The Assistent / Electrolux
By Alexander Farnsworth 070 748 8232
The Assistent. A real consumer durable.
It may be a niche product, but the Electrolux Assistent has a loyal following other products can only dream about. Iconic to the point of worship, the Assistent includes a seven-liter open stainless bowl with a rotating arm. Together with accessories, it kneads bread dough, minces meat, blends soups, presses pasta, whips creams, purées fruits and mills flour like no other machine. It is the Volvo of mixers.
"Anything else is just a toy," says Eddie Johansson, Product Marketing Manager for the Electrolux Assistent.
Semi-professional and heavy duty, the Assistent was launched in Sweden as a motorized kitchen helper in 1940 and revolutionized food preparation. Between 1945 and 1949, the product was so popular there was a three-year waiting list. For people with muscular disabilities like arthritis, a doctor’s order could speed things up, however. The Assistant still makes life in the kitchen much easier.
The concept of the Assistent has remained unchanged for the past 60 years, making it the most durable product Electrolux has ever made. There have been some design and technical developments, however, and some new accessories have been introduced. Alvar Lenning, a leading designer who also worked for Ericsson, was responsible for its industrial design.
The Assistent still comes with an Electrolux cookbook, although it is a little different from the one issued during WW II.
Interestingly, the sales argument at the time: "The Assistent saves money while making the most of the food a family has, " is, like everything else about the machine, still used today.
"Baking your own bread is much cheaper than buying it. The cost of the machine pays itself back after a year," reads a recent Assistent brochure.
The target group for the Assistent includes hunters, families, farmers, and despite the modern onslaught of fast, frozen and take-out foods, people who are interested in making their own foods.
"It is such a well thought-out product and it has so few moving parts," says David Leidenborg, the Electrolux company historian. "Unlike vacuum cleaners, which become more effective over the years, the Assistant pretty much remains the same. And it gets passed down from generation to generation because it is such a high quality product. It doesn’t have to be replaced as often."
Nevertheless, Electrolux manages to sell a lot of units every year. The biggest market is Scandinavia where it costs around Sek 2200. The product is also sold in France, Luxemburg, Austria and Italy. Under the Lux brand, the Assitent is sold in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Germany. There are also plans to introduce it in Russia and England.
The product has been sold in the US since 1990 under the brand name Magic Mill. In January 2003, Electrolux will re-launch the Assistent under its own brand name at the Housewares Convention in Chicago. Retail price: around 450 dollars.