When Sterno Products decided to reinvigorate their catering products, they knew outside perspective would help. Sterno teamed up with Catalyst Product Development Group to create Sterno SpeedHeat, a flameless food warming system used by caterers. We sat down with Sterno’s David Amirault, Vice President of Marketing, to talk about the project.
Will you tell us a little about your background and Sterno’s business?
I oversee the Product Development, Product Management, and Product and Brand Communications. I have been in Product Development for over 24 years, but in different capacities. I started as a Mechanical Engineer designing equipment and products. After about 9 years, I switched to Marketing in a Product Management role. Since then, I have moved between overseeing Engineering teams and Marketing teams, to eventually overseeing both.
Sterno Products has been a trusted brand for over 100 years in the Foodservice Industry. We are mainly known for chafing or camping fuel which is often referred to as “Sterno,” which is often seen in any buffet service under the food keeping it nice and hot. In addition to chafing fuels, Sterno Products is a leader in Restaurant Table Top Ambience with Wax, Liquid Wax, and Flameless Candles. We’ve continued to expand into many other product lines like Chafers, Butane Stoves, and Insulated Food Carriers.
How did you hear about Catalyst?
I was introduced to Catalyst in 2006 when I worked for another company. Through that experience, I knew Catalyst could provide the Industrial Design and Engineering resources I was looking for to reinvigorate the product line at Sterno.
What do you like most about the services Catalyst provides?
The collaborative approach with the different disciplines (ID, Engineering, and Molding) to a project that considers style, function, and manufacturability.
What business challenge were you trying to solve when you hired Catalyst?
I needed to take an initial idea that had some basic defined parameters, and turn it into a production ready design that met our performance, style, and cost targets.
What solution did Catalyst provide?
Catalyst provided initial FEA analysis to improve performance. From there, we honed the style to complement the performance. Next, they provided the CAD work to create a moldable design that met the performance and style that we were seeking while working through material options. Catalyst was then able to prototype the parts for basic preliminary testing. Finally, Catalyst was able to have molding tools made, and the ability to run initial production.
What results have you seen from the work with Catalyst?
Because of the vertical systems within Catalyst, we were able to quickly develop the product from concept to initial production. This speed allowed us to present the product at our biggest trade show, National Restaurant Association. This led to tremendous excitement and anticipation of the production of SpeedHeat. The benefit of the speed to initial production has allowed restaurants and caterers to start developing their Drop-Off Catering programs in time for the busiest season of the year, Q4 due to holiday, office, and home events.
Have you ever recommended Catalyst to others? If so, how do you describe the Catalyst model?
Yes, and many of my former employees that have worked with Catalyst, continue to use them to this day. I would describe Catalyst as a Problem Solving – Solution Seeking group that truly understands the Product Development Process from Ideation to Concept to Design to Engineer Pilots to Production. Not many companies have the experience that the group at Catalyst possess, which makes them unique.
Any closing testimonial/statement that you would like to make?
Sterno Products worked with Catalyst to develop initial concepting to production for one of our products. We chose Catalyst because it is both flexible and comprehensive, with industrial design, design engineering, CAD development, manufacturing feasibility, and plastic molding experts. Compared to other firms, Catalyst understood our end goals and worked with us to generate the best result.
- David Amirault, Vice President of Marketing