Michael Bailey Deputy editor

Michael has been a business journalist for 12 years. He has extensive experience editing magazines covering funds management, commercial property and the travel industry. In 2011 he won a Citi Excellence in Financial Journalism award for a BRW cover story on economic indicators.

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100,000 units later, the ‘cult of Thermomix’ has been coming longer than you think

Published 27 February 2013 12:20, Updated 04 February 2014 00:15

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100,000 units later, the ‘cult of Thermomix’ has been coming longer than you think

Since 2001, Grace Mazur’s company has sold 100,000 Thermomix machines in Australia - 38,000 of them in 2012 alone. Photo: Angus Mordant

Thermomix, the multi-function kitchen appliance costing $1939, has just sold its 100,000th unit in Australia, 38,000 of them in 2012 alone. It’s an “overnight success” that’s been 12 years in the making for Thermomix Australia’s Perth-based managing director, Grace Mazur.

The Thermomix – which its makers say can chop, blend, mill, cook, stir, beat, juice, crush, grate, whip and steam – is manufactured in Germany by Vorwerk and, says Mazur, has been popular in southern Europe for 30 years.

During a visit to her native Poland in 2001, Mazur was impressed when relatives used a Thermomix to prepare and cook dinner “in no time”. She took one to the airport in her carry-on baggage, averting suspicious customs staff by pretending the kitchen appliance was “mining equipment”.

Mazur and her husband Witek were both in the mining industry at the time, but after learning to use the Thermomix at home, the pair decided to approach Vorwerk to become the first Australian distributor for the product.

Impressing the Germans by investing $80,000 of their savings to start Thermomix Australia, Mazur began running “cooking demonstrations” of the appliance (don’t call them “parties”) from her Perth home.

Mazur now has 1600 “consultants” around Australia to do the cooking demonstrations for her, and employs 20 branch managers and 120 “team leaders” full-time. Thermomix Australia turned over $60 million last year, and has long been profitable. However Mazur says until five years ago all profits were reinvested.

Not a party ... Thermomix units are only sold by demonstrationPhoto: Craig Sillitoe

“Part of the success has been investing in the customer service that follows a sale,” she says.

“We’ve opened more branch offices, run more cooking classes [which are held at a subsidised price for those who have spent $1939 to buy a machine] and thanks to the high dollar we were last year able to absorb the cost of a ‘12 months interest free’ promotion.”

Thermomix has never done any above-the-line advertising or paid product placement. Mazur says TV chefs such as George Calombaris and Adriano Zumbo began featuring the appliance of their own volition.

The “slow burn” of Thermomix’s success in Australia is due to the way the business selects its consultants, Mazur says – “self-starters who are passionate about food and improving people’s lives”.

There is a thriving Thermomix Facebook community, which added 4000 members on Monday night, thanks to a competition to win one of the appliances. Mazur says the machine has proven extremely popular among those with food intolerances and allergies, as it encourages cooking from scratch and allows complete control over what goes into meals.

There have been hiccups. The expiry on the patent of the original Thermomix has seen many cheaper imitations emerge in recent years.

Mazur had to take the makers of one – the Bellini Intelli Kitchen Master – to court after it copied the Thermomix cookbook to the extent that references to “Thermomix” were left in. The company was forced to recall the products containing the offending cookbook, and issue an apology, Mazur says.

There are no plans to sell Thermomix Australia. Mazur and her husband still work in the business full-time - recently cooking onstage at a ‘Thermofest’ event for top-performing consultants - as does their 30-year old daughter, Grace, a trained dietitian who works alongside the company’s three in-house recipe developers.

“Id like to think that one day she will take it on,” Mazur says.

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