NEW YORK, NY; February 5, 2020—In: Cannabis and CBD products, including specialty packaging companies catering to that market. Out: Reusable straws, at least from a fancy design standpoint, now that they’re commodified. And here are my finds for new products well suited for licensing, and others ripe for expanding existing licensed offerings.
NEW YORK, NY; August 13, 2019—How can you differentiate one reusable straw from other reusable straws? Let me count the ways based on eight among many on display at NY Now and the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center here this week.
Materials: Stainless steel, silicone, titanium, paper, glass.
Style: Floral/beach/animal motif, solid color, pattern, laser-etched images.
Type: Fixed, retractable, bendable, 2-piece (so you can separate for easier cleaning).
Utility: Lunch kit, home use, travel.
Accessories (yes, accessories for your reusable straw): Cleaning brush; carrying case; multiple diameters for sodas, shakes, and sip/stir; replacement parts (I haven’t figured that out yet).
Environmental link: At least two of the eight I examined donate a portion of proceeds to environmental and/or animal charities.
Even the sales rep for one of the manufacturers I spoke with sees humor in the notion that straws are a “hot product” this year. “Who would have thought?” she asked.
Seattle, the state of California, Starbucks, Disney theme parks, Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, American Airlines, McDonald’s in the UK, and others are banning single-use plastic straws. And while many are simply forgoing straws altogether — typically with exceptions for those with disabilities who need them — manufacturers are clearly counting on individuals rather than restaurants and other beverage purveyors to pick up the slack.
Exactly how long people will care let alone use their brushes to clean their straws, I don’t know. How diligent are most people about flossing? But I have my guesses. In the meantime, is there an opportunistic play for licensors with children’s properties?
NEW YORK; JULY 12, 2019—It’s been a few years since I attended the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Show. I’d forgotten how you have to pace yourself on sampling, and that this show is overwhelming in the best sense. Here’s the skinny…
Is cauliflower the new kale? Peekaboo has cauliflower “hidden” (their word) in its organic chocolate ice cream (other flavor combos: mint chocolate chunk-spinach, vanilla-zucchini, strawberry-carrot, cotton candy-beets); Nolita has tater-tot-y Cauli-Bites; and From the Ground Up offers cauliflower chips, pretzels, crackers and stalks. Caulipower has been making cauliflower-crust pizzas for more than two years. How long ’til the kids catch on? And we are not alone on this: Fullgreen in the UK makes shelf stable Cauli Rice.
Coconut is still ascending. While many of these products have been available for a few years, there seemed to be a critical mass now: Cheeseland’s Kokos Coconut Cheese; Anita’s Coconut Yogurt; Coconut Collaborative yogurts and dessert pots (chocolate and salted caramel chocolate); W&M’s coconut chips in original, caramelized, and unsweetened, added to other varieties in its line; and more variations on coconut water than I could keep track of.
Is plant-based cheese cheese? Good Planet says its coconut oil-based food is dairy-free cheese. Tofu-based “cheese” products have also been around for a while. Yet because Velveeta is made of both whey and milk protein, Kraft has to label it “Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.” The USDA website says that cheese is a dairy product. And Wikipedia declares, “Cheese is a dairy product derived from milk that is produced in a wide range of flavors, textures, and forms by coagulation of the milk protein casein. It comprises proteins and fat from milk, usually the milk of cows, buffalo, goats, or sheep.” So why are these other options called “cheese”? Plant-based, generally, is on the upswing, at least in the number of offerings.
Sous vide, which seems played out in the consumer kitchen, is making a play for refrigerated and frozen food cases. Butcher’s has sous vide chicken vacuum packed for refrigeration; this was so new it’s not on the website yet, which is devoted to parent company Roli Roti’s Bay Area food truck business.
Long-time confectioner Maud Borup has added “drink bombs” — they work like colored, flavored Alka Seltzer — to its lineup. Given the popularity of bath bombs, can a version with a toy embedded be far behind?
Personal favorite licensed line: Flavors of Ernest Hemingway BBQ sauces, cocktail mixes, marinades, spices. Wife and husband team (many exhibitors are family and often multi-generation operations) that’s been a condiments licensee of the estate for about two years, with a major growth spurt over the last two months.
