Primus, the Swedish cooking equipment brand, has been making outdoor stoves since 1892, and it also produces other gear for backcountry and outdoor kitchens.
Its sister company Silva manufactures compasses, headlamps, running vests, and other outdoor accessories.
Since the acquisition, Primus has been able to leverage Silva’s expertise in the technical hardgoods category to expand its distribution and manufacturing capabilities, said Manuel Duermoser, head of product at Primus-Silva.
“Our mission really is to enable users to spend more time outdoors,” he added. “That’s the long-term goal.”
Primus-Silva is distributed in the U.S. by Liberty Mountain, and in Canada by Rock Gear Distribution. About 60 employees work across both brands.
The Daily spoke with Duermoser about the overall business picture, how he sees the evolving outdoor consumer, and the brand returning its focus to products that are more technical.
Outdoor Utility Play
Primus-Silva is coming off a COVID boost that spiked the business, and revenue is returning to normal in 2023. Duermoser said revenue will be down in double digit percentages compared to 2022, but will be overall better than in 2021.
The overall market has grown during the pandemic, according to Duermoser, as more people participated in the outdoors and are sticking around.
“This outdoor lifestyle trend, where we’re seeing a bigger base of consumers who are not naturally outdoor people using outdoor products in their daily life, obviously affects the market and keeps it healthy,” he said.
To expand on that, Duermoser pointed out that a lot of people are using drinkware that’s designed for camping as they go about their day-to-day lives and bringing Thermos-style bottles “basically everywhere.”
“That’s nothing new, but it’s a growing segment,” he added.
Primus-Silva has defined that category as Outdoor Utility, which Duermoser defines as products that aren’t made for a specific outdoor activity but are meant to enable you to do the activity, including climbing or biking or camping. Think taking a camp stove with you to the crag, or a bottle that fits on your bike.
“A pocketknife or a bottle or a stove have this potential for being transferred into everyday carry,” he said.
The pandemic revenue boost provided a bigger budget for the company to invest in research and development and to shore up its staff, Duermoser said.
As it develops new products for that outdoor utility consumer, the goal is to stay true to the core of Primus-Silva and make items that are useful for people who are getting outside in more casual ways.
“If those functions are also useful in daily life, then great,” Duermoser said. “We don’t change our products much. But we are making them accessible to a broader audience.”
Staying true to that core audience, Primus-Silva’s retail strategy remains to sell in brick-and-mortar, outdoor specialty stores. But the company is also open to being accessible in bigger cities and even in more lifestyle-centric stores next to apparel or other places where a consumer might not expect to find them, Duermoser said.
Primus-Silva products could appeal to a wider range of consumers, according to Duermoser, from hipsters to people who camp out on their terrace, “rather than just a hardcore consumer.”
Right now, the company sells mostly via wholesale, but it hopes to expand its direct-to-consumer offerings in the future.
The next evolution for Primus-Silva is the Ulti Stove Systems and Ulti Pots, which will be available in Spring 2024. These expedition-style products are a return to form for Primus, which recently had been releasing less technical products geared more toward less extreme activities like car camping.
The new system is the most wind-resistant of anything Primus has made, with catalytic combustion and an infrared radiation burner that heats without a blue flame that can be blown out.
Among other features, it has a remote canister hose system that allows the fuel canister to be flipped upside down for use in colder weather.
While Primus-Silva does want to appeal to that more relaxed outdoor consumer, this product is definitely for the more technical outdoor enthusiast.
“In general, we see ourselves as an innovative technology leader in the overall stove segment, from expedition to campsite,” Duermoser said.
For the less hardcore, more car-camping setup, Primus has also invested in products like the dual-burner Tupike Portable Stove.
“Those work great in the outdoors, but also look great on your terrace,” Duermoser said.
Looking ahead, Primus-Silva doesn’t plan on expanding into more categories, and will keep its focus on the same segments, according to Duermoser. However, the company will be directing its attention to creating better drinkware and accessories.
“We want to have as solid of an offering in the drinkware segment and accessories as we have with stoves,” he said.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.