The King Technology leadership team at the 2019 Minnesota Family Business Awards ceremony, where the company won an award.

FROG Turns 25

King Technology celebrates its history and most successful brand

All because Joe King wanted to make life better for his kid.

Minnesota-based King Technology, which manufactures products for sanitizing recreational water, is known for its familiar FROG floater and associated FROG-brand products, which have been a primary driver of its growth since King and his father, the pool builder Lloyd King, founded the company in 1978.

A quarter century in business began for Joe King when he spent summers cleaning pools for his father’s service company. “There’s got to be a better way to sanitize recreational water,” Joe thought. In dealing with the hazards and hassles of manually handling chlorine and other pool chemicals, a passion for water treatment emerged.

Joe King at the company’s first product photo shoot, 1981.

Early products King Technology designed and manufactured included a bulk chlorinator, with an erosion design that caused chlorine tablets to dissolve at an even rate into the pool. New Water, another early product, is an adjustable chlorine cartridge dispenser system that allows pool owners to control the level of chlorine going into the pools without ever handling the chemical. Similar products were also developed for hot tubs.

In 1996, King and his team in the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins, Minnesota, came up with the FROG brand — a patented, EPA-approved system for sanitizing pool and hot tub water using less chlorine than conventional systems. The idea was born when one of King’s two young sons, Carson, was unable to swim comfortably in a hotel pool due to a skin condition exacerbated by chlorine.

“My wife asked me, ‘Why can’t you do something about this?’ ” King recalls. “Can you imagine having a pool that your own child can’t swim in?” King wanted to dial down the chlorine and started looking at what already existed in the industry. He immediately felt he could improve on what he was seeing.

Inventing something new is never immediate, however. What followed was a substantial investment of time and money, culminating in the development of a silver-based sanitizing system that kills bacteria in recreational water, but with as much as 50% reduced need for chlorine in pools — and bromine in hot tubs by up to 75%, King says.

FROG was one of the first recreational water-treatment systems to win approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, a registration process that took King Technology years to achieve. “We spent millions of dollars before we ever sold a dollar’s worth of the product,” King says.

‘You don’t need to be a weekend chemist’

It took considerable time and patience for King to line up distributors and dealers, and educate the marketplace on the benefits and viability of mineral technology. Mineral technology is now a well-accepted sanitizing method, and King Technology has an established presence in the industry.

Jackie Rieck, King Technology’s director of marketing, attributes the success of the FROG brand to the proven mineral technology of the products and its easy-to-use design. “With FROG, you don’t need to be a weekend chemist to use your pool,” she says.

Mark Buerger, retail sales manager for Patio Pools & Spas in Tucson, Arizona, says customers enjoy the ease of being able to set it, fill it and forget about it. “The FROG system is a perfect choice,” he adds. “After many years of installing hundreds of FROG systems, we enjoy the residual business in our retail stores for FROG and mineral packs. The FROG system has proven itself as a way to drive repeat purchases into our retail stores.”

Chris Curcio, president of Litehouse Pools & Spas, with 14 locations in Ohio, concurs that his customers love the product. “The FROG system has everything they want,” he says. “It’s effective, it’s easy, it saves time, and it will cost less because the pool will stay clean. We can carry any products we want. We carry FROG because the customers want it.”

Ribbon cutting in 2000 in Hopkins, Minnesota, at the first building King Technology owned. It is the same building that houses the company today. 

Recession proof

The repeat business model helped King Technology survive the recession of 2008, says Lynn Nord, a product marketing manager who has been with the company 31 years. At a time when demand for new pools and hot tubs plummeted, the company’s existing customers still needed replacements for their FROG sanitizing systems. “That really helped our dealers and helped our company as well,” she says.

Jon West, director of sales, is a 15-year veteran of King Technology and says even with the repeat business model of FROG, the 2008 recession remains one of the two most difficult times for the company. The other, he says, is right now: The global supply-chain disruption is impacting virtually all industries to some extent.

“Getting through good times is easy,” West says. “It’s the challenging times that really present opportunities to work together, roll up your sleeves and [move forward together]. And when you come out on the other side, you’re a closer team. And I’ve just felt that in every challenging situation that our business has come across.”

Nord also credits the culture of the company with much of King Technology’s success. She says the future of King Technology includes a “robust product roadmap” and a lot of hiring, including adding another product manager to the team. Going forward, she says the way the team cares about each other and respects each other’s opinions will help it maintain a valuable, open atmosphere.

“Everybody’s input is valued,” she says, “We’re always looking at doing things better, so if somebody has an idea, we’re really open to it.”

From its origin story to a continual drive to seize further opportunities in the recreational hot water space, the company’s outlook is tremendously positive.

“Our vision statement is to enrich lives daily,” King says. “I thought, ‘If I can make life better for Carson, life will be better for every person we sell our products to.’ ”