Demand for new products keeps housewares companies busy
Innovation, fashion and design remain the cornerstones for success in housewares, as manufacturers not only push to meet consumer needs, but inspire them to make that purchase.
As officials at the International Housewares Association noted, technology also is playing a large role in the category’s success. It has allowed suppliers to innovate, while shortening time-to-market. At the same time, suppliers are investing greater resources to provide high fashion, design and new technologies to reinvent basics and innovate with newness, both of which motivate buyers and consumers to purchase.
“The housewares industry continues to generate innovative and design-driven new products,” said Jon Jesse, vice president of industry development at the Rosemont, Ill.-based IHA. “Across the spectrum of home products, the impact of design and the emergence of new materials have created many new options for decorating, organizing, cleaning and supplying the home. Inspired by social media and peer-to-peer idea sharing, consumers are busily exploring new food preparation options, and kitchenware suppliers are ready with tools to support them.”
For many manufacturers, the annual International Home + Housewares Show, held each March in the Midwest, is the primary venue to introduce new products to an international audience of industry buyers and media. Jesse said that suppliers of every size across retail channels based upon their own market strengths, product offerings and the ability to meet a need within the marketplace.
Industry observers pointed out that consumers also are developing a renewed interest in personal health-and-wellness goals.
Experts have said those goals also are driving the hydration category, which includes water bottles and infusion and filtration products. Hydration products also are showcasing technology, fashion and design trends that the rest of the housewares category is seeing, according to officials at Bradshaw International. The company, which is largely a supplier of kitchen gadgets, is seeing success since launching its GoBottle in 2017. Designed for consumers who want reliable but stylish hydration options, the 25-SKU line sold under the company’s Good Cook brand comes in a variety of price points and options, including acrylic and stainless steel choices.
Melissa Simpson, senior channel manager at Bradshaw, said the clean, contemporary look of its GoBottle has been an instant hit with consumers. Its bold, trend-right colors are particularly attractive to shoppers looking for something different, she noted. And because Bradshaw’s research showed that consumers on the run want to take their hydration bottles wherever they go — be it work, the gym or hiking with a friend — the company included built-in loops on many styles so that the bottles can easily attach to backpacks or gym bags.
“The hydration category has been experiencing phenomenal growth the past few years, and we saw an opportunity to offer consumers a feature-filled, fashion-forward option that fits with their lifestyle,” Simpson said. “Many of our GoBottles, for example, are spill resistant, BPA-free and designed to be easily filled and cleaned.”
The IHA, noting the growth in consumer demand for hydration products, has created a preshow event, the Trending Today Preview: A Marketplace for Hydration. The March 10 event will include 60 exhibitors for buyers to meet with ahead of the show floor opening.
Lighting up the category
Technology isn’t just being brought to bear on hydration products. Lighters, too, are reaping the benefits of innovation, while bringing eco-friendly features and eye-catching designs to consumers, according to officials at Ontario, Calif.-based Calico Brands.
Calico’s Scripto brand, for instance, offers innovative multipurpose lighters with a variety of features, including an adjustable wind resistant flame, a flexible nozzle and a refillable folding mechanism.
In 2017, the company introduced two new innovative products — the Scripto EZ-Squeeze multipurpose lighter and the Scripto Ultima premium poc-ket lighter line. The Scripto EZ-Squeeze features a squeeze grip ignition for ease of use, a refillable tank, ergonomic design, visible fuel supply, an angled nozzle and a built-in hook for storage. The Scripto Ultima looks to bring a new design, look and feel to the pocket lighter category with more lights, colors and features. Calico touted the lighter line’s visible fuel supply, adjustable flame, 3,000 lights and polycarbonate material with high-impact resistance and high-heat resistance.
“Bringing innovation and new products to market is what Calico Brands is all about,” a marketing department official said. Our product innovations continue to set new category standards of excellence and be a catalyst for our growth and success in the marketplace.”
Consumers also are looking for décor to light up their spaces, which product development company Mark Feldstein and Associates is looking to capitalize on with its plan to launch more than 50 new products in the first quarter of 2018.
“Our series of LED Pillows, LED Door Greeters, LED Crackle Glass Globes and LED Porcelain Ornaments will brighten up any occasion and enhance any mood,” Howard Feldstein, marketing manager at the Sylvania, Ohio-based company, said.
Where modern, sleek designs are big in the hydration segment, home décor is trending toward a simpler feel.
“As for themes, the rustic look is trending strongly and was a driving force in the recent introduction of our line of Farmhouse Gifts wall clocks, LED branches, LED pillows, LED pumpkins, LED light boxes, LED canisters, candlestick holders and licensed canvases,” Feldstein said. “Additionally, millennials are driving the popularity of organic materials being incorporated into many of our products.”
Clearly, opportunities abound in housewares, but with so many suppliers vying for a shot on the shelf, it can be a daunting exercise for retailers to understand which companies are in a position to help and which might hinder sales growth.
