and 1993, the opening of Eastern Europe created marketing operations to make inroads into these countries and gain a foothold in the Russian market. From 1994 to 2000, Groupe SEB focused on building up its commercial operations worldwide and setting up factories in South America, China and elsewhere to build up its international manufacturing base.

Groupe SEB continued expanding in Asia with the opening of three marketing subsidiaries — Thailand and Taiwan in 2003, and in Singapore in 2004. It also reinforced its operations in South America by creating a subsidiary in Peru. In 2006, Groupe SEB started up a new subsidiary in the Ukraine to meet strong growing demand.

Currently the company has 26 factories at 22 sites. Europe accounts for 52 per cent of production and the United States four per cent, while 13 per cent is made in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, China and Russia.