With consumer expectation around the quality of drinks they purchase at an all-time high and sales of speciality hot beverages rising, choosing the right commercial water boiler has never been more important. FEJ reports.
Water boilers are a mature and established category of the catering equipment market, but that doesn’t mean that efforts aren’t being made to advance them further and provide customers with a modern-day solution that ticks every box.
Energy efficiency remains a key trend, and this is driving much of the work being carried out by water boiler manufacturers throughout the industry, along with the challenge of making boilers smaller. Experts predict that developments in compact appliances which deliver boiling water at point of use will be a key development in 2019.
And whereas the sector was once perceived as being about little more than the size of the tea urn and the speed it took to boil, the evolution of the hot beverage market now calls for a more sophisticated generation of machines.
“As the demand for specialist beverages increases, there is likely to be more work on the ability to adjust accurately the temperature of the water, to match the specific requirements of different teas, infusions and other drinks,” observes John Whitehouse, chair of trade association CESA.
Water boiler specialist Marco Beverage Systems suggests precision of temperature and volume control are gaining in importance, enabling operators to deliver consistent beverages
“The growth in the OOH speciality tea sector has seen multi-temperature and volumetric boilers increase in demand,” explains marketing manager Gemma Kiernan. “And from a design and workflow perspective, there is an increased focus on the design of boilers to ensure they fit the aesthetics of their service environments and improve the efficiencies and workflow of service.”
Over the past 12 months Marco has bolstered its popular Marco MIX range with the inclusion of the PB8 and UC8 units, which add a higher capacity 8-litre boiler to the range.
Another formidable player in the sector, Lincat, says that new product developments are only meaningful if they don’t compromise the core functionality of a water boiler.
“Most operators use a water boiler to make just a cup of tea or coffee, which means they look for a model that is simple and easy to use,” points out marketing manager Helen Applewhite.
“There are new ideas coming to the market, such as flow heaters, where water is heated on demand. However, we think they are unlikely to gain traction in the commercial market due to limited output, as most users need to store a large volume of water which is close to boiling point,” she adds.
Lincat’s key focus over the past year has been the manufacture of its new MF range of wall-mounted water boilers, officially released to the market this month. The budget MF models, which are part of the FilterFlow range, sit alongside its existing glass-fronted, wall-mounted water boilers, and provide end-users with a UK-manufactured product at a competitive price.
Applewhite thinks that future innovation will centre around functionality, pointing to Lincat’s EB3FX/HC model, which produces chilled water as well as boiling water.
She adds: “Operators should take into account the features of a water boiler and the difference they will make to their business. For example, the PIN lock on our EB3FX/PB is a beneficial feature to our care home customers.
“For operators who are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, the seven-day timer on our water boilers will be a useful feature as it allows the boiler to be programmed to switch off overnight or at weekends to conserve energy. There is also an Eco setting, which reduces the volume of boiling water by 50% — ideal for operators who have quieter periods throughout the day.”
Instanta pays careful attention to customer feedback and over the past year it has introduced features such as an Eco mode, which means users only have to heat the water when it’s needed. Another area that isn’t necessarily technological, but nevertheless influences purchasing decisions is product lifecycle, says the company’s operations director Dave Wilson.
“Customers are demanding products that are durable and reliable, so manufacturers are having to invest in premium materials that last. That is something we’ve always been proud of — our products are handcrafted from the best stainless steel and custom-designed micro-electronics, which are robust and look professional.”
The growth in the OOH speciality tea sector has seen multi-temperature and volumetric boilers increase in demand”
Further product enhancements are in the pipeline for 2019 and additional models will be rolled out, including a new InstaTap Slimline undercounter boiler, ideal for situations where counter space is at a premium.
One trend that has been gathering pace is the growth in undercounter water boiler solutions, fuelled by shrinking kitchen footprints and design constraints. “Marco has led the charge on undercounter solutions with the undercounter UC range and Uber font and the newer Marco MIX range,” says Kiernan. “In the last few years, as businesses have focused more on their design, workflow and service, we have seen a signification increase in demand for these solutions.”
Instanta has also seen growing interest in its InstaTap undercounter model, particularly among stadium kiosks, coffee shops and hospitals, where space is at a premium.
“This compact tap might look small, but is capable of delivering in excess of 300 cups of water an hour — plus its measured delivery setting means service isn’t interrupted,” says Wilson.
Lincat, meanwhile, remains confident that the traditional water boiler market will hold up, especially as it isn’t burdened by some of the installation complexity associated with undercounter boilers that offer hot dispense, cold, ambient and carbonated water options.
“Although there are some good, established undercounter water boilers on the market, we believe that on-counter and wall-mounted boilers will continue to dominate as they are manufactured in volume and easy to install. They are simply placed on a counter, connected to the water supply and electrics, and are ready to use straight away,” she says.
Unless the British public falls out of love with hot drinks — and let’s face it, that isn’t going to happen — water boiler manufacturers are never going to be short of opportunities as they bid to keep operators sufficiently equipped.
Top tips: Choosing a water boiler
1. Think carefully about regular and peak usage
Your average need per hour will ultimately determine the required recovery rate and therefore influence what power your water boiler needs to have. Equally, think about the most volume you will need at any one time — for example serving 50 people at lunch time. This is the ‘immediate draw off’ requirement which determines the volume of the boiler.
2. Consider the level of precision you want
Different specs of boilers will offer different levels of precision. Before selecting a suitable model, consider what you are using the boiler for and how precise you want your output. It’s also important to make sure the unit is easy to operate, clean and maintain safely.
3. Make sure maintenance isn’t going to be a chore
Reliability is key when it comes to choosing a water boiler. Make sure there is easy access to spare parts and support if required. Manufacturing quality is important, but so too is maintenance. A water boiler with comprehensive on-board diagnostics will show the operational status of the boiler and issue an alert when a filter exchange is required.
4. Calculate the cost of ownership
Do you pay your own electricity bill? How many sites to you have? And is sustainability an important issue for you? A high-efficiency boiler can make a contribution to any operator’s running costs. And with energy bills rising, the extra outlay for a more efficient model could be repaid in months rather than years.