Got a hankerin' for crinkle-cut watermelons, perfectly wedged apples, or artfully zested lemons? Then call The Pampered Chef, a direct seller of more than 300 gourmet kitchen gadgets, cookware, cookbooks, and foodstuffs. It boasts about 60,000 independent sales reps who hawk their wares at in-home kitchen parties (à la Tupperware) throughout North America, Germany, and the UK. It's the largest of its kind in the US. Reps demonstrate product use and care and share recipes. As an incentive (à la Mary Kay), reps can ultimately "earn" jewelry and trips. Founded in 1980 by home economist and educator Doris Christopher, The Pampered Chef was acquired by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway in 2002.
Up to 90% of the company's kitchen products are exclusive to The Pampered Chef. The gadget firm also focuses on demonstration parties as part of a bride's wedding registry to generate sales revenue. The company holds more than 1 million in-home cooking demonstrations, known as Cooking Shows, per year. The Pampered Chef's staff of home economists, food scientists, dieticians, chefs, and product developers tests and develops more than 400 recipes each year.
The number of Pampered Chef parties has slowed in recent years due to the downturn in the economy, as potential customers and regular devotees have had less disposable income to boost the number of their kitchen gadgets. In the meantime, Berkshire Hathaway's other businesses have helped to offset slowed sales at Pampered Chef. The direct retailer is hoping to attract those who are between jobs in anticipation of luring them into full-time sales representatives until the economy bounces back for good.
To diversify its revenue stream, Pampered Chef has slowly worked to extend its reach into new geographic segments, such as its entrance into Mexico in 2009. During the past decade, the company has expanded into the UK and Germany. This move was one reason that attracted Berkshire Hathaway to purchase Pampered Chef in 2002. – less