SMEG marks 16 years making PHL kitchens colorful

WHO knew that last week’s hottest party would be for a refrigerator?

On Sept. 20, SMEG, a line of luxury appliances but mostly known for their refrigerators (in several bright colors and a sleek mid-century design) celebrated its 16th anniversary in the Philippines with a grand party in Ayala Museum. To emphasize the artistry that goes into each appliance, the brand, brought here by Mondo Cucina, Inc. (MCI) in 2007, held private after-hours viewings of Juan Luna’s rediscovered masterpiece, Hymen, oh Hyménée!, which is on view at the museum.

Downstairs, SMEG set up a garden with their appliances on display, for one night. Guests were invited to peek into these fridges or touch and feel mixers and espresso machines.

SMEG (an acronym emblazoned on their fridge doors meaning Smalterie Metallurgiche Emiliane Guastalla; in English, “Emilian Metallurgical Enamelling Works Guastalla”) was founded in 1948 by Vittorio Bertazzoni. The mid-century retro fridges (called the FAB line) came about in the 1990s, and since then have been seen in the homes of cool individuals.

Ton Concepcion, president of MCI, told BusinessWorld during the event about how they’re found all over Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. “Most of the new buildings now in the Philippines — actually, 10,000 condominium units and 40 buildings — [have SMEG kitchens]. We’re very proud that a brand that was not known 16 years ago now has become a household name.”

Because he is part of the Concepcion family which is best known for the cooling business (bringing in and creating brands such as Carrier, Condura, Otis, Kelvinator, and Midea, among others — although MCI is independent from the group), Mr. Concepcion discusses family values when talking about the brand. “It’s like a partnership between family and family,” he said. The Bertazzoni family has controlled SMEG since its founding. “We both have this shared passion for excellence. The Italians are known craftsmen… and us, with my family, it’s about service, about giving the best customer service. It’s a marriage made in heaven.”

At the end of the day, it’s still an expensive refrigerator. (Mr. Concepcion points out that they have other products too, with SMEG investing a lot in coffee machines and other small appliances.) The fridges range in price from P76,000 for the smallest size to P200,000 for the largest. Mr. Concepcion’s spouse, Karen (who also serves as MCI’s Creative Director), said, “I won’t justify or defend why it’s expensive. But it’s really the kind of product that you get, it’s quality. We’re very particular about the service and the parts. We know our customers invest so much money into the product.”

The product is smart and pretty: it combines features like inverter technology, fan-assisted cooling, multi-flow cooling, humidity regulation, and electronic temperature control in an enamel package. Ms. Concepcion talks about style and substance. “It’s the Italian way. Style and technology. It’s not over the top. It’s just what it is: it’s beautiful.”

“It’s really eye candy in your kitchen. It becomes a conversation piece. People now, their attention is in the kitchen. They wanted their kitchens… to be more beautiful,” she said. — Joseph L. Garcia