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Market Research


Toys with ecological conscience

Fairs, manufacturers, stores and especially consumers are every day more interested in eco-friendly toys

  • Key4Communications

The attention paid to ecological and sustainable toys is growing every year. Even though it is a recent trend. A great majority of toys and games are still manufactured to be used with batteries that contain heavy metals, or directly to be connected to the house electrical current. Sometimes, companies are not worried in recyclable packaging. And an important number of these products are done in plastic, especially PVC, which can be very contaminant if its not correctly treated after its use. Also, consumers have very present all problems that came from the use of toxic materials such as cadmium and lead based paint, as well as the more or less recent wave of recalls of toys manufactured in China.

All this is changing. A good number of toy makers and retailers are beginning to make their products respectful with at least some minimum environmental requisites, especially because buyers are concerned with these issues –parents as well as children.

For example, Amazon has a store focused on eco-friendly toys, including products of mainly US makers, such as Green Toys, that sells trucks and tea sets made of recycled plastic, and that will start to develop other consumer products, such as tableware for kids.

In Spain, Imaginarium sells its products line Biohábitat: toys that encourage recycling or teach how renewable energies work. Other eco-oriented stores are  Dideco , Bebés Ecológicos, focused in babycare products, and Kinuma, that offers quite some products of the toy makers that attended Toys Go Green, the event about ecological toys held by the Nuremberg Toy Fair.

Consumers are willing to pay more
Nuremberg fair was not the only one that organized an event about ecological toys. New York and Hong Kong also held especial meetings and shows. But Toys Go Green not only was attended by nearly 60 different companies, but also published a study gathering the opinion about these products of consumers (a population sample of 450 people) and retailers (150 sellers).

This study shows only data from Germany, a country ecologically aware decades ago, but some of the information published deserves attention. For example, 65% of consumers are willing to pay an extra 10% if the product is environmentally respectful. And 28% would even pay between 15% and 20% more. 39% of the participants also think that demand for this toys will grow in the next three years, and a 45% expects it to stay the same, compared to the testimonial 3% that think that demand will drop.

What is a green toy?
Withstand all this, it is still difficult even to identify an eco-friendly toy. In spite of the market interest, there’s still no unified national or international label. Buyers must then rely in what the manufacturer says in ads and packaging, and mostly take a good look to the following elements.

     1.    Materials used in manufacturing. If the toy is for example made of organic cotton, wood, bamboo, recycled plastic or cardboard, or on the contrary, PVC and other plastics. For example, Walt Disney Inc. has given Winnie the Pooh’s license to miYim, a company that uses organic cotton and natural dyes for all its toys. This company’s example is remarkable, as its sales have nearly trebled since 2006, through a quite bad economic context.  

      2.    The packaging, that should be of totally recycled and recyclable materials. 

      3.    The game content. On one hand, one must take into account if the kid can learn something playing with the toy: for example, the Playmobil E-Ranger Future Base teaches children how to create a new ecosystem using even real solar cell panels. On the other hand, one also consider how does the kid play with the toy: Buki’s Eco-Power car has an electric engine that only needs salt-water in order to run. (These tow toys were nominated in Nuremberg’s green toys awards –Playmobil won).

      4.    The supply chain, as it is more damaging for the environment to buy locally what is manufactured in a distant country than in our same region.

       5.    The toy life cycle: the longer the toy lasts, whether because of its interest or its resistance, the less harmful it will be, as it will take longer until it must be processed as a residue and also before it is replaced by a new toy. In this sense, one could take a look at the nice proposal of the US toy maker TDC Games: jigsaw puzzles done with biodegradable materials that can be planted in the backyard after its use. And they can also be watered. Until a plant grows. With wildflowers. There are sixteen different varieties.

What seems clear is that eco-friendly toys are not going to be just a fad. Its evolution will probably be similar to the introduction of biological products in food markets: they won’t top the market and its success will depend on the environmental culture of each region (very high for example in Germany, maybe not so much in the South of Europe), but they will have an important place in stores and will definitely set some guidelines for conventional toy makers, that will be more compelled to introduce sustainability elements in its products.

In fact, eco-friendly toys market sells worldwide already for $84 billion , and according to environmental consultant Earthsense, these products will reach 5% of total toy sales in the United States.
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