Toy lab

Wooden Toys, Toys Made From Natural Materials: These are the 2022 trends

Header Holzspielzeug, Spielzeug aus Naturmaterialien

Strong brands create value, be it in consumers’ heads, pricing, or potential employees. The relevance of brands as trust and identification anchors has grown with the rise of online shopping. This was confirmed by the Consumer Trends Report 2020 by Capgemini. According to the report published in January, 41 % of consumers worldwide ordered from brand manufacturers directly in the past six months. Thereby both traditional retailers and online marketplaces were left out of the process.

Market researcher Axel Dammler sees it this way, as well. In his ToyBusiness Forum presentation "Sustainability and Toys: How the industry is responding to the mega trend" at Spielwarenmesse Digital, Dammler emphasised that purchasing behaviour is changing drastically. Sustainability alone is not a reason for purchase but has in the meanwhile become highly relevant for the mass market. Furthermore, consumers do not only want to have everything at once, both online and offline, but are also increasingly turning towards brand shops. This gives companies the opportunity to intensify their contact with customers and adapt their product range to the wishes of consumers.

Das Knopf im Ohr Spielset von Selecta und Steiff
The Knopf im Ohr playset from Selecta and Steiff

Consumers want a good story

Toy manufacturers are also counting on the power of brands and storytelling to build a bridge between them and their customers. To accomplish this, manufacturers are cooperating with license brands or using the means of co-branding to win over new customers and target groups by way of an image transfer. One example of this philosophy is Selecta, a brand of Schmidt Spiele since 2017. First with belly button and since 2021 with traditional brand Steiff; to bring together “the best of two worlds”. The focus here is not on spectacular designs but rather on exclusivity and a coherent story. The new sorting box à la Steiff is not revolutionizing toy design itself but promises to make decisions easier by offering two premium brands at the same time. (Selecta® / Schmidt Spiele

Grabbing toy from the Eichhorn Baby Hipp Collection
Grabbing toy from the Eichhorn Baby Hipp Collection

Boosting sales via co-branding does not necessarily have to be limited to one industry. Eichhorn, the brand for wooden toys by Simba Dickie Group, provides another example of creating a win-win scenario. Together with German baby food producer Hipp, a pioneer in the use of organic raw materials, Eichhorn presented the “Eichhorn Baby Hipp Collection” which includes classic toys for babies such as grasping toys, rattles, building blocks, and play arches. This is also not revolutionary but comes with the promise of sustainability and top-of-the-line quality, meaning a memorable story. The toys accentuated with trendy pastel colours are made of high-quality beech wood. (Eichhorn / SIMBA-DICKIE-Vertriebs-GmbH

The baby set from Gollnest & Kiesel
The baby set from Gollnest & Kiesel

Focussing on the essential

Another example of successful brand building and management is Gollnest & Kiesel, or goki. In the past couple of years, northern Germany’s largest toy manufacturer has been working on its brand profiling. Several sub-brands have already been integrated. With goki-baby, goki has introduced a baby and toddler range that shows many overlaps with the established in-house brand Heimess. The intention is obvious: the core brand’s product range becomes wider and at the same time younger, which is meant to reflect onto the brand. This is in line with a trend that has been observed in the toy industry over the past two decades with “my very first” products. The collection consists of about forty high-quality articles that are in terms of look and feel on par with the times. (Gollnest & Kiesel

The baby walker Drachenbox from HABA
The baby walker Drachenbox from HABA

Since 2019, Haba Group has been working on re-positioning and modernising its brand. The Franconian company gave its logo a visual update and redesigned its packaging. Furthermore, the product range was tightened in order to achieve more consistency with the brand essence. Accordingly, product development is aligned with this. All the while product design, quality, and safety remain unaffected by the restructuring. The multifunctionality aspect and the option for toys to grow along with their owners is also an important feature at Haba. Such as with the baby walker “Drachenbox” (dragon box). Once the baby walker is not needed anymore, it can be changed into a storage box for other toys in a few simple steps. (HABA

