They might often get overlooked in the wider scheme of the kitchen, but water boilers are a mainstay of foodservice operations and, as consumer demands have changed, so too have the designs and features of these vitally important pieces of equipment.
Nowadays, operators seldom view them as just a stainless steel box that delivers heated water, but recognise the importance of investing in a suitable product. There are multiple ranges of water boilers of differing price points and types, so deciding on an appropriate appliance can be a minefield for operators. Understanding market trends
In terms of what the market is seeing from foodservice operators, most manufacturers agree that there is a move towards boilers that cater for specialist tea blends. Consumers are increasingly looking for a broader range of teas, such as fruit teas and more delicate teas which require a different water temperature to achieve the best results. Naturally, variable temperature water boilers are in high demand.
“The main trend having an impact on the water boiler market is the increasing consumption of speciality teas combined with a greater importance placed on the correct brewing temperature and time by the operator and customer alike,” confirms Jon Usher, head of sales and marketing at Burco Commercial. He continues: “If the consumer is paying a premium for their beverage, the onus is on the operator to make sure they’ve got the right equipment to delivering the optimum tea.”
Usher reinforces that from an operator’s perspective, those who are savvy to the latest innovations can continue to maximise and increase revenue from higher value teas by making the most of boilers that feature variable temperature controls. He adds: “This is all at a time when it is rapidly becoming less and less acceptable to simply fill a pot of tea directly from the hot water dispenser on a barista machine.”
If the consumer is paying a premium for their beverage, the onus is on the operator to make sure they’ve got the right equipment to deliver the optimum tea”
To capitalise on this growing trend, brands such as Lincat have developed products featuring twin tanks, which can be individually programmed to supply water at a set temperature between 70°C and 98°C. Its EB3FX/TT is designed to offer flexibility to the increasing number of foodservice operators serving speciality teas alongside usual tea and coffee.
It’s no secret that water boilers are hammered in foodservice outlets. In addition to variable temperature water boilers, operators are looking to invest in appliances that are efficient and have a longer life span.
Speaking about a trend towards energy efficient, quality units with a longer life span, Crisp says: “In the case of water boilers this means factors such as warranty length, in-built filtration and other features for which operators might pay a little more but which will ultimately extend the life of the unit as well as maintaining its operating efficiency.”
Lincat believes cost of ownership and ease of use are key market drivers. Consequently, along with other firms, it has begun including touch screens and smart features on its water boilers. Its FilterFlow range incorporates a predictive ‘eco-mode’ which it claims can reduce the volume of water boiled by 50% during quieter periods.
Control panels on products such as Nisbets’ Buffalo countertop water boiler, meanwhile, are able to provide feedback so the user knows whether descaling is required. As water boiler technology has evolved, in-built filtration has become the norm in automatic appliances. Nisbets brand manager, David Watts, says: “The Buffalo 10 litre countertop autofill water boiler’s intelligent filtration system helps to reduce scale build-up and improve water quality.” Features like this are now becoming standard on appliances in what remains a very competitive market.
When it comes to investing in a water boiler, operators risk overlooking the importance of choosing the right appliance for their site if they simply regard it as a mundane purchase. Crisp, from Instanta, believes that more education is required to ensure operators choose the right product for the application. “We often see units that are undersized for the operator’s requirements,” he says, adding: “Another aspect is that water boilers are often purchased based on price and, as a result, they often don’t deliver what is required.”
Better-informed operators will always stand a greater chance of choosing the right specification, but generally speaking Usher at GDPA thinks an operator’s size will dictate their need for knowledge. He believes smaller, mobile caterers, with a limited hot beverage offering, require less product knowledge than larger chains which offer diverse and specialist beverages.
While some see boilers as a stainless steel box that delivers heated water, many now understand the benefits of features such as built-in filtration, eco modes, easy descale and output capacity”
Helen Applewhite, Lincat’s marketing manager, notes that many operators already have proficient product knowledge. She comments: “While some operators see a water boiler simply as a stainless steel box that delivers heated water, many now understand the benefits of features such as built-in filtration, eco modes, easy descale and output capacity.”
Boilers after Brexit
It is widely agreed that the devaluation of the pound following Brexit has had a significant impact on foodservice equipment manufacturers and, importantly, their prices. Crisp states: “We have seen an impact across the product sector with most, if not all manufacturers, implementing additional increases to combat the FX change.”
Instanta is holding a price review this month and, likewise, Lincat has announced it will be increasing prices this month after having absorbed them up until now. And although GDPA, which manufactures Burco water boilers, claims it has endeavoured to keep tight controls on its costs, it admits that the exchange rate is having an impact on the price of components.
Economic challenges aside, Lincat’s Applewhite insists demand for water boilers remains high and the market robust: “We have seen strong volume growth in recent years and the market shows no signs of slowing,” she says.
Crisp goes as far as to say a “renewed confidence” has meant a “very positive” outlook for water boilers in the foodservice sector, even taking into account post-Brexit uncertainty.
Instanta will be among the brands continuing to introduce new and innovative appliances this year. Its planned releases will include a new range of push button units. Meanwhile, Burco aims to capitalise on the continuing trend towards speciality tea and is pushing variable temperature boilers to meet the needs of operators across the industry.
Elsewhere, Lincat hopes its FilterFlow range, along with new launches, such as its combined water boiler and chiller, will appeal to foodservice operators seeking to optimise beverage revenues in 2017.
It appears that the commercial water boiler market is growing rapidly in spite of challenges and that these modest appliances are becoming ever more sophisticated as the catering industry demands it.
As products become more complex, and with the current financial climate more expensive, it is more important than ever for operators to make measured investments that will provide the durability they desire.
One thing operators can count on though is that purchasing a quality water boiler will always be a solid investment. With the UK coffee shop market expected to hit £15 billion by 2020, water boilers are destined to have a vital role to play in the catering field for a long time to come.