Spielwarenmesse: Clara Blasco: “Eco-friendly products are multiplying”

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Clara Blasco: “Eco-friendly products are multiplying”

from Spielwarenmesse eG

At a typical day of Clara Blasco at AIJU, she would look for new opportunities for the toy industry. She is a Design & Trend Researcher and lecturer at the Spanish Technological Institute in Valencia, which is specialized in toys, children’s products and leisure. She determines the methodology and does design research to define new strategies and develop new toys.

In order to advise toy and childcare companies, she detects user insights and trends and coordinates Research and Development (R&D) projects. Since 2008 she has offered innovation workshops from a Design Thinking perspective to understand user needs and desires. In the interview, she shares with us how the growing interest of the consumer and the toy industry in sustainable toys influences her daily research.

Spielwarenmesse®: How far does the society’s shift toward eco-awareness influence your research at AIJU?

Portrait Clara Blasco

Clara Blasco: Sustainable toys have been in the market for many years now, but in most countries their sales where not very relevant. In our research, consumers pointed out that even if they had preferred to buy an eco-friendly toy, price would prevent a purchase. However, in the past few years, things have been changing quickly and drastically. People, while still caring about price, are valuing social and environmental aspects more than ever before.

In this climate, with protests happening on a regular basis, and many governments implementing important legislations, the average consumer is being influenced and they are shifting, to one degree or another, their shopping behavior. They are able to do so since the offer of eco-friendly products and services available are multiplying, which is something we were able to confirm in each Spielwarenmesse®. No doubt, this trend is going to increase in the years to come.

The environmental awareness of consumers is growing. However, families have quite different eco-consciousness consumer patterns in daily life. Can you characterize different eco-conscious family types?

C. B.: For sure, there is indeed a different range of eco-conscious family profiles. We found out in our research that there are several levels in which parents and children consume based on their values and attitudes towards the environment. On one side of the spectrum, there are families who, even if they might buy an eco-friendly toy in their regular store, they would never make a real effort to find it. These families reported feeling very glad and proud when they buy eco toys, and love the companies who help them to feel that way. Therefore, the industry has to make it very convenient for them.

On the other side, there are parents who are making a big effort to purchase only sustainable toys. They research and invest an important amount of time and resources to get these toys. And even if we found that these families have fewer toys than the average household, the toys they own are high quality, and they value them and take better care of them than most families.

What would you recommend to toy retailers for finding out how important eco-aspects are for their customers regarding the purchase decision.

C. B.: Retailers need to take a look at the sales figures only to recognize the value of investing in sustainable toys. The data shows that these kinds of toys are actually providing important benefits to both companies and distributors. Moreover, they have to realize that eco-friendly toys on their shelves can be a marketing campaign in itself. In the moment when consumers value caring brands and companies, selling this kind of product helps the own brand image in general.

What else should toy retailers be aware of in terms of selling sustainable toys?

C. B.: With sustainable toys being trendy, distributors can promote specific sales or create events to appeal to potential consumers to visit the store. There are examples of important home-based products distributors that are using this strategy. For instance, Leroy Merlin offered a workshop for children to learn how to save water and electricity, the importance of recycling, and how to transform a bottle into a pot for plants.

These actions make families happy, as you offer their little ones a time and a space to do fun stuff while learning an important lesson. This type of event creates brand loyalty, and if it is well focused, it can improve the eco-friendly toy sales right in that moment.

Eco toys are rather demanded by parents than by children, though it’s about the children’s future. What requirements need a toy to fulfill in your eyes in order to meet the expectations of parents and children?

C. B.: When developing an eco-friendly toy, the main focus has to be on sustainability. Though it is relevant not to forget the importance of the play value and the aesthetics of the product, so it is actually appealing to the consumer in general. To understand what play features and aesthetics are attractive for both parents and children in each moment, companies need to consider other social and market trends as well.

For example, they can get inspired and follow the characteristics of the 2018 trend “Just for fun” when designing the toy. In this case, the company could bring to the market an eco-friendly toy that has some silliness features on top. This way the toy makes the family laugh and having great fun together.

You are doing research on innovation management in the toy industry. What developments do you notice concerning sustainability in production or materials?

C. B.: In general, this is an exciting moment for the toy industry related to innovation in sustainable materials and more eco-conscious manufacturing processes. Nowadays there is actually an important range of materials being used to create toys with a more planet-friendly approach, to name some: wood, cardboard, cork, bamboo, organic fabrics, natural rubber, et cetera.

Taking a look at plastics, we can already find different options with a more sustainable approach as well. For instance, toys are being manufactured using a percentage of recycled plastic. In some cases the recycled plastic is recovered from the oceans. This way the toy itself has less negative impact on the environment and the company is helping to tackle an environmentally difficult issue, which causes a positive reaction in consumers. Other options becoming more available for the industry are the use of biocomposite plastics, plant-based or bio-based materials.

The way we think about toys, packaging, manufacturing, even transportation has to change, mainly as consumers are more involved in the circular economic world. Obviously, this represents an important challenge for the industry, but it also brings us a great source of innovation and an amazing opportunity to improve the toy sector as a whole. 

At Spielwarenmesse® 2020 you will contribute to the Toy Business Forum a lecture on “Consumer attitudes and toy trends for Eco-babies and Bio-parenting”. Why do you recommend listening to your speech?

C. B.: My presentation addresses relevant information related to the latest concrete trends in sustainable toys, the way companies are implementing the principles of ecology in their products and strategies, the values of expectations of the newest generation of parents, and much more. All these would be of interest for any professional and company looking to improve and broaden their knowledge about eco-friendly toys and their potential.

Thank you for the interview, Clara Blasco.

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