Chinese refrigeration brand Atosa Catering Equipment is hoping its faith in the British market will be repaid after opening its first 100%-owned foreign subsidiary in the UK.
The brand, which is owned by Yindu Kitchen Equipment, a leading player in the Chinese market, has traditionally relied on a franchise model overseas, but recently decided to change tack for launching its offering in the UK.
Atosa’s managing director, Alan Cheng, has been in the UK recently to set up the Northampton-based office, which from a sales perspective is headed by Paul Kerr in the north and Tony Aris in the south.
Kerr, who previously worked in sales roles for CCS and Rational, says the company offers a full range of entry- and mid-range refrigeration, which it intends to sell only through the dealer channel.
“We have been having talks with dealers because we want to do all the business through distributors, and at the moment we are trying to build that,” he explained. “We are not really sure at the moment what the projections are, but if we can get a maximum of 40 to 50 dealers in the UK then I think that would be good. I think what we would like to do is assess it every couple of months.”
Kerr accepts there may be doubts over Chinese-made equipment from some quarters, but insists reception to the quality of the finished product has so far been positive.
“If I go back about 20 years you had the same pre-conceptions about Italian equipment. I suppose at the end of the day 95% of it is made by machines anyway and if you look at the videos [of Atosa’s factory] it is all the same pressing machines that are used by everybody else. We also use a lot of European parts, such as condensers from Denmark, controllers from Italy and EBM fan motors from Germany.”
He said that if dealers still had any reservations then Atosa would make it attractive for them to try out the product. “We have got a trade price but we will offer an inflated discount for the first order if they want to take the units to bits, test it or send it to a client to test. We are happy to do that.”
Kerr added that Atosa could also provide badged units for companies that want to offer their own brand of refrigeration, but said this was subject to a minimum volume order.
Atosa’s UK expansion is part of a wider global investment being made by parent Yindu. It is understood that an extra 30% of factory space will be developed this year to support its 100,000 square metre factory in Shanghai, which will add several hundred more people to its 800-strong workforce.
Yindu was formed in 2003 and now offers 300 product lines in four main categories: commercial refrigeration; display refrigeration; chafing dishes and ice machines.
The company claims to have the capability to build 400,000 refrigeration units a year.