What you should know about the manufacturer Vorwerk

Vorwerk is a German success story. Today, it is best known for its Thermomix kitchen appliance, but there is much more to the company than that.

Many older people equate Vorwerk above all with the “Kobold”. No wonder, since the company has been building vacuum cleaners under this name since 1930. In fact, however, the former Wuppertal family business has long since mastered the structural change to become an internationally active group. The best proof that the company has arrived in the digital age is not least the “Thermomix,” which many consider to be a kind of iPhone among kitchen machines.

Vorwerk was founded almost 140 years ago

Vorwerk (legally: Vorwerk SE & Co. KG) was founded in 1883 by the brothers Carl and Adolf Vorwerk still under the name Barmer Teppichfabrik Vorwerk & Co. A purely family-owned company, and this was not to change for more than 100 years. As the name suggests, the company initially offered carpets, which were soon produced on looms for which Vorwerk had applied for a patent.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the company significantly expanded its portfolio. They now offered gears, axles for cars and an electric motor for gramophones. It was this electric motor that would eventually make the company what Vorwerk is still primarily today, according to popular opinion: a clever supplier of high-quality, but also expensive, household appliances. “Clever” because Vorwerk has always understood how to react quickly to changes in the market.

A “Kobold” helped Vorwerk to success

One such change that threatened the company was the increasing spread of radio around 1920. This was because it was accompanied by a sharp decline in interest in buying gramophones. The company’s chief engineer, however, found a solution. After experimenting with the electric motor, he finally developed the first hand-held vacuum cleaner, which was to go on sale in 1930 – the “Kobold” was born!

Speaking of retail: Because sales of the “Kobold” were sluggish at first, Werner Mittelsten Scheid, the company’s CEO at the time, decided to introduce direct sales in order to save on expenses for intermediaries. A sales model that quickly became a success story for Vorwerk: As early as 1949, they were able to celebrate the first million “Kobold” vacuum cleaners sold. Even today, direct sales, which are firmly anchored in the company’s DNA – Vorwerk is the fourth-largest direct seller in the world – are the means of choice for selling vacuum cleaners or kitchen appliances to men and, above all, women.

So in addition to the 12,260 permanent employees worldwide today, there are also around 580,000 self-employed sales representatives. Anyone who is interested in the “Kobold”, for example, can call one of these representatives to their home and have the appliance demonstrated to them. Even if you don’t end up buying it, you’ll at least have a dust- and dirt-free apartment for the time being. And the “Thermomix,” which has been in production for 50 years, albeit not in its current form, can also be demonstrated in one’s own four walls at a cooking party. Normally. But because Corona made such contacts impossible, Vorwerk reacted and initially turned to virtual parties via the web.

Read also: What you should know about the manufacturer Dyson.

Company has grown through acquisitions

This also shows that Vorwerk, despite its most important products, which have been around for decades, is far from being bound by tradition. Over the past 70 or 80 years, the portfolio has expanded in a way that goes far beyond selling not only vacuum cleaners, for example, but also vacuum robots. Rather, through the founding and acquisition of various companies, the supplier of household appliances has become an international group with very different business areas.

A total of seven of these divisions make up Vorwerk today. In addition to the core businesses “Kobold” and “Thermomix”, these also include, for example, “Jafra Cosmetics” (cosmetics, body care products), “Neato Robotics” (where they produce and develop vacuum robots) and the “afk Group”, a financial institute that primarily advises medium-sized companies and offers financial services such as investment loans, leasing or installment plan. And with Hectas, the group even includes a facility service (cleaning, security service, security technology).

Thermomix generates substantial sales

Vorwerk generated sales of 3.18 billion euros in 2020. This puts it in 75th place on the list of the 1000 largest German family-owned companies. It would be a big mistake to assume now that this money could hardly have been earned in the two core areas, since the demand for “Kobold” vacuum cleaners and “Thermomix” appliances should have been covered long ago. However, the opposite is the case – which has a bit to do with the Corona pandemic. “‘Thermomix’ has had the best year in its history,” he said. “That’s when the renaissance of cooking at home helped,” company CEO Thomas Stoffmehl told “Handelsblatt” in May 2021. As a result, the kitchen appliance alone brought the company sales of 1.6 billion euros in 2020. Record and a plus of 25 percent for the kitchen appliance with “Gelinggarantie” (Vorwerk), which thanks to connectivity can do (almost) everything that has to do with preparing food.

The current model, the “Thermomix TM6”, currently costs a proud 1359 euros. A truly proud price that you first have to be able to afford. But it can also be done much more cheaply – provided you are prepared to forego the image of the original. In a comparative test by Stiftung Warentest, of all things, the cheapest kitchen machine, a device from Lidl’s own brand Silvercrest, was convincing. This appliance costs around 100 euros and was able to clearly outperform even competitors that cost nine times as much, such as a model from Kenwood. However, you have to do without some comfort functions. Accessories are also not available for the Silvercrest machine, neither for money nor good words. In addition, it must be explicitly said that the “Thermomix” was not represented in the test field. In another test, however, conducted by the magazine “Chip”, the iconic Vorwerk product confirmed its reputation as the most expensive, but also the best kitchen machine.

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“Kobold” vacuum cleaners often come out on top in tests

And it was not entirely unexpected that Vorwerk also won tests with the “Kobold”, whether as a cordless or upright vacuum cleaner. In 2020, for example, the cordless “Kobold VB 100”, which had already won the “German Design Award”, was the winner in its class at Stiftung Warentest, as was the “Kobold VT300” among the upright vacuum cleaners. However, the “Kobold” family members also have their price. The “VB100” costs at least 869 euros, the “VT300” is even available from 961 euros. The Vorwerk classics thus live up to their reputation as very good products in terms of quality and functionality, but also very expensive.