13 November 2019
How Big Green Egg conquered Europe
Wessel Buddingh’ is CEO of Big Green Egg Europe. From the sustainable head office in De Lier, he is responsible for the distribution of the Big Green Egg to 44 countries. From Albania to Sweden, so to say. But you don’t become a market leader in the ceramic barbecue segment overnight. An honest blog about intuition, misses, drive and a good dose of coincidence.
Always stay curious
Wessel still remembers like yesterday the first time that he saw a Big Green Egg. ‘I was importing bricks at the time. A good client of mine, Mathieu, had just visited his in-laws in Atlanta and they had a Big Green Egg. Mathieu himself wanted one too. He went to the store, which turned out to be the head office. Ed Fisher was there, the founder of Big Green Egg.
Ed thought it was kind of funny, a crazy Dutchman wanting to buy an EGG. At the time, he only sold them within the US, can you imagine? He also gave a discount, because Mathieu himself had to drag it away and assemble it himself. I was very curious, so I went to see him. This was clearly not just any BBQ…but what was it actually?
Always follow your intuition
After the first time EGGing, one thing was crystal clear: where the possibilities of a BBQ stop, those of the EGG begin. My intuition told me to act on it, and I immediately took the plane to Atlanta. And then, before you know it, there is a whole container of EGGs in your back yard. All of it was sold within a month. But selling the second container was a bit trickier. Now, I had also been active in the open fire and stove sector for a number of years, and I had a well-running dealer network for that in the Netherlands. So I thought I was smart. Then, in the summer, when it is a little quieter, it would be great to sell EGGs. But do you know anyone who will buy a stove in the summer? Exactly.
Tasting = believing = buying
As with any innovation, you first have to convince people of the added value to get them on board. But you can’t do that 1 to 1. So I visited all the garden shows, fairs and events. At that time, you could easily fill up your entire summer doing that. From demonstration to demonstration, my trunk packed with chicken and salmon, which dry out the quickest on a normal BBQ. Now, I can cook a bit, but it’s not my job. So then I hired a great chef, Robert Lobensteijn. A tough appearance with matching Mohawk. At one point, he went to eat at his big hero’s: Jonnie Boer from De Librije. After dinner, they started talking. Jonnie thought it was funny that a Goth was so interested in his cookery. So he asks what Robert himself does for a living. And what do you know, Jonnie had just decided that he wanted to re-introduce BBQing as a cooking technique in his kitchen. Coincidence, indeed.
Start with the leading restaurants
Jonnie Boer immediately ordered 15 of them. And, just like that, you have cracked the leading restaurants. This formula also appears to work in every country, from Russia to Portugal. Start at the top. Gastronomy and chefs are our culinary poster boys, but our right to exist are the cooking lovers, the foodies, people who appreciate taste. The good thing is, if one top chef embraces you, the rest will follow automatically. I still get a kick out of it when I eat at a top venue in Moscow and it says on the menu: prepared on the Big Green Egg. I never get used to it.
Embrace your ambassadors
From that moment, it became a lot easier. Because if you eat at Jonnie Boer’s, or another top chef’s, and you taste a dish that has been prepared on the EGG, you also want one yourself at home. It is as simple as that. In the beginning, I brought the EGGs myself to people’s homes. Very instructive, because that way you find out what your customers think is important. Service, of course, but also being part of a culinary community, exchanging recipes. After that, I started selling in the higher end cooking shops. Then it went crazy. In the meantime, the Big Green Egg has become indispensable in the culinary landscape. Yet, one thing has never changed in all those years: our customers are our ambassadors. We now have many thousands of them. And we guard them jealously. Because they are the ones EGGing and inspiring others every weekend. Like I once did myself at those garden shows. It has been a long way to get here, but I have had a good time. And still do.
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