Coming on strong, so to speak: Coffees infused with alcohol, but with no alcohol content. Typically, as I understand it, the alcohol burns off in the roasting process, or the beans are finished in bourbon (or burgundy or other) barrels. World of Coffee has Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Brand licensed from Brown-Forman as well as Maison Camus (licensed French cognac brand). Burke Brands licenses Don Pablo. Other licensed brands include Kahlua, Oak & Bond, and Jim Beam. (At Licensing Expo a few weeks prior to the Fancy Food show, a Brazilian company was demonstrating a process for making alcohol-infused coffee pods.)
If you really want to talk “infusion,” though, think about the burgeoning CBD and hemp markets, not to mention cannabis. Sure, there were CBD- and hemp-infused products at the Fancy Food Show. But when CBD hits its stride — and there are many reasons that could be a while — the Javits Center won’t be anywhere near large enough to host the SFA’s Fancy Food Show any more. (For more on CBD- and beer-infused products at the Fancy Food Show, see Licensing International’s Inside Licensing.)
Quote of the show: “Put a unicorn on anything and it will sell,” says Maud Borup’s Vanna Olson. Indeed, Peekaboo is promising a unicorn flavor ice cream, though the “infused” veggie hasn’t been announced yet.
NEW YORK, NY; FEBRUARY 18, 2019—If it’s all about the elevator pitch, these three new products from three first-time exhibitors explain themselves instantly. As do licensed applications. All exemplify classic play value, each with a neat twist. Check them out in person before you leave Toy Fair, or online.
#1. The Door Fort, from Cortex Toys (booth #4245). Inventor Jesse Darr loved building forts as a kid — and now that he has his own child, remembers how his parents would be left with putting everything away once he went to bed. The Door Fort is his answer. Hangs on the door. Open the door, fold it out to three dimensions, Velcro to the door post. Voila!
One major license is already in the works. Easy to picture Darr’s generic Princess Castle as, say a Disney Princess castle, no? How about Thomas? Pretty much name your property. Contact: John Cowan, MD, CEO/Founder, Cortex.
#2. Cubcoats (booth #5974). It takes 13 seconds to demonstrate how a plush character pillow transforms into a machine-washable fleece hoodie — and back again (OK, back takes 16 seconds).
In addition to original designs, they have Mickey, Minnie, Minion, Marvel, and Troll versions, and they’ve just signed Nickelodeon. The product was exclusive to Nordstrom for fourth-quarter last year, but is now available for wider retail. This is beautifully executed. Contact: Brydie O’Neill, VP Product Development; Angela Michael, Business Development/Sales.
#3. VertiPlay Marble Run by Oribel (booth #4135). Yes, it’s another marble run, but with a literal twist: Base boards are wall-mounted and tracks posted on the base pieces. It’s even decorative, and the tracks can be moved into different designs. This is so new it’s not on the website yet, but Singapore-based Oribel has offered other vertically-mounted toys for toddlers for several years. This is clearly for older kids in a bedroom or playroom. Contact: Smriti Modi, Growth Hacker (great title!).
NEW YORK, NY; May 16, 2016—The joy of Surtex, which focuses on art, about half of which is available for licensing, the other half for sale, is its co-location with ICFF, a show for contemporary and avant garde furniture and design, and the National Stationery Show. The three shows crossover with the licensing world on both the design and manufacturing levels, and feature interesting packaging ideas as well. It takes a great deal of walking, but there is a wealth of creativity to be seen and inspiration to be had.
There is also fluidity across the shows in that some exhibitors would be wholly comfortable in different areas — particularly some of the artists found in ICFF and the Stationery Show who might be best served by the Surtex audience of manufacturers and retailers. That’s what makes a 5+ hour walk here fascinating (and I didn’t make it to the downstairs furniture show which in the past has been heavy on upscale living and bedroom offerings, lighting, and the like).
Most interesting finds this year were the first two exhibitors at the far end of the hall on the third level in an area dedicated to emerging designers.
Mike Joyce is an established graphic designer whose Stereotype graphic design agency features a portfolio strong on album art (Katy Perry, Iggy Pop, others) and advertising (Volvo, Visa, etc.).
His “personal project,” Swissted, started in 2012, combines his “love of Swiss graphic design and punk rock by redesigning old” concert posters into International Typographic Style posters. He takes information such as the band lineup, date, venue, and ticket prices from the originals (which he collects) and creates entirely new designs. He sells museum quality prints on 140 lb. cover stock in multiple sizes from $50 (17”x23.75”) to $150 (36”x50.5”) but is looking to “carry it to the next level” and is open to licensing the work.