Stones from the Toynamics building set
Stones from the Toynamics building set

Between tradition and high-tech

Brand management is one thing, products are another. This is where the toy industry likes to explore new territories, such as by using wood substitutes. Hape introduced toys made of grass (bamboo) to the market already in the mid-noughties. cuburo made use of lignin. Hape has now started a joint venture with the Portuguese manufacturer of cork products Amorim. Cork is considered to be especially durable and sustainable. No trees have to be felled for its production. Moreover, it can be brought into various shapes. Under the brand name Korko, the German Hape subsidiary Toynamics has introduced building sets, sorting and stacking games, a bowling set as well as a balance board and balance mat to the market. (Toynamics

Stones and figures from Cody Block by QUBS
Stones and figures from Cody Block by QUBS

Swiss company Qubs AG has picked up the topic of digitalisation with Cody Block, which at first glance looks like a classic building set. Cody Block is a wooden toy for children aged three and up inspired by Montessori that relies heavily upon technology. It is meant to introduce children to mathematical thinking and help them build a foundation in computational thinking via hands-on programming. The players lay down a path that leads Cody back to his house by placing the building blocks in the right order. Each building block gives a clear directional command. The vehicle recognises the command when it approaches a building block with the help of patented RFID technology and then changes direction accordingly. Cody Block comes with a book that contains numerous exercises. (QUBS

Mountain Freight Set Deluxe by BRIO
Mountain Freight Set Deluxe by BRIO

The wooden railway by the Swedish toy manufacturer Brio has been making its rounds in children’s rooms since the 1960s. Ever since, the system toy has been continuously expanded upon with new components. Sometimes it went up into the air, sometimes on water, then back on the road with special sets. The material combination of wood and plastic in particular made it possible for the toy to gain new play functions. Brio’s promise behind all these efforts: “Never stop playing!”. Nowadays, the Brio mobility world offers nearly limitless options to reproduce scenarios out of the real world. The Swedish company has now introduced railway action on five levels with the Mountain Freight Set Deluxe, which is primarily intended to boost Christmas sales. (BRIO

Subtle colours on the rise

Plantoys can be counted as a pioneer when it comes to sustainability. The Thai company has won multiple awards for its Sustainable Way and the quality of its products. Ever since its conception, Plantoys has set out to manufacture toys that encourage the development of children up to the age of five while at the same time staying in harmony with nature. In 2022, Plantoys introduced the play set “Main Station” for children aged three and up to the market, which can be added upon with the “Urban City” play set. The grey elements made from untreated natural rubber are flexible, weatherproof, and crush-resistant. The new range of products by Plantoys, which is distributed by Scandictoys, primarily relies on pastel colours combined with a natural look that does not hide the structure of the materials. (T&K ScandicToys

wooden vacuum cleaner from Kid's Concept
colorful wooden vacuum cleaner from Kid's Concept

Subtle colouring and low-key design have always been a big part of Scandinavian toy design. Quality, safety, responsibility, and a commitment to environmentally friendly manufacturing are some of the strengths of Swedish design. These factors characterise the product range by Kid’s Concept in Stockholm. The company proves itself to be independent and brave also in its choice of products. At the end of last year, Kid’s Concept presented large-size microbes. The MicroNEOs series is meant to sensitise parents and children to the omnipresent micro-beings. Since “my home is my castle” proved to be all too true during the pandemic, Kid’s Concept now has a stylish, pastel blue wooden vacuum cleaner. With it, kids get to playfully help out with the housekeeping. Six “dirt spots” can even be vacuumed up with the help of built-in magnets. (Kid’s Concept

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Product group wooden toys, natural material toys

Are you itching for more info on wooden toys? Until the end of August, you can find more information on participating manufacturers in the Wooden Toys, Toys Made From Natural Materials product group at Spielwarenmesse Digital.

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