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    The Aga cooks up a storm in France

    18/03/2006
    The French may disapprove of "les rosbifs" cuisine but culinary Britain has started to colonise the continent in the unlikely form of the Aga cooker.
    The quintessentially British stove has proved a hit across the Channel. More than 1,500 French kitchens have bought an Aga since 2002, with 400 installed last year alone. A further 2,000 Rangemasters, Aga Foodservice Group's more conventional oven, were also sold in France in 2005.

    William McGrath, Aga's chief executive, said: "We're definitely exporting that English feel to some customers, but we're also exporting some top-notch cookers."

    Despite president Jacques Chirac's comments last year that "you can't trust people who cook as badly as that", the British cooking experience appears to be catching on. Restaurants like the Fat Duck in Bray have received rave reviews from French foodies.

    Aga only started selling into France four years ago, but it is already a key market, according to Mr McGrath. He stressed that homesick British expatriates account for only a small portion of the sales. "We are stocked alongside French ovens in Darty [the French electricals chain]," he added.

    And it's not just France that has fallen for the Aga's charms. Some 1,600 of the 12,000 Agas sold last year were to US customers.

    The company's pre-tax profits rose 18.5pc to £43m for the year, on sales 16pc higher at £502m. The shares rose 12 to 381p.

    Although Aga still sells predominantly in the UK, Mr McGrath said last year's growth was driven by the international businesses: "We're building up that market, but we haven't cracked it yet," he said.

    Domestic cookers account for about half of the group's business, with the rest in commercial kitchen equipment. The group claims catering companies could save a total of £2.2bn a year in electricity bills if they all upgraded to Aga's modern appliances. Such a move would also achieve 4½pc of the Government's targets for carbon emission reductions.

    Source
    telegraph




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