Next to Joyce is Airplantman Josh Rosen, who creates vertical garden frames and tabletop “vases” — I hesitate to use the word (he calls them vessels) to house airplants.
The plants are dipped in water for a few hours about once a week. Easy to see the frames or vessels licensed by botanical gardens or other nature-oriented or environmental properties, and certainly sold in those venues. The frames, available 11”x11”, 11”x18”, and 24”x18”, are powder coated aluminum with nylon coated stainless steel cable that holds the plants in place. They retail for up to $135.
Other creative executions:
- Cardboard six-pack beer carrier with attached greeting card from Beer Greetings. It’s the beer equivalent of the ever-popular wine bag with card on the carrying handle. In this case the card is the side of the package. Retails for $4.95, which is the same as a mid-range greeting card these days. The company has been selling the item direct for about a year and a half and started wholesaling the line about six months ago.
- Monster Factory has been making licensed Volkswagen children’s play tents for some years (I remember seeing them at Bed Bath & Beyond); now they’ve added a VW van pet carrier, a cooler, picnic blankets, and a pet bowl.
- New coloring books are still pouring forth, despite the fact that the market is reportedly cooling.
Galison, exhibiting in the Chronicle Books booth, has a recently-released Andy Warhol coloring book with the Warhol Velvet Underground album cover banana on the cover (Galison has a range of Warhol items, including soup cans and a coming Time Capsule kit). Paris-based Omy, distributed in the U.S. by Ameico, has pocket maps, postcard books, fanny packs, pencil cases and other items. Hester & Cook has placemats and placecards. Sourcebooks offers calendars, dream books, and such. The list goes on.
- Flash drive manufacturer Mimoco, which specializes in licensed drives, says sales of classic Star Wars models have cooled off, though younger fans are still interested in the newer characters.
If Star Wars, its best seller, indexes at 100, the second best-selling line, Marvel, would index at about 75, a sales rep says. The company has confidence that Star Wars has longevity while it expects the Marvel line to drop off over a five to six year period.
About three and a half hours into walking these shows, I was starting to think there were substantially fewer letterpress companies exhibiting than the last few years, and that Brooklyn had lost its cache. Not at all. Minutes later I made it to a dedicated letterpress area in the stationery show—and within about 10 minutes and two or three aisles had come across I Am Here Brooklyn (jewelry), Boundless Brooklyn (DIY paper sculpture kits of water towers, bridges, etc.), Gold Teeth Brooklyn (greeting cards), Umlaut Brooklyn (cards and wine bags), and the representative from French chocolatier Marie Belle, which has a New York store in Soho, immediately informed me (with no prompting) that they now have a store in Brooklyn, too. Not to mention that many of those letterpress firms are located in Brooklyn even if the company names doesn’t shout it out.
On the packaging front, two exhibitors made great use of cork-stoppered glass vials: Japan’s YHM Jewelry, which also has a Brooklyn store but which mostly sells online, uses glass vials about 6” high that have a little greenery at the bottom and eyehooks in the cork from which are suspended necklaces or earrings. It’s a beautiful presentation (and the much of the jewelry is quite nice and very original). Similarly, the aforementioned I Am Here Brooklyn uses much smaller vials for its hammered metal pendants with an initial on them. Again, makes for a nice display concept.
Unto itself Surtex, which is relatively small, isn’t formally a curated show, but it’s always seemed to attract a high quality of exhibitors. Plenty of seasonal art, children’s, florals; many agents, some of which have a certain consistency of taste across the artists they represent, some of which are totally varied in an effort to have something for every retail need; many new artists each year looking to test the waters. Surtex is as good a barometer of what’s available for licensing for textiles and other goods as you’re going to find. The bonus is that the co-located shows might not be as focused on textile-oriented designs, but are full of licensable ideas — from designs to products to packaging.
The shows opened at the Javits Center here yesterday, and run until 6 p.m. today and until 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Next up: I’ll be at Licensing Expo in Las Vegas June 20 (day before the show opens), 21 and 22. I am available to conduct personal tours of the show based on your needs. Two slots remain. For information about the personal tour, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also leading a workshop, How to Work With Licensing Agents and Consultants, as part of LIMA’s Licensing University on the 21st. My panelists are an all-star team of Gary Caplan, Gary Caplan Inc.; Carole Postal, CopCorp; and Ilana Wilensky, Jewel Branding. To register for Licensing University, click here.