TurboChef Combines Cooking, Internet

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After a two-year quiet period during which the Maytag Corp. worked on commercializing a product with its new rapid-cook technology, TurboChef Technologies, New York, is starting a direct mail campaign designed to "turn up the dimmer" among analysts, portfolio managers and institutional investors with an interest in the market.


The rapid-cook technology, which represents TurboChef 's first outreach to the consumer population, allows ovens to cook food up to 10 times faster than a conventional oven. The technology used to control the oven also comes with an Internet connection that will allow people to check and send e-mail, download recipes, video stream and cook live with online chefs and conduct e-commerce transactions while cooking. Maytag will be the manufacturer, marketer and distributor of residential and commercial ovens containing TurboChef 's new technology.


The ovens will be available at the end of the month. However, those containing the Internet connection will not be available until early next year.


During the next two weeks, TurboChef will send out more than 1,000 pieces that are intended to accomplish several goals. The company wants to increase the overall awareness of the company, expand the distribution of ownership and show people within the three groups of recipients the direction in which it is headed as an Internet company.


"We feel there is a disconnect between our stock price and what our technology is worth," said Bob Milgroom, director of investor relations at TurboChef Technologies. "There has been very little opportunity for us to speak about what we were doing with this technology over the last two years while Maytag worked on the product, and now we have to provide investors and these people with a good evaluation of the economic benefits that this new technology and Internet appliance is going to have."


The three groups will receive the same piece. It will contain a personalized cover letter and a two-sided, four-color sell sheet containing a company description, information on the product and contact information. A videotape will be included that will contain two vignettes - one by ABC News that focused on the product, and another by CNNfn Business Unusual that focused on one of the company's co-founders.


A summary sheet of press releases issued by the company during the past few months also will be available, along with a two-page extract on TurboChef Technologies from a Prudential Securities research project report. A redesigned Web site will be up at the end of the month. The vignettes will run there as well. The call-to-action will be dialing a toll-free number or visiting the Web site in order to set up an appointment to see how the technology works.


"We want people to see that this is going to change the entire organizational idea of what can be done inside a kitchen," Milgroom said. "It will also give people the chance to see how they can become involved in our company, and increasing our number of strategic partnerships is a main goal of this campaign."


Calls will be made to all recipients, regardless of whether they respond to the piece.


Plans for an e-mail campaign are on hold while traditional direct mail is tested and the results are evaluated. The piece was put together inhouse. Milgroom said a campaign promoting the new ovens to consumers will be completed toward the end of the month and will be handled by Maytag.


There will be no conversion mechanism for those who buy a new oven this year. Those wanting an oven with an Internet connection will have to buy a new unit. However, Milgroom said ovens containing the Internet connection will be less expensive than the introductory models coming out this year.


TurboChef wanted to create an Internet connection on a kitchen unit after its research showed that 70 percent of a household's economic decisions either are expenses related to the kitchen or are made within the kitchen area. The Wireless Web pad will be operated by touch-screen technology and will resemble an Etch-A-Sketch toy in size.


Maytag will produce one residential and one commercial model containing the technology. The residential model will be manufactured and sold by its Jenn-Air division, while the commercial model will be handled by its Blodgett division. n
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