Housewares Design Awards

2004 Best in Category: Lighting & Home Décor and Outdoor Living


World Clock and Weather Station

The year 1990 marked a crucial turning point for Maverick Industries, one that ultimately would lead the company to its current success as a re-energized supplier of unique time and temperature measurement products.

Maverick, founded in 1981 by Ed Mackin to produce and market tabletop indoor grills, by 1990 was riding high as the indoor grill category had soared to nearly 4 million units. Maverick fully expected the growth to continue.

That’s when the company somewhat unwittingly planted the seed for its success today. With the idea of supporting the blossoming indoor grill category with related accessories, Maverick introduced the Bar-B Chek, a compact digital temperature probe that alerts consumers when various types of meats are properly cooked.

However, competition had begun to flood the indoor grill market, pricepoints were dipping rapidly, and within a year, the category had collapsed to about 1 million units.

The Bar-B Chek, originally positioned as part of Maverick’s supporting cast, would eventually become the star.

“It turned out to be twice the product, in terms of profitability, as anything else in the line,” Mackin said.

But it would still take about five years for the Bar-B Chek to reach volumes from which Maverick could gain further leverage. And the company at the time was still viewed more as a small electrics supplier than a thermometer supplier.

Maverick during the first few years of 1990s tried to recapture the volume of its heady indoor grills days with a string of niche kitchen electrics, such as juicers and pasta makers. However, each tended toward narrow windows of peak opportunity.

“We started doing a dance to find niche product every year,” said Peter Chapman, Maverick’s executive vp

It was a strategy that proved out of step against a backdrop of a hyper-competitive, consolidating small electrics market.

“As a small, entrepreneurial company, we were at a major disadvantage in the small electrics business,” Chapman said, “We were much smaller than most of our competitors, and almost all of the product could be virtually duplicated in a short period of time. It’s hard to be proprietary in the small electrics business. We had to reinvent ourselves.”

With Bar-B Chek sales percolating by 1995, Maverick executives decided to dip deeper into the digital food thermometer well. Serendipity was shining on the company. Not only were outdoor grill sales booming, optimizing the potential for grill-related specialty thermometers, but it was about the same time the USDA was turning up the heat on its promotion of food safety and the importance of food thermometers. Moreover, digital temperature measurement technology was becoming more advanced, more readily available and lower priced.

Maverick began to stake out a wider position in digital food thermometers. Playing initially off its Bar-B Chek franchise, the company launched a grill fork-style food probe. When that segment was beset by what Mackin calls “me too” competition and price-erosion, the company determined the only way it could survive was to adopt a plan that emphasized proprietary design comprising a tandem of unique appearance and patentable utility.

Through the late 1990s, Maverick, often working with its Far East manufacturers from the ground up, unwrapped a diverse range of specialty food thermometers. These included smoker grill thermometers; deep fryer and candy making thermometers; and a series of wireless, remote thermometers that allow users to monitor cooking status from a compact unit that receives signals from the cooking probe.

“These were products that are not easily duplicated, and we started to be known as a source of this type of product,” Chapman said.

That recognition was Maverick’s permission slip by retailers to further stretch the boundaries of a design-oriented temperature measurement strategy aimed principally at upscale merchandisers.

And to Chapman, it really hasn’t been that far a stretch the past four years t

Visit Company Website

« Go Back