Varta Microbattery Inc seizes the opportunity to expand in the international market.

Shaviv Eddie Shaviv, president

For more than a century, Varta AG in Ellwangen, Germany, has been a worldwide manufacturer of batteries. Recently, the company founded US-based subsidiary, Varta Microbattery Inc, in White Plains, NY. The staff at Hearing Products Report (HPR) had the opportunity to speak with Eddie Shaviv, president of Varta Microbattery Inc.

HPR: When was Microbatterie GmbH founded and formed?

Varta Microbattery Inc: Microbatterie GmbH, a German battery manufacturer, was founded in August 2001. It is a subsidiary of its parent company, Varta AG. The company has undergone a name change and is now known as Varta Microbattery GmbH. As part of this renaming process, the company’s US subsidiary, Varta Batteries Inc, is now called Varta Microbattery Inc. The premium brand name for hearing aid and other retail batteries distributed by the US subsidiary is power one®.

HPR: How long has Varta AG been in operation?

Varta: It has been making batteries since 1888. For well over a century, the company has accumulated a tremendous amount of expertise in the areas of technology, product development, and market demand.

HPR: Where does the company have locations in terms of manufacturing and sales?

Varta: It has manufacturing hubs in Europe and Asia and has grown to be a global leader in power- and performance-optimized electrochemical energy storage systems. The principal Microbattery headquarters and cell manufacturing facility are in Ellwangen, Germany. Battery assembly sites are located in the Czech Republic, Singapore, Indonesia, and China. power one hearing aid batteries are distributed in the United States by several authorized distributors, including Hitec Group International, Siemens Hearing Instruments Inc, and Westone Laboratories Inc.

HPR: What is the Rayovac connection?

Varta: In July 2002, Rayovac Corporation saw an opportunity to enter the European market by merging its consumer operations with Varta Geratabatterie GmbH. Varta Microbattery GmbH, which was a division at the time of the merger, became a wholly owned subsidiary of Varta AG. Varta Microbattery GmbH is an independent entity that has not been affected by this merger.

HPR: How many employees does Varta Microbattery GmbH have?

Varta: Approximately 1,500 highly qualified professionals work for Varta Microbattery worldwide. A staff of about 700 are based in Germany.

HPR: Could you please list the main battery products and their uses?

Varta: In the category of hearing instruments, power one zinc air batteries power cochlear implants, as well as high-power hearing instruments from the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers. The company also markets rechargeable button cells (Ni-MH). Varta Ni-MH Batteries are the number one choice for memory backup and bridging in notebook computers around the world. Varta Ni-MH and silver oxide batteries also power the world’s leading blood glucose meters. For the challenging battery requirements in portable devices, Varta Microbattery invests huge amounts in production facility for rechargeable polymer lithium products.

HPR: How does power one stand out from other batteries on the market—in particular, what sets it and Microbattery apart from its competitors in terms of its hearing instruments?

Varta: With the growing popularity of digital hearing instruments, new IEC (the worldwide standard) protocols will be introduced shortly for hearing aid batteries. power one identified the emerging digital technology as an opportunity to retool specifically to accommodate the requirements of newer devices as well as existing hearing aids.

Responding to the newer requirements, all power one batteries feature stable voltage that will withstand high-pulse current. The result is improved reliability and longer run times. power one brand batteries deliver the highest useful voltage level in the market. In addition, every power one cell is tested according to Varta Microbattery’s leading quality standard to ensure top performance and physical fit.

HPR: What specific benefits do your power one batteries offer to both hearing aid consumers and dispensers?

Varta: power one zinc air batteries offer the patient and dispenser the promise of “high-level hearing.” This is delivered in three ways that improve hearing ability and convenience for the patient and, for the dispenser, improve revenues and customer loyalty.

First, power one batteries provide patients with more, longer-lasting battery power. They are designed to power a wide variety of digital instruments, programmable analog hearing devices, and cochlear implants. By choosing to carry power one brand batteries, the dispenser will no longer be required to offer both “standard” and so-called “high-power” batteries.

Second, the product offers high-level convenience through improved and patented packaging. power one was the first to significantly improve the design of traditional dial packs. The new packaging was developed for those patients who needed longer tabs on the batteries to make it easier to insert them into the hearing device. The batteries are designed to remain snugly inside the dial without falling out of the pack. The improved design, however, does not require the patient to learn a new method for removing the battery from the package or inserting it into the hearing aid. Varta Microbattery Inc and finally, at the service level, power one strive to be more than just a battery brand; it is a new business concept packaged around a battery. power one incentives help build patient-dispenser loyalty. This leads to repeat visits from the patient and may result in new referrals to the practice.

HPR: What significant design innovations do power one batteries offer?

Varta: Our cathode technology ensures the highest voltage level available in the market. Optimized cell design and well-balanced chemical composition guarantee reliability under a variety of operating conditions.

HPR: What is power one’s marketing strategy for appealing to hearing aid dispensers and others who sell the product?

Varta: power one aims to be the “must have” battery for a hearing aid dispenser’s growing practice. Because power one batteries replace a variety of other brands and types, they eliminate complaints from customers who received the wrong type of batteries. Dispensers who have been reluctant to sell batteries in their offices now can feel more confident about doing so. Since the power one brand is not sold in retail outlets, they do not have to worry about “price wars” and competition from lower-quality products.

HPR: What kind of dispensers should consider carrying the power one brand?

Varta: All professionals who are determined to offer premium quality in terms of service and performance along with high margins for the dispenser.

HPR: What other factors make the power one brand attractive to dispensers?

Varta: There are a number of reasons. power one created a single formula for the four popular sizes in 10, 13, 312, and 675. Dispensers, along with patients, receive a “premium” battery at competitive pricing. The guarantee for this is state-of-the-art, high-speed production.

HPR: What else makes the brand appealing for dispensers?

Varta: power one brand batteries are well suited for new digital devices for severely impaired patients as the high-pulse current draw in these devices can drain retail hearing aid batteries within hours of installation. Informed dispensers are learning that there are more considerations beyond “milliampere hour rating” (or capacity) or “open circuit voltage” to determine the effectiveness of a battery. In essence, dispensers who choose the power one brand offer a line of batteries that serve the widest variety of hearing devices.

HPR: Is the cost of the devices a negative factor for patients and dispensers?

Varta: No, it is not. The power one brand can deliver improved quality without increasing the cost to the consumer. Another boost for dispensers and patients is the “bonus-card” incentive program.

HPR: How does that work?

Varta: It is a program that enables the dispenser to make a gift of a free, six-cell pack of batteries for every five purchased by the patient. Dispensers also receive a $50 bonus check for every 15 cartons of batteries purchased over a 3-month period.

HPR: Are you confident about the future of power one brand batteries?

Varta: Yes, we are. power one stands for strongly growing market shares worldwide. Small, rechargeable batteries based on the latest lithium polymer and nickel metal hydride—and primary silver oxide, lithium, and micro batteries—are considered the future of energy storage. Varta Microbattery GmbH reached the upper 50% rank in the Top 100 Magazine survey of mid- to small-size German companies.