Spielwarenmesse: Interview with Plantoys: How sustainable production creates value

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Movers & shakers

Interview with Plantoys: How sustainable production creates value

from Ulrich Texter

Sustainability is a factor that comes into play with wooden toys in particular, more than hardly any other product group. Plantoys, founded in 1981 with a self-managed rubber tree plantation, is one of the most prestigious wooden toy manufacturers. Proof of that are numerous international prices, like Spiel gut, Red Dot award etc. We talked with Plantoys owner Vitool Viraponsavan.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr. Viraponsavan, you changed your German distributor in the beginning of this year. Does everything become different now with the new sales partner F4K?

Vitool Viraponsavan: PlanToys is still committed to the same philosophy to produce and offer the best quality and design, and sustainable product to the market. This has been the same principle that we had implement since we started the company. With the new partner in Germany, F4K, both of us agreed and committed to deliver that same quality product to the market. We will definitively support our partner and expand more business in the market.

Your new distributor is known for his dealer orientation, which means that you need a long breath to establish a brand in the market and to grow numbers continuously. Is this the way you want to move forward in the upcoming years?

V.V.: Actually, PlanToys is a quite well-known brand in the German market. With the current situation and with the new competitors, we do need to rebuild to gain our brand awareness. We want to build a good foundation and customer base which we know that it might take time to do that. However, the fact that PlanToys has a great story about its sustainability, we have great products, a great partner (F4K), and great customers base, we think that it is not that difficult and should not take that long time for us to do that.

In May you have received the Good Toy Award 2015 for Beehives in Japan. Do you know how many prices Plantoys has received in the past 34 Years, and eventually can you tell us how you get the Red Dot Award – the most prestigious design price in the world?

V.V.: In the past 34 years, we have received almost 40 awards of world class recognition. Recently in March 2015, we were honoured to receive the most selective, most prestigious and sought after design award, The Red Dot Design Award for our Table & Chair! It has an innovative, simplistic design. In addition, we have been implementing the EcoDesign concept as well. EcoDesign is an approach to design a product with special consideration for the social and environmental impacts of the product during its whole lifecycle. This item also has a perfect combination of bend plywood, planwood, and solid wood.

Why does design hold such a strong position in your strategy? Do you want to tell stories through design? There are famous international designers, which actually see in this the pure task of design. The end-user already expects  hard facts of design like functionality, safety and long liveliness etc. from any product.

V.V.: Everyone can design, but we design for child development.  The products need to be very attractive and good designed. However, functionality and safety are also very important features as well for PlanToys. Child developmental is still one of our core attributes in our design process and it needs to be complied with the international safety standard. Our mission is not just only design products but we want to create playthings with child development and environmental values.

At the Spielwarenmesse® in Nuremberg we not only registered the new Pirate Boat, but also children furniture under the label PlanHome. Is this a start for a new segment that you want to discover the next years?

V.V.: We introduced two new categories this year which were PlanWorld and PlanHome. PlanWorld provided the opportunity for children to express and learning through pretend play. On the other hand, PlanHome is a brand new concept of helpful and joyful playing. PlanHome is an item with which kids can create their own space, do their own thing by their own way. These beautiful items can be also decorative objects in a living place as well.

In the past years we experienced from other manufacturers some wooden toys made with “liquid wood“(Lignin, Fasal ). In 2014, Plantoys came to the market with water toys made off a new material. What is the special of this new material? Does it offer new production ways for new wooden toys? Will this be the future for wooden toys?

V.V.: PlanToys introduced PlanWood in 2012, which allowed us to create and design the Water toys as well. It is not only good for water, this new material still gives us more opportunity to create new and unique designs, functions and forms. This is the future. Moreover, PlanWood is a totally environmentally friendly material. The colour that we use is also organic colour. It is very durable, water resistant and cost efficient. Lastly, with the new introduction of this material, we can achieve our goal for the zero waste program as well.

In your production you focus on ecological production. You own your rubber wood plantations use solar energy, produce energy from plant biomass and replant every tree you bring down. What is your goal? Quit a lot of enterprises use the word sustainability today as some kind of greenwashing!

V.V.: I think everyone can say that they are a green or sustainable company. However, there is no one that can really prove what they say. PlanToys passes on the spirit of sustainability through our toys. Our values have been rooted from embracing Mother Nature. We have grown our green values into values of sustainable play. This includes our eco-friendly materials that we select. In addition, we also have to make sure that our production process is done in an environmentally friendly way as well. To do that, we have implemented Eco Efficiency and Eco Design practices for our working process. Lastly, we also take care of all stakeholders including our staff, trade partners and community through different activities as well. We also try our best and hope that our toys cultivate minds and bring children closer to nature. We believe that the kids will grow up with the knowledge and values to respect and preserve natural resources for future generations.

Last question: even though Spielwarenmesse® 2015 is history for this year, how did you experience it this year?

V.V.: We had a superb show this year. Every importer and shop owner was really happy with the direction that we are working on. Everyone also enjoyed and reacted positively on new product and our new product categories. We cannot wait to see a successful year to come.


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