On a recent visit to Zugorama in Loganholme, south of Brisbane, we received a preview of what is to come from V-Zug, a Swiss brand that specialises in beautiful, high-end in-built kitchen appliances, as well as washers and dryers.

V-Zug has been making a name for itself since arriving in Australia five years ago as a reliable, technology driven brand, that is sold pro forma on the strength of word of mouth and recommendations. Last year, Lee Hardcastle’s winning kitchen at the Kitchen and Bathroom Design Institute (KBDi) awards was decked out in V-Zug cooking appliances (along with an Electrolux fridge).

The flagship appliance in the V-Zug range is its combi-steam oven, which is pre-programmed to cook meat, vegetables and desserts, while experienced chefs can use the manual controls to achieve their preferred end results. These steamers are especially good for slow roasting pork and lamb, and can even ‘regenerate’ stale bread, according to the V-Zug team.

Click here to sign up for our free daily newsletter

Brand new to V-Zug range and currently touring the country as part of the HIA Home Show are heat pump dryers. The pricing on these models is a lot more competitive than previous models, I’m told, and they are expected to do well in the market. These heat pump dryers include a function that replicates dry cleaning, so they can be used for business suits and even a wedding dress.

Coming soon to the V-Zug’s Australian collection are wine fridges and refrigerators. While the former market is still quite niche and demands a premium, the latter is a mature, replacement market. Because V-Zug customers are generally looking to built a whole new kitchen, these additions mean consumers won’t have to mix and match brands, such as the aforementioned kitchen that opted for Electrolux refrigerators.

V-Zug is also looking at introducing in-built, wardrobe-style clothes steamers. These steamers remove odours and creases from clothes, leaving them fresh and ready to wear, and at around $20,000, they truly are a luxury lifestyle appliance.

Late last year, I spoke with V-Zug Australia general manager Rene Fankhauser for an article in Appliance Retailer magazine. Here for the first time online is that interview:

In crowded market, V-Zug to be more than Swiss watchers
(October 2013)

Rene Fankhauser likes to talk about Swiss watches. A lot. He talks about how Australians love Swiss watches, how we own Swiss watches and how we trust Swiss watches. There are over 100 brands of Swiss watches, he says, and they are famous for their build quality, European manufacture and for always being on time.

Fankhauser arrived in Brisbane in May this year to run V-Zug’s local subsidiary. He has been with the company since 1990, working in various marketing roles before becoming the head of export when the bold decision was made to cross the Alps and enter new territories.

After overseeing the rapid expansion into new European territories, Asia and Australia over a 4-year period, Fankhauser took the opportunity to move to Brisbane to become general manager.

“It has been a successful period — we’ve been able to become quite strong and we are now present in 40-to-50 retail businesses, mainly on the East Coast and in Perth,” Fankhauser said. “We concentrate on those important retailers, where we have the same appearance and always premium Swiss quality.”

The most important thing you have to understand about V-Zug, Fankhauser says, is that it is Swiss manufactured; the only major appliances currently assembled in tiny country famous for cheese, knives and armed neutrality.

Take the train from Milan to Zurich and you will pass through Zug — it is a tiny town on the edge of a beautiful lake; population 27,500. This is where V-Zug’s head office is located, in the shadow of the iconic mountains that now adorn the brand’s distinctive splashbacks.

Fankhauser says this “is our symbol to shock the people in a positive way, because nobody would expect Swiss mountains in the kitchen”.

On Hayman Island last month (September 2013), V-Zug hosted its key Australian and Asia Pacific customers at a celebration of the company’s 100th Anniversary.

Hans Vanderstadt from Camberwell Electrics in Melbourne has been a major supporter of the brand, showcasing it on his stand at home shows and trade fairs. He said the celebration befitted the brand’s Swiss heritage — it wasn’t showy or decadent like others he’s been to — and he expressed belief that V-Zug is here to stay.

“We have invested heavily,” Fankhauser said. “It is not easy now to get into new markets, so we want to grow and to increase the business.

“Our message is that we are here in Australia and Asia Pacific to stay.”

V-Zug has quickly become a darling of the specifiers, designers and architects channel. The winning Kitchen of the Year at the 2013 KBDi Awards was almost completely fitted out with V-Zug appliances.

Victorious designer Lee Hardcastle said he recommended V-Zug “for the look and for the functionality” of its kitchen ware, noting its “very integrated, mirrored, modern appearance”.

Interestingly, Hardcastle praised the lack of stainless steel, an emerging trend that is filtering down to the less premium brands.

Growth can sometimes be painfully slow in crowded markets. Just as there are 100 Swiss watch brands, there is around the same number of cooking brands in Australia.

In four years since arriving, V-Zug has established two ‘Zugoramas’, in Brisbane and Melbourne, and has only limited distribution in the other states.

Fankhauser said getting it done right was more important to him than getting it done quickly.

“We concentrate on what we have, on tackling the operations the right way to make them strong. I have a strong binding to Australia and I like it. It is a beautiful country and a great market.”