WPPO Karma wood fired oven.WPPO
According to Statista.com, the outdoor cooking products market is projected to hit $11.5 billion by 2024. And while commercial and residential wood fired pizza ovens are still a relatively niche part of this market, they are set to devour a larger slice of the action, now that more consumers are choosing to cook from home.
I had a chance to catch up with Dan Johnson, President of WPPO, one of the fastest growing wood fired oven manufacturers, to learn more about the wood fired difference, meeting customer demand and other industry challenges.
How has the pandemic impacted WPPO?
Johnson: We are very surprised with how things turned out. When the pandemic first hit there was understandably a lot of fear and orders for our products completely stopped. But then as we entered into Spring last year, everyone realized they were going to be spending more time at home and it really just lit up the entire outdoor living industry, pizza ovens included. We don’t have enough product to meet demand.
WPPO’s pizza oven business once started out as a hobby and has quickly transformed into a full-time business. How did this happen?
We entered the market with a small portable oven and in the past five years it has grown significantly. Now we not only offer portable ovens, but all the way up to commercial size ovens as well. Ultimately, our goal was to make affordable ovens that are comparable in quality to more expensive ovens, which we have accomplished.
What’s the latest and greatest product innovation at WPPO?
Our new Karma series is our pride and joy. It’s a fast-heating oven and designed to cook pizzas in minutes. Karma ovens have a bit more of a streamlined build for fast heating and easy use. Anyone can use it. Just get the fire going and let the oven work its magic. Oven sizes vary from 25 to 55 inches. W use all 304 stainless steel inside and out and other areas are powder coated.
What are some of the misconceptions of wood fired ovens?
We promote it as wood fired oven and not just a wood fired pizza oven. So you can obviously cook more than just pizzas on our ovens. When I started this business I weighed about 350 pounds and now I am down to about 220. All due to life changes and eating habits. We used the wood fired oven to cook a lot of vegetables and fish; many things other than pizza.
Assume a strong marketing strategy plays an important role for how WPPO generates awareness?
Yes, for sure. Even though we are a small company, we sell a lot of ovens, thanks to the great following we’ve created. We’ve teamed up with some very influential chefs and other influencers that are not super well-known names but they do a very good job getting the word out there. We are spending more on advertising as we grow. But honestly, word of mouth has spread very fast. We now sell in U.S., Canada, Mexico, U.K, Australia, New Zealand. Most of this expansion happened in the past 18 months.
Our biggest challenge has been how do we keep up with product demand. All across the board, from our small portable ovens, all the way up to our big ovens, there’s no stopping the growing interest of people experimenting with wood fired cooking.