A passion for cooking and a gap in the market led to the introduction of Thermomix into Cyprus more than 20 years ago. As sole agent for and distributor of this unique kitchen appliance, Eminentia Trading Limited has been a local success story.
Set up by Managing Director Ioanna Pitta, the business follows the party plan system in line with German parent company Vorwerk, running cookery demonstrations and obtaining referrals from satisfied customers.
There was rapid growth through the 90s and the business continues to flourish. Almost 12 per cent of Cypriot households own a Thermomix, which is said to carry out the functions of 22 different kitchen appliances.
Said Ioanna: “Our proudest moment was the achievement of record sales last year (an increase of 30 per cent) following an equally successful 2009 (29 per cent). Our sales force has doubled in the last five years and recruitment, which has at times been a big problem, has recently become much easier.”
Reasons include a trend towards more cooking at home, thanks to popular television shows like Master Chef, and Eminentia’s cooking classes where customers are invited to bring a friend. Increasing unemployment is also attracting potential new Consultants.
It has been an impressive journey for a company that had no experience in direct selling but was totally convinced by the potential of the product. The first demonstrations were held in the kitchen of Ioanna’s sister Despo, and the first recruits were neighbours, cousins and friends.
“It was Despo who first saw a Thermomix demo in Greece and was so thrilled she persuaded me to apply for the local distributorship,” said Ioanna, who until then worked in the family-run dairy factory. “I went to Athens to see for myself and was equally convinced.” She subsequently combined her business skills with learning about direct selling, and within 12 months, had Consultants in every main town.
“It was a good time as the economy was starting to overcome the devastating effects of the Turkish invasion of the 70s, tourism was rising and there was a boom in the building industry. Direct selling was starting to be known and people were optimistic. Our strong selling point was that Thermomix was unique and there was nothing else quite like it on the market.”
Eminentia soon became one of the best-performing Thermomix distributors, raising its profile with the parent company and attracting more support. In 2002 it was recognised as the best distributor in Europe. This month, they welcome Uwe Trost, who makes his final visit before retiring as Export Manager.
The success of recent years has been underpinned by a restructured training programme, and for the first time, investment in radio and print advertising. In addition, cookery classes (using Thermomix recipes) were expanded last year to Paphos and Larnaca – with more in the pipeline – some hosted by celebrity professional chefs.
An ongoing challenge is the double-value chain, which means prices can seem expensive compared to buying outside of Cyprus or via the internet. As a distributor, Eminentia is therefore allowed by Vorwerk not to offer the usual two-year guarantee unless the appliance is purchased directly from them. This gives them a point of difference locally and encourages customers to attend their demonstrations, learn more about cooking techniques and recipes and so purchase directly from Eminentia. “This is welcome support as we continue with our aim of every home in Cyprus to have a Thermomix,” said Ioanna.