Keller Kitchens: The drive of sustainability

Sustainability is at the heart of the Keller Kitchens business as it focuses on reducing its carbon footprint and building an eco-driven business. Vicki Evans talks to Rob Van Steen, director of dealers at parent company DKG Group, and Tim Spann, national sales manager for Keller Kitchens UK…

Keller Kitchen

Keller Kitchens has been making kitchens in its own factory in The Netherlands for over 85 years – and now the brand and its parent company DKG Group have been working tirelessly to alter manufacturing processes to reduce carbon emissions.

The estimated carbon footprint of a single kitchen cabinet from a typical manufacturer is 22.5kg CO2e. In comparison, Keller Kitchens claim that it creates just 0.7kg of carbon emissions.

And, Keller even has the credentials to back up its claims. The brand – which became carbon neutral in 2017 – is independently verified, and the data shows a dramatic reduction of over the past few years.

Rob Van Steen, director of dealers at parent company DKG Group, says: “Many companies say that they are green and care about the environment, but they don’t invest in those areas. They say they are green because they want to sell more. Years ago, we said: ‘if we keep going like this as an industry, we will ruin the Earth’.

“Being green takes a lot of effort and money, all these investments don’t pay out in full, but we believe it is very important to do. I say to all our colleagues and competitors: try to invest and make the world better.”

When asked what the industry can do to help the environment, Van Steen jokes: “Buy Keller Kitchens.” The comment might be delivered in a wry way but, considering the proven lengths the group has taken to improve its carbon footprint, the sentiment is clearly genuine.

He also offered up some general advice for retailers looking to make greener choices: “Every retailer should pay attention to what kind of supplier they have. If you care about the planet, it will mean that your suppliers will have to invest in sustainability. If everyone makes small changes, it will have a big effect.”

Forging its sustainable credentials has taken much hard work, time and financial commitment, but what was the highlight?

Tim Spann, national sales manager for Keller Kitchens UK, proudly says: “Our most significant achievement was becoming carbon neutral in April 2017. That was a milestone, but it was a culmination of hard work and substantial investment over many years.

“Part of our ethos is to provide the 17 goals of the United Nations Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme. We are delivering on all our promises on sustainability and there are further milestones that we want to meet. The drive for sustainability is relentless. We have taken all the steps we can, but there will always be room for further improvement.”

Carbon reduction
Rob Van Steen, director of dealers at Keller parent company DKG Group
Rob Van Steen, director of dealers at Keller parent company DKG Group

Spann and Van Steen are keen to reiterate that despite their low emissions status, there is always some offsetting to be done as carbon will always be generated when any product is made. For those occasions, Keller works with carbon reduction programmes and carbon capture, where it finances carbon farming projects.

The next step for Keller is to look at its supply chain – both upstream and downstream – to see where there can be changes to its whole process to make it more sustainable. Finding suitable green options will take much cooperation between Keller and its suppliers.

Keller Kitchens UK has grown considerably in the past few years, mainly thanks to its move into the contracts market.

“One of the biggest reasons for our growth in the UK was a change in strategy,” explains Van Steen. “Keller Kitchens has always been prominent in the contracts market in the Netherlands, but we wanted to take that experience to the UK market.

“In the Netherlands, we are the market leader by far in the contracts market. We come with a lot of experience in this sector. However, when you go outside the Netherlands, it is harder to control the project management side. So, we need good partners in the UK for that. We always want to deal through our partners.”

Keller relied on their retail partners’ knowledge and understanding of the local market and also used its experience in the global contracts market to help develop its strategy in the UK.
Van Steen gives more insights into how Keller works in the UK market: “We have been in the UK market for 40 years, although it is crowded and diverse and sometimes difficult – it looks like the Dutch market.

“We have the right kitchens, product and colours to be successful in the UK. We have a wide range, but our prices are competitive, we are confident that we can grow further in the UK.”
For the past decade, Keller’s strapline has been “making beautiful kitchens attainable”.

When developing new products, its philosophy focuses on two key factors: the end product has to look beautiful but also be competitive so it’s attainable. Explaining the meaning behind its advertising strapline, Van Steen says: “We think that everyone should have the chance to buy a Keller Kitchen, no matter their taste or budget.”

“Our range is huge,’ adds Spann. “We produce kitchens in 2,050 different colours and in numerous finishes. It means that there is a kitchen for everyone. Retailers have a lot of flexibility when it comes to design – there are no limitations.”

Due to the wide variety of colours and materials that Keller stocks, it works on a just-in-time strategy for holding stock. Everything can be customised, so it is all made to order. Keller has been investing in raw materials and more warehousing to keep up with demand.

Van Steen talks through the broader investment strategy for DKG Group: “When we invest, we look at improving efficiencies or quality and maintain our status as the leading carbon-neutral manufacturer. So, it is not always about expanding but investing where it matters.

“When we invest, we always speak about our factory and our range of product, but we want to think about our people as well.

Tim Spann, UK manager for Keller Kitchens
Tim Spann, UK manager for Keller Kitchens

“One of our largest investments at DKG Group recently was a new head office for our 300 colleagues. It is a beautiful and sustainable building, which is nice for people to work from.”

Sustainable growth has been the Keller strategy for the past 90 years. However, like most brands across the KBB industry, it has seen unprecedented growth over the past few years.

Van Steen admits that the Covid spike in demand was a key driver, but aspects of its decision to expand into new markets and investments in its team and products have driven overall growth for the brand in both domestic and inter­­-national markets.

He says: “Of course you can grow your turnover by double digits every year, but we think that it needs to be sustainable. You have to control your growth as it might cause you a lot of trouble, especially for your dealers as well.”

In terms of investment in new products, Keller has expanded its portfolio to offer more utility room options, including 54 door fronts with a wide range of accessories. The new utility room line was created in response to starting in the contracts market in the UK, as so many new-builds over a specific size now come with utility spaces as standard. These will also be available to the retail market.

Other developments include 15 new doors in melamine, wood grain and veneers. There are also new drawer internals and glass cabinets.

“This year is our biggest jump forward in terms of new product releases,” says Spann. “We have released more this year than in previous years. There is big part of the range that has changed.”

So, what’s next for the brand in the UK?

“We are planning to grow our retail and contract business over the next few years,” Van Steen says. “We are not looking to win over another 100 dealers as we are committed to selective distribution, instead our strategy is to work with the right partners in the right markets.”

Going back to its sustainable roots Spann concludes: “Linking to our sustainable ethos, we want to grow by the most sustainable means possible. We continue to innovate, stimulating our partners to sell our kitchens. We work on a system called ‘true partnership’, so we work with our retailers to find the market trends and the things that will be available to help them.”

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