Last November, I was invited on a press trip to Italy courtesy of Italian appliance manufacturer Bertazzoni. The purpose of the trip was get a deeper insight into the history, heritage, design philosophy and manufacturing process of the company. Visiting a company and meeting the people behind it is by far the best way to really get an understanding of what they are all about so I always love to take up opportunities like this. It’s all very well learning about them from press releases and marketing materials, but I always find there is so much more of a story to be uncovered when you get the chance to freely talk to the people behind the company. Only then do you get to discover the true passion and drive that motivates the company.
In the case of Bertazzoni, it is a family-run business now in the hands of the sixth generation. It was founded back in the 19th Century when Francesco Bertazzoni noticed the innovative wood burning stoves on the trains that ran down through the Alps. Inspired by this, he realised that the stoves could be adapted for cooking at home. He and his son Antonio then created the first Bertazzoni wood-burning cooking stove.
It was Antonio and his own sons who built the first Bertazzoni factory in Guastalla in 1909. Antonio’s son Napoleone developed the business and adopted mass-production techniques that he had learned from the motor industry in Turin.
It was the vision of Francesco Bertazzoni, the great grandson of the founder, to start exporting the Bertazzoni brand outside of Italy in the 1960’s.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, the next generation began to influence the direction of the company with Paolo and Elisabetta Bertazzoni taking on top designers from Milan with a view to giving the company a competitive edge and developing the brand in the marketplace.
Today, Bertazzoni is respected and admired around the world, exporting to more than 60 countries and selling at the top end of the market. It’s success has been built on the solid foundations of food, family and engineering.
Bertazzoni’s location in Guastalla in the famous Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, gives it a unique perspective on the art of cooking. The region is famed for its production of cheese, ham, vinegar and wine and preparing food to share with family and friends is seen as an art form in itself. The area is also home to Italy’s Motor Valley where the likes of Lamborghini, Ducati, and Maserati have their factories. So engineering is also heavily imprinted in the company’s DNA.
While I was in Italy, I got the opportunity to meet two members of the sixth generation of the Bertazzoni family who are now running the company alongside their father. Nicola Bertazzoni, an engineer by trade, is VP of global sales, and Valentina Bertazzoni (left), who trained as an architect, is now Style and Communications Director for the company.
I really enjoyed hearing all about the design ethos of the company and I decided that I really wanted to hear more from Valentina. Luckily she was more than happy to take part in an interview.
Can you tell us about your role at Bertazzoni? What do you do and when did you join?
I’m now style and communications director for the company, but I originally joined in 2011, where I worked in the style department as a product designer.
Have you always wanted to play such an integral role in the family business? Did you feel any pressure to join?
It felt very natural for me to join the family business. I have a Masters degree in Architecture and did work as a freelance architect, with a focus on interiors, for a number of years before joining the family business.
In 2010, I started to work more frequently with the Bertazzoni brand and was immediately very passionate about it. It became clear it was the career for me, but it felt good to have gained experience outside of Bertazzoni first.
How has your past experience as an architect helped to prepare you for your current role? How have the skills you acquired transferred into your new position?
Studying architecture was a fantastic education and taught me a lot about design principles. When they teach you how to build a house, you learn that a great project starts from a concept with consistent values. From there, you have to design the structure, services and materials, but you also have to balance time and costs. In my experience, this is not so different from building a brand or even product design.
As a visually-educated person, it’s a pleasure for me use materials to create shapes and beautiful finishes on a product and try to imagine the space where this product will be placed in a home.
What is it like working so closely with your family? What are the dynamics like within the company?
It’s a professional environment and we’re conscious it’s not just about the family. This really helps us in creating a sense of professionalism.
There’s a lot of pressure and responsibility that comes with being a sixth-generation family member, but it’s an honour to be part of the family business and the pride of having your last name on the product is wonderful.
What changes have you made to the company since you joined?
When I joined, my remit was to protect and build the Bertazzoni brand in line with our core values of family, land and engineering. My biggest success to this day, is that each person that works at the company, before they make any decision, asks themselves “is this consistent with our values?”. This is how we’ve protected these values throughout my time at Bertazzoni and I hope it’ll leave a lasting legacy too.
