Cawston-based firm launches pioneering four-way tap, and eyes record growth
A pioneering family firm has launched a bid to make the household kettle obsolete with its new four-way tap.
The Cawston-based firm, Greg Rowe Limited, has designed a tap which can deliver boiling water, hot water, cold and filtered drinking water through one mixer.
After launching the Omni tap in October, sales have already doubled expectations, and Greg Rowe, 67, and his family said they were racing to catch up with demand.
'We set ourselves up to produce 300 a month but it could be anything up to double that,' said Mr Rowe's son, also called Greg.
The new product, which has five patents, is being distributed by Swiss industrial manufacturer Franke UK, and is aimed at the premium market.
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It retails at just shy of £1,400, and Mr Rowe Snr said now the challenge was to battle against competitors to design a product for the lower end of the market.
The company, which was a finalist in the rural enterprise category at this year's EDP business awards said turnover was expected to see a 50pc to 60pc rise this year to £1.8m, and could reach more than £3m next year.
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Mr Rowe, who trained as an engineer, had planned on retiring seven years ago and had moved up to Norfolk with his wife Alex, 38 after selling his shares in his former tap business, Perrin and Rowe.
But after just nine months he realised he 'wasn't ready to give up' and he and his sons bought a London-based water filter company, FreshWater Filter, and moved it up to Old Winery Business Park in Cawston, near Aylsham.
Son Greg, 41, said: 'We set about using the recession effect to do a hatchet job on the business. 'Part of that was bringing it up here. It didn't make sense for it to be in London.'
They brought about three employees with them up to Norfolk, but now the firm has expanded to about 24 people, and taken over six of eight units on the industrial estate.
'The managing director of Franko UK picked up the phone to my dad and said 'how do you feel about making a filter to go with these taps we have got?,' said Mr Rowe Jnr.
Then the firm began managing warranty services for an existing boiling water tap for Franke UK, and decided it could do a better job.
They also partnered up with an existing stainless steel manufacturer to create a separate company, Stokes and Rowe, also based on the industrial estate.
'We started to understand the product with a view to feeding issues back to the manufacturer.
'Then we thought: 'Could we produce a tap?'
Over a few months the firm came up with what became a prototype of the Omni, investing more than £250,000 in the invention.
Franke UK wanted to distribute the tap, and sales began in October.
Now they hope to expand to every home in Britain. 'We want to be able to provide a product for every level of the market,' said Mr Rowe Snr.
'There are about 20 million homes in Britain. Our product is the premium end of the market. The opportunity is in the market going downwards.'
The product works by heating filtered water in a 4.5-litre boiler, which runs out of the tap at 100 degrees.
Built in safety features and levers allow the user to select the different water temperatures.