When production of the ethanol-based FlameDisk resumes for this year's grilling season, Sologear, the Middleton company that makes the charcoal alternative, will probably fire it up using a BIC lighter.
That's because BIC Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of Paris-based BIC Group — known for its pens, lighters and shavers — bought Sologear on Tuesday. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.
"We think it is a good fit for our products and their brands and capabilities. We hope that they are wildly successful (with the FlameDisk)," said Tom Bush, one of Sologear's co-founders.
The FlameDisk debuted in summer 2008. With no briquettes to heat, no lighter fluid needed and no ashes to dispose of, it has been marketed as a cleaner, quicker, eco-friendly alternative to charcoal.
"BIC is very pleased with this acquisition. We believe that the FlameDisk product, and its unique technology, presents a growth opportunity for the U.S. barbeque and grilling category," Chris Mills, senior vice president and general manager of BIC USA's North America Consumer Products division, said in a news release.
Bush said Sologear had contacted more than 30 companies with flame-oriented products and began negotiations with two. BIC was one of them.
"We made a cold call to them last August," he said, "and we've been talking to them ever since."
Production of the FlameDisk will continue in Middleton, and new products could be introduced in the coming year, also expected to be made here, Bush said. Sologear had 10 employees at its peak, last summer, plus 15 temporary workers. The company is now down to three employees.
Bush would not disclose revenues but BIC's announcement said Sologear had 2010 sales of "less than one million euros," which would translate into an amount less than $1.47 million.