Window on the world

The Ambiente trade show in Frankfurt is truly international – full of exciting brands wanting to sell to the UK, as Sarah Selzer discovers

Window on the world

Having recently spent four days at Ambiente, walking what must be the equivalent of the London Marathon, I can safely say it was time and shoe leather well spent!

I talked to a huge range of international companies keen to do business with the UK, from Scandinavia, The Netherlands and Germany, to Turkey, Bali and Kenya. There are 11 halls, many with different levels and while they’re generally categorised by product or theme (such as cookware & knives or tableware) there are discoveries in each.

The ‘bento’ lunch box was much in evidence, like the neat range from Indian producer Pinnacle, in fuscia, lime and yellow, while a different style of lunch box, the Compleat Foodbag from Norwegian company Unikia, sat alongside innovation in knives, textiles and utensils. Jewel colours have made a comeback (although they never left Guzzini and Alessi’s line-up) and a good example is Herevin from Turkey, with jewel accents on kitchen tools and bottle stoppers.

The tableware offer was sumptuous, as always, with the big brands excelling themselves. Villeroy & Boch, for example, had created a little village in its hall. Again, there were new brands, including Elinno porcelain from Finland, with key trends of florals, birds and butterflies.

Cookware in hall 3.1 was also the ‘Battle of the Brands’ – notably Fissler and WMF. Hailo, in 5.1, is a German brand best known for ladders in the UK, but it won the 2014 Design Plus award at the show for a great product: the Alubag bin, which looks like a crumpled carrier bag.

Brabantia in hall 5.0 was showcasing a new move into small electricals through a tie-up with electricals producer Rank Sharp, with more than 25 products in this first launch including a hand mixer.Hall 1.2 was fairly design-focused with brands such as Mastrad, Ad Hoc, DKB, La Cafetiere and T&G Woodware. Danish design was well-represented. Companies included Zone, Room Copenhagen (Lego, Pantone and Ole Jensen ceramic kitchenware) and Fabrikators (including vegetable scrubbing mitt, Skrub’a and Lemonfriend lemon squeezer – clearly designed and named with a sense of humour).

There were some first-time exhibitors from the UK. Kitchenware company uutensil exhibited alongside its Scandinavian distributor Brix, and focused on its Stirr battery-operated pan stirrer. Managing director Gavin Reay said it had been a great show. “We are really pushing forward with our international ambitions and Ambiente was a fantastic platform to strengthen our existing links and create brand new relationships,” he said. “We’ll be back next year.”

The DRH Collection is a familiar face in the UK, but this was its first Frankfurt – and it proved a successful venture, according to managing director David Holmes. “We were very happy with the show as a first-timer,” he said. “Obviously we saw a very geographically diverse assortment of businesses, but there was also a surprising number of Brits wandering the gangways.” Lakeland, Selfridges and Waitrose were just a few of the buyers spotted, with some well-known distributors looking for new business or supporting their principals.

Stars of the show? That’s difficult to say, but I have a shortlist of three. An ingenious holder for a kid’s juice carton from Carl Oscar, a Swedish family-run design-led business; Phil Goods witty plastic cookie cutters (pictured) in the shape of prominent landmarks or notable historical figures, which are German-designed (and looking for UK customers and/or a distributor); and finally, an amazing range of cheese-related products from Dutch company Boska, from knives and slicers to raclettes and a nifty little pan to cook cheese on a barbecue. There was lots of interest at the show from potential UK distributors so expect to see them soon – and you heard it here first!

Meanwhile, Rosti showed a giant Margrethe Bowl on its stand to commemorate the 60th year of the product’s launch. Weighing around 40 kg and with a diameter of 1 metre, the bowl certainly drew visitors to the stand. It will now begin an annual tour of European retailers, as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations, including dates in the UK.

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