Wüsthof - A changing company with a clear strategic direction.

An interview with the company management.

“A strong brand company such as WÜSTHOF, with its clear commitment to premium positioning and the desire to be able to support international growth in the next generation of the family, is a great challenge, and one which I am looking forward to enormously," says Kepka, when he became Managing Director and CEO of WÜSTHOF GmbH in July 2018.

Project 8 and the New Vision.

1. At WÜSTHOF, everything points to change. How did Viola Wüsthof and Harald Wüsthof decide to place an external managing director at top management ?

Markus Kepka: The Wüsthof family has managed the company for more than 200 years; progressive technologies and innovative products have always been the guarantors of their success. In recent years and in view of the advance of internationalisation, Viola Wüsthof and Harald Wüsthof have recognized the growing significance of consistently making the brand into a premium brand as well as digitization. In order to meet this challenge with the necessary know-how, they made the decision to appoint an additional executive.

2. What is behind the name Project 8 ?

Markus Kepka: With Viola Wüsthof and Harald Wüsthof, the WÜSTHOF company is already in the 7th generation of the family and both want the brand to have a future-oriented perspective. We therefore want to identify the weak spots early for the 8th generation and with Project 8 have endowed this process with a name. Why? We have understood that the employees need something tangible in order to understand the process, which will take many years, and to implement it together with us.

3. What brand strategy is the company following on the path to the 8th generation ?

Markus Kepka: We will position WÜSTHOF as the leading experts in cutting in the culinary world. There are no other globally significant brands which have previously made the segment their own. We therefore see precisely this focus as a powerful motor for the WÜSTHOF brand on the path to the 8th generation. To put it briefly: The new WÜSTHOF stands for cutting - no more, but also no less.

4. What does digital transformation mean for the new WÜSTHOF ?

Viola Wüsthof: Above all it means getting closer to the customer. For us, digital transformation means using all the possibilities of modern communication to enter into direct dialogue with the people who use our knives. In doing so, the modernisation and optimisation of many, sometimes decades-old marketing processes, is part of the strategy - we want to convey the delight in cutting and establish the new WÜSTHOF as the most competent on the market for premium knives through a complete online offer of products as well as various services.

5. Premiumisation and cutting solutions for all fields of cuisine. What can the consumer expect from this ?

Harald Wüsthof: As a company which produces more than 90 per cent of its products in “Solingen, City of Blades” - and does so with the most modern technology and highest quality standards - we stand of course for premium concepts. We want to consistently convey this to our customers. We will concentrate our offer on products just as consistently, whereby cutting is at the forefront - that is to say, mainly knives for preparing or consuming food. The range will be supplemented by offers directed at users around the themes of cutting, storage of knives, sharpening and care. This could be physical products, but also services. We will remove all other kinds of products from the range in the medium-term.

6. New target groups should be exploited. How will you address them ?

Viola Wüsthof: Before we determined the target groups for WÜSTHOF, we took a look at the special requirements of individual consumer groups and analysed them intensively. After that, we selected new focus groups and developed our products and services in such a way that the wishes of the particular group regarding the subject of cutting are entirely fulfilled. Through this structured segmentation, we are able to address people specifically about individual sales channels and communication channels. In doing so, we will focus on personal contact with our consumers - whether directly or through digital media - in our future communication strategy.

7. What does specialist retail mean for WÜSTHOF? Will there be new channels? And how does WÜSTHOF support sales directly at the Point of Sale ?

Markus Kepka: Specialist retail has always been the most important sales channel for WÜSTHOF. In doing so, competent advice for first-class knives is of incomparable value - especially in Germany. Therefore, we will review the quality of our partners in detail, because not every specialist retail partner meets the high demands for our future, high-quality marketing. Since specialist retail only represents a part of our target group, however, we will als o increasingly use other sales channels. We will differentiate and efficiently curate the range in each channel for the different target groups. Moreover, we are planning theme-based activities which will increase frequency in all sales channels. In this way, we will make the particular point of sale more attractive again for the consumers. This means: We no longer want to work together with every retailer, but with every good retailer.

8. The subject of internationalisation has been learned historically at WÜSTHOF. In which markets is WÜSTHOF strongest? And where is the journey going ?

Harald Wüsthof: Traditionally, North America, and especially the USA, is the largest market for WÜSTHOF by some margin. By constantly developing the brand, it has become particularly successful in recent years. We want to enter into other export markets using the experiences from this success story. Besides expanding our business in Europe, Asia in particular is on the agenda - a further step in establishing a global portfolio for the company.

9. A new vision becomes reality. What are you taking stock of after the first few months ?

Markus Kepka: It is amazing. Thanks to WÜSTHOF's agile structure were were able to get strategic, organisational and operative things - which often take years in large brand product companies - off the ground in the shortest time. This inspires me. But what impresses me in particular is the passion and the pride with which the employees, some of whom have been working in the company for decades, support the brand on our new path.