Saniflo CEO speaks on why the company is bringing European innovations to the U.S. market
One could characterize the American plumbing industry’s relationship with its European counterpart as a sibling rivalry. Though neither side will admit it aloud, both love one another.
The growing trend of globalization in manufacturing has aided in forcing the two to “get along.” And whether the company started on American soil or across the pond, almost all of the companies are at the drawing board trying to figure out ways to enter new markets.
Saniflo, of Group Société Française d’Assainissement (SFA), is one such company. Founded over 58 years ago in France, the company’s goal has always been to provide solutions that allow for easier plumbing installations, and a more comfortable life for those who use their products.
Most recently, Saniflo introduced the Sanicondens Best condensate pump to the U.S. market. The offering incorporates a pH neutralizing granule tray that increases the pH of the acidic water before discharging it to the drain line. With four inlets, the pump can accommodate multiple condensing mechanical systems, both residential and commercial, including boilers, water heaters, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems, and other appliances.
The Sanicondens technology hit the European market years ago. It has been Saniflo’s ongoing challenge to brand the Sanicondens and similar technology to the various international markets that the company serves. Regis Saragosti, CEO of SFA Saniflo Inc., spoke with PHC News about how the U.S. subsidiary is meeting the challenge by looking beyond simple product promotion toward encouraging industrywide acceptance of innovation instead.
AC: In your own words, can you describe Saniflo?
RS: We are a worldwide leader in macerating systems with 31 subsidiaries. Our U.S. subsidiary has about 15 employees, and Group SFA has about 1,500 employees globally. We have three factories in France where our products are produced. In addition to being part of the four major buying groups in the U.S. and the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC), we just joined the American Supply Association (ASA) this year.
Saniflo focuses on one category of products. All of our efforts, investments, and time are devoted to developing innovative technologies and products for macerating and grinding applications, residential and commercial.
AC: Who is the Saniflo customer and how does the company service them?
RS: There are two Saniflo customers. The first — and the most important one by far — is the professional plumbing contractor. And on the flip side, we also have a pretty good following from the do-it-yourselfer because our product is so easy to install. In the U.S., a sizeable portion of the population consists of do-it-yourselfers.
AC: Saniflo has asserted that there is a growing demand for macerators and grinders. What research is the company referencing to support this claim?
RS: The No. 1 supporting factor is our own sales data. In each of the past eight years, we have seen double-digit growth in our U.S. business.
Also, with our experience worldwide, it is easy to compare different markets, based on the population, income, etc., and determine where we should be in the U.S. The U.S. is an important market for Saniflo, based on total population, as well as the population’s high demand for innovative technologies and products.
AC: With the prediction for growing demand of macerators and grinders what is your message to contractors?
RS: Contractors, I understand that you trust the products and methods that have made you successful for so many years. But I would also encourage you to take a long, serious look at the “new” technology in macerators, which have been successfully used in Europe and around the world for nearly six decades. Macerators, which can be installed anywhere, can make your work in various situations much easier, thereby saving you time and your customers money. With the time you save, you have more opportunity to do more jobs. That’s the bottom line.
AC: What is the fresh and new product from Saniflo?
RS: The Sanicondens Best is one of our major new products for the U.S. market. It was released this summer and the market is responding well. We are excited about it. Any product that we introduce to the U.S. has been previously used in Europe for at least three or four years. We make sure the products are at 100 percent performance before they come here.
The Sanicondens Best is unique in the U.S. market because it combines a condensate pump with a neutralizer kit. So, instead of carrying two products, the plumber only needs to install one when he or she must neutralize the water from a boiler, water heater or HVACR system.
We at Saniflo anticipate that plumbing codes are going to change pretty quickly over the next two or three years, requiring installers to neutralize any kind of condensate water to prevent damage to piping systems from the acid content in that water.
Our focus for next year will be the introduction of our new china. These new bowls, both elongated and round-front, will offer a much more sleek and modern design.
We will also be offering a smaller version of our Saniaccess3 macerating system. The Saniaccess2 will handle a sink as well as the toilet, and will be an ideal product for creating new powder rooms. Like the original, the Saniaccess2 will have two panels at the top of the unit for ready access to the internal components for servicing.
AC: Has Saniflo made, or will Saniflo make, any notable investments?
RS: Saniflo will continue to advertise in the U.S., both to boost awareness of the brand and our different product solutions, as well as to support our trade customers’ businesses. This will include not only a major commitment to industry trade publications, but also to TV advertising on home-improvement networks. After all, the consumers watching those shows are the most likely candidates to buy our products when they remodel their homes.
As I mentioned earlier, we have enjoyed excellent growth in the U.S. over the past decade. This type of investment in our brand and in support of our industry is the best way to make sure that growth continues.