Sustainability

Toy blocks for a better tomorrow

Interview with Steven van Bommel BiOBUDDi
Toy blocks for a better tomorrow

Spielwarenmesse:

How did the idea of producing toy blocks from eco-friendly materials come about?

Steven van Bommel, CEO of BiOBUDDi
Steven van Bommel, CEO of BiOBUDDi

Steven van Bommel:

BiOBUDDi really started on a hot summer day in June 2015, when I came home from a long day of work. At that time our family business had been importing plastic toys for the past few years and I was busy on the promotional activity of it. My youngest daughter asked that evening why we are still making toys in the far east from normal plastic. She explained me that the current products were harming the environment around her and that of the next generation. At school she learned that plastic is for the most part made from petroleum. Petroleum is a scarce raw material that causes enormous damage to the environment, because the production of these plastics results in high CO2 emissions. At that moment I realized that things could and should be done differently. My daughter had unknowingly opened my eyes and I really wanted the productions that we made would not harm the environment. It was time to make some drastic changes in the company. My dream from now on was to make products that are safe and do not damage the environment in which we live. The following day it was decided that all accumulated reserves should go to this new project and all current investments and projects were stopped. It was the day that BiOBUDDi was born, even though it took some time before it actually came to life.

How can we imagine the process until you were satisfied with the material of the toy blocks?

Steven van Bommel:

In 2015, we began together with the team working on the development of larger sized toy blocks from eco-friendly materials. We knew the toy market because of our current businesses and started an investigation. We came in contact with several experts in the field who had been working with alternative plastic forms for years. They were able to tell us everything about alternative materials and together we started testing. It was a long and complex process. During the process, a collaboration with Wageningen University & Research was also started. Many tests did not go as expected in the first two years, so investments were made without reaching the desired results. In particular, the choice of material was of great importance, because there was a desire to develop a circular flow in the raw material.

In 2018, after 2 years of extremely hard work, there was finally a success to celebrate. The toy blocks could be made from a material that met the requirements.  BiOBUDDi created a very special compound and the long development, in cooperation with experts paid off. The compound had the requirements of flexibility and hardness, so the bricks kept their shape. It also was easy to assemble and disassemble, even by the smallest children. At the end of 2017, the whole compound was certified by TÜV Rheinland (in Germany) and it was proven that the toys were high rated biobased.

But not only the BiOBUDDi toy blocks are sustainable, the packaging is also environmentally friendly. Is this an argument that you give to retailers?

BiOBUDDi toy block set Submarine
BiOBUDDi toy block set Submarine 

Steven van Bommel:

Sustainability is an important USP for our products. This is not the only USP. Our products are also educational, affordable and off course lots of fun. Sustainability must be an essential part of the product mix for every toy manufacturer. Most importantly, the product must be CO2 neutral from start to finish. This is always the case with BiOBUDDi. We really have a head start on other toy brands in this. Retail should know this, and we communicate it as good as possible.

Are there stumbling blocks or barriers that you are confronted with in your work? Were there moments when you thought about giving up?

Steven van Bommel:

To be honest there have been times in the past few years when I have thought about giving up. The moments when product testing were completely different than expected due to the material difference or the times when investments accumulate and results do not materialize.

It's been a long way. The turning point was really when we finally brought the product to the market. I saw really great enthusiasm within our company. This alone was more than worth it. Everyone who participates in BiOBUDDi is extremely proud. It's not just about turnover but about bringing about change.

What is your vision and plan for the future? And what are you working on right now?

Eco-friendly toy blocks from BiOBUDDi.
Eco-friendly toy blocks from BiOBUDDi.

Steven van Bommel:

Our vison is very clear: Build a better tomorrow! When we start a project that is the starting point. 

In the future, we want to further expand our product groups. We already do this with making puzzles, card games and more. We want to develop in this and expand the product range. To build a better tomorrow you will also have to do education. Future products therefore always have an educational character, whereby we do not want to lose sight of fun for children that play with it.

What advice would you give to other manufacturers or even retailers who would like to set up?

Steven van Bommel:

For producers I would like to give the following advice: Start today! It's really now or never. We have to change if we want to leave the earth in good condition for the new generations. It is not all about profit. Try to do more and take social responsibility. That is also very satisfying and in the end the profit will follow.

For retailers, my message is: Create a special sustainable spaces in your store assortment and try to indicate clearly why a product is sustainable. In my opinion, the most important part is that the product should be CO2 neutral. Toys made of ABS plastic causes 6.3 kg of CO2 emissions per 1 KG of material made. BiOBUDDi toys provide a CO2 reduction of 0.10 kg CO2 per 1 kg of material made. A retailer can communicate this clearly and then it is up to the customer to make the choice. Do they choose toys that pollute the earth or choose something better.

What marketing measures are you currently focusing on to increase brand awareness? And how important are trade fairs for you?

Steven van Bommel:

We try to draw attention to our brand through social media with a lot of fun promotional campaigns on Instagram, Facebook and other channels. We also regularly send out newsletters and keep our customers informed about our developments. In addition, we maintain a blog on our website. Next to all this we support retailers with in-store materials and for their online activities we provide good product content such as videos, photos, product texts and more.

The trade fairs are important to us for B2B promotion of the brand. It is the perfect place to get our story across to retailers and distributors. Of course, Covid has changed a lot. Nevertheless, we see the Spielwarenmesse 2022 in Nuremberg very valuable for us.

Thank you for the interview!

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