From the outset, the kitchen-appliance brand has combined utility and reliability with a strong design ethos.
Serious home cooks have long viewed the Kenwood Chef as an essential piece of kitchen equipment. With its chunky look and impressive durability, the multipurpose food mixer is used by professionals and amateur cooks alike, and has become the flagship product of the domestic appliance company that gives it its name.
The mixer was designed by the company's founder, Kenneth Wood - an electrical engineer who worked on radar systems during World War II. Wood set out to produce domestic appliances for the growing post-war market at his Woking factory. His aim was to identify tasks that gave housewives the most work and produce machines that helped.
The initial food mixer designs faced stiff competition before the product was redesigned and relaunched at 1950's Ideal Home Exhibition. At a cost of £19 10s 10d, the machine was expensive, yet the first consignment to Harrods sold out in a week.
Although the design is now seen as a classic, the original A700 model was criticised by some as too industrial-looking. A redesign in 1960 by the future InterCity train designer, Kenneth Grange, produced the more streamlined A701, which was superseded only when the A901 was launched in 1976.
The modern machine can be equipped with up to 20 attachments, including a potato peeler, blender, pasta maker and sausage maker. This versatility and reliability are important aspects of the Kenwood Chef brand with tales of the machines being passed down through the generations.
As well as the mixer, Kenwood diversified its range, adding breadmakers, kettles, coffee machines (above) and smoothieand ice cream-makers. It has won multiple design awards, including Red Dot and iF awards for its kMix hand blenders, Eon coffee makers and its food steamer, among others. The brand's director of industrial design, Johan Santer, has said: 'Kenwood product designs empower the user, they give you top-quality results every time, so you can get imaginative and adventurous in the kitchen.'
The company has passed through several owners since its foundation, and is now owned by De'Longhi. Following the end of UK production in Havant, Kenwood manufacture has taken place in China since 2002. By the time the Kenwood Chef marked its 60th anniversary in 2010, 15m mixers had been sold.
James Joice, client director, JKR
It should come as no surprise that electrical engineer Ken Wood honed his skills on radars in World War II. His signature product, the Kenwood Chef, is exactly what you want by your side when going into battle in the kitchen.
Everything about its simple, solid design tells you that it means business. Whether you're kneading dough or beating eggs, you know it will make light of the most arduous culinary work.
Its industrial roots were plain to see in the original design, and it is largely unchanged today. While it has been through some subtle cosmetic changes - from beige, through white to the contemporary silver finish - it still looks as solid as ever.
Perhaps too solid: a modern marketer might raise an eyebrow at the durability of the Kenwood Chef's design. Where's the need to upgrade or invest in accessories? To the consumer, though, that's the very thing that makes the design great.
It is fair to say that it has less retro cool than the American KitchenAid, but there is something shamelessly functional about the Chef's styling that's particularly British. That's probably why it looks most at home on the kitchen counter of a country cottage, somewhere between the Aga and the pantry.
Beyond durability, however, the Kenwood does have one piece of killer branding engineered into its design. The mixing beater still, proudly, integrates the shape of a 'K' - a little detail that makes a deep impression.
1947: The Kenwood Manufacturing Company's first product, the Turnover toaster, launched.
1950: The Kenwood Chef made its debut at the Ideal Home Exhibition. It cost about £20 - just over 5% of the average annual salary.
1960: Kenneth Grange, the designer who would be responsible for the look of British Rail's InterCity 125 trains, redesigned the Kenwood Chef.
1962: The company moved from Woking to a new factory in Havant.
1968: Thorn Electrical bought Kenwood.
1989: Kenwood exited Thorn EMI in a management buyout in 1989.
2001: Italian company De'Longhi acquired Kenwood.
2006: The oldest working Kenwood Chef - 56-years-old - was discovered in Bristol.
2009: The next generation of the Kenwood Chef was launched. The Kenwood Cooking Chef featured induction technology under the bowl to allow cooking in it.
2010: The Kenwood Chef celebrated its 60th anniversary.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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