Marketing department officials at Calico Brands suggested retailers should look suppliers that produce quality products and abide by industry standards, regulations and social compliance. They said retailers also should focus on companies that turn to product innovation to grow the category, who are reliable, accountable and have in-depth knowledge of the product category, as well as brand recognition, manufacturing and distribution capabilities, and highly developed merchandising and promotional strategies.
Feldstein pointed out that as a product development company, its relevance in the industry is tied to staying in tune with current trends in the marketplace, and translating that into introducing innovative products that meet those consumer needs. “We take great pride in being recognized for our innovation, such as our one-of-a-kind Revers-a-brella No Drip Umbrella, which won a 2017 International Housewares Association Best in Category Global Innovation award,” he said.
Given the intense competitive pressures on retailers, Feldstein said partnering with suppliers that offer products with a perceived value is critical. “To us, that perceived value is defined as offering high quality products with innovative features that will meet the needs of a specific mass retailer’s customer at competitive prices. As mass retailers look to partner with vendors, on-point trend development is also a very important quality for a supplier to have,” he said.
Additionally, Feldstein noted suppliers have product testing capabilities to meet specific retailer testing requirements.
Poised for growth
Staying on top of trends and partnering with reputable suppliers is crucial, but so is having the right breadth and depth of items — and offering them at the right time.
Suppliers noted that consumers want more bang for their buck, while not sacrificing quality. Retailers can leverage these trends in store by merchandising such high impulse, high sale items as lighters in high traffic areas, and utilizing promotional displays and cross merchandising in a “store within a store” concept, according to officials at Calico Brands.
Within the lighter category, offering a variety of colors, styles and designs will help retailers appeal to multiple consumer groups and demographics, as well as stimulate sales in the category, Calico officials said.
“The driving force behind growth in the category is the availability and variety of different types of multipurpose and pocket lighters,” Calico’s marketing department official said. “The multipurpose and pocket lighter category is highly competitive, and manufacturers are looking for innovative ways to capture consumers’ attention by introducing new technology, styles and/or designs to distinguish their product from competitors.”
Chew on this: Pet food category gets healthy
For those dogs who snarf their pet food so quickly that it makes them sick, the St. Marys, Ontario, Canada-based Omega Paw will be launching a novel product called the Dog Hog in March at the Global Pet Expo. “The Dog Hog is designed to slow a dog down when they’re eating,” Terry Hannaford, CEO of Omega Paw, said. The Dog Hog is a large silver ball that fits within a pet owners existing feeder and prevents a dog from eating too fast.
What pets ‘Crave’
At the beginning of this year, the McLean, Va.-based Mars Petcare introduced additions to its Crave brand lines, including Crave Wet Dog Beef Paté with Shreds of Real Chicken. These protein-rich diets provide the nutrients for a lean, healthy body and the energy to play, the company said. Like the diets of their wolf and wildcat ancestors, Crave recipes are crafted with real, high-quality animal protein, the meaty flavor dogs love and no grains.
New pet food line is lovingly simple
With dog and cat owners who want to purchase food appropriate for pets with food sensitivities, supplier I and Love and You in February crafted a line of limited-ingredient dry, or LID, pet food called Lovingly Simple. The recipe features a short list of wholesome ingredients for dogs and cats with sensitivities to poultry, beef, grains, white potatoes, soy, corn, rice, dairy and eggs.
While most LID options on the market dip into the 20% range for protein content, the Boulder, Colo.-based pet food manufacturer’s Lovingly Simple contains 30% protein for dogs and 36% protein for cats. “The new Lovingly Simple recipes address some of the common food sensitivity issues pet owners see today, without sacrificing protein levels,” Lindsey Rabaut, vice president of marketing and innovation, said. “With everything we do at I and Love and You, we aim to increase the bond between pets and their humans. Finding a holistic, wholesome food with premium ingredients that keeps pets happy is key to that bond. The best food is the best love.”
Nutritional meals designed for small pets
Freshpet, a maker of real, all-natural, fresh food for pets, in February announced the introduction of four Freshpet Select meals designed for small pets with the right nutritional balance to help them lead healthy lives. For example, the new Freshpet Select Small Dog recipe caters directly to the more than 46 million small dogs in America today. Dog ownership has increased steadily among households in recent years, having reached 85 million families in 2017, with households owning small dogs under 25 pounds representing 55% of that market.
“All four new recipes provide unique benefits to cater to any pet’s palette or dietary restrictions and, given the increasing number of households with small dogs, we felt passionate about designing a recipe specifically tailored to their nutritional needs and smaller bite size,” John Speranza, vice president of marketing at the Secaucus, N.J. pet food manufacturer, said.
St. Louis-based Nestlé Purina has more than 500 nutritionists, behaviorist and veterinarians on staff to bring better-for-you pet foods to market. New this year is Beneful Simple Goodness with Real Beef, which features a blend of real peas and carrots that is evident on the packaging. The company also is focusing on small pets. “Since small dogs are the largest and fastest-growing dog size segment, we continue to develop our Purina Bella line of delicious wet food for small dogs and natural dry small dog food,” Joe Toscano, vice president and director of trade and industry relations at Nestlé Purina, said.