Housewares Design Awards

2004 Best in Category: Kitchenware & Barware

Metrokane, Inc.

Rabbit Lever Vacuum Pump

Recognized as one of the top 25 products of 2003 by Fortune Magazine and honored by the Housewares Design Awards in the tableware and barware category, Metrokane’s Rabbit Lever Vacuum Pump is part of the line that helped define the company.

“Our success is based upon a variety of things. The main thing is that we figured out who we are,” said Riki Kane, president of Metrokane. “For years we were an item company, and then we did the Rabbit Corkscrew. Through advertising, it became the number-one selling corkscrew.

“We now focus on barware and wine accessories [like the Vacuum Pump]. All of our products in development are barware and wine tools.”

When introducing a new product like the Rabbit Corkscrew or Vacuum Pump to retailers, there are many challenges involved, said Kane.

“The challenge is to get retailers to understand that consumers appreciate good design and good quality, not just price,” explained Kane. “All consumers are willing to pay a little more for something that looks wonderful.” She added, “You have to convince [many] retailers that it’s about a lot more than a low pricepoint.”

According to Kane, there are three factors that have made the Rabbit Lever Vacuum Pump successful: functionality, the Rabbit name and its unique design. “People are intrigued by a vacuum pump that works on a lever,” she said. “When you can marry function with design, you’ve really achieved something.”

Metrokane works closely with Pollen Design, a product design company with a studio in New York City. “Metrokane is a design-driven company,” said Ed Kilduff, an industrial designer at Pollen Design, who has worked with Metrokane since 1997 on the Rabbit line and many other products. “It starts with design, and everything else is built around design.” He added, “We have an idea or concept and then engineer it. We try to do something new and patentable.”

Many elements need to come together to create a well-designed product, noted Kane. “Design is about shape, texture, materials and the styling of the product,” she said. Kilduff, who has worked in the housewares industry for about 14 years and developed hundreds of products, stressed the importance of using quality materials, such as polycarbonate, to make the product heavier and stronger.

When Kilduff first designed the Rabbit Corkscrew, the original product in the Rabbit line, he said he hadn’t intended to make it look like a rabbit. Once Kilduff and Metrokane realized the potential of a design reminiscent of a rabbit, the corkscrew was enhanced to resemble a rabbit even more, and the Rabbit brand name was born.

Both Kane and Kilduff emphasized the necessity of creating a brand. “The Rabbit line is now a well-known and established brand,” said Kane. “People are brand-oriented in this country—the brand carries the products in the line.”

Kilduff commented, “It’s a challenge to build a brand. If you have a successful product, the next thing you know someone makes it cheaper. If you make an impact off the bat, people remember that.”

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