What makes Bertazzoni different from other appliance brands?
The long tradition of expertise in creating appliances and the iconic design of our products. Everything we do is made to work well and look beautiful.
We also have a very unique story and heritage, few family-run businesses last 136 years, so it really sets us apart.
Can you tell us about your approach to design at Bertazzoni? What is your design philosophy?
Our starting point is always functionality. We’re an engineering brand, so we always want to design products that perform well. Our attention to detail is second to none and we take pride in the materials we use.
In terms of our design philosophy, we focus on the evolutionary concept of design. We design products to be used for lifetime, so we tend to evolve our designs slowly to make sure everything is perfect, instead of changing our lines quickly like fashion brands.
How does the geographical location of Bertazzoni, in a region that is so strongly associated with the culture of food, affect your approach to design?
The land we’re based on is hugely important to us and it’s also one of our brand pillars. In Emilia-Romagna, you grow up with the culture of good food and the pleasure of sharing it with the people you love. This is what our family has been raised on, so we design and build appliances for people who really wants to experience the joy of cooking and eating.
The region is also famed for its automotive industry. Has this influenced design at Bertazzoni at all?
While Emilia-Romagna is well known as being the gastronomic region, it also has strong history of manufacturing cars. The region is home to Ferrari, Maserati and Ducati amongst other motoring companies. This was the inspiration for the colour of Bertazzoni’s products.
Products from our Professional Series are painted with the same colours that are used on these beautiful sports cars. This finish really sets products apart from our competitors and creates a beautiful, high-end aesthetic in any kitchen.
Who are your products aimed at? Can you describe the Bertazzoni customer base?
The Bertazzoni customer base is quite simply people who love to cook and won’t compromise on quality. People who engage with the Bertazzoni brand want the flexibility to cook beautiful dishes. They want the kitchen to be a place where friends and family can come together over food. They’re looking for beautifully-designed appliances, created with the best engineering, with products that are built to last.
How important is the user experience when it comes to your appliances and how do you go about ensuring that your products meet your customers’ needs?
From a young age, we were raised surrounded by cooking, so it’s always been important that our products are easy to use and multifunctional, to give families many different options.
To cook beautifully is to cook in many different ways. We’re committed to designing and engineering appliances with this in mind. Whether it’s creating large capacity fridge freezers that can house many fresh ingredients, a segmented hob that gives you the flexibility to try different cooking styles, including teppanyaki, or a steam oven to help with healthy cooking.
Smart appliances seem to be taking over at the moment. How is a company like Bertazzoni, which has such a strong heritage and sense of tradition, dealing with this technical evolution?
Our heritage is hugely important to us and we always want to ensure that each and every appliance we create pays homage to that. However, we’re also a forward looking brand and want to ensure that our business continues to thrive many years to come. As a result of that, we’re conscious of innovation and are always intent on utilising technology to benefit our customers, instead of just for innovation’s sake.
So while smart tech is making its way into our products, it’ll never be more important than the underlying functionality.
Can you tell us about your latest product developments?
Our range cookers have always been our flagship appliances and our main product focus. However, as part of our plans to continually improve and innovate we’ve recently launched 174 new built-in products to the UK market. Since we launched in the UK in May 2017, we’ve seen such enthusiasm for our brand, products and what we stand for that we knew there was an appetite for another product line.
The new built-in appliances capture the latest design trends, while holding onto the design and engineering principles people expect from Bertazzoni. A number of the new launches sit within our existing Professional and Heritage Series, but we’ve also launched another entirely new line to the UK; Modern Series.
New built-in lines include a selection of gas-on-glass hobs, hobs with integrated extraction, remote-controlled hoods and ovens with pyrolytic- and hydro-cleaning options.
What is your personal favourite Bertazzoni product and why?
My favourite is the Professional Series 90cm range cooker in yellow. The Professional Series is our iconic style and the colour makes me feel like the sun is shining in my kitchen, even on a dull day. I also love having people round to entertain, so the big cooking surface and sizable oven cavity is perfect. I love inviting people into my home and cooking with them and for them, so this model is perfect!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bertazzoni for inviting me on this press trip and Valentina Bertazzoni for taking the time to answer my questions.