Zak Designs packs lunch boxes with healthy kid licenses

Licensee: Zak Designs...
August 1, 2001

Licensee: Zak Designs

Location: Headquartered in Spokane, Washington, with offices in Taiwan and the U.K.

Company history: Founded in 1976 by Irv Zackheim, Zak Designs entered the licensed dinnerware market in 1985, signing a license for Pee Wee’s Playhouse. A Disney license for Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers followed in 1988, solidifying the company’s mass market presence.

Product range: Licensed range encompasses dinnerware, drinkware and gift sets.

Retail channels: While Zak Designs products are distributed predominately at mass, the company is currently attempting to increase its presence in grocery and drug chains. Zak’s gift line can be found throughout gift shops, specialty department stores and mid-tier outlets.

Licensing contact: Craig Seaver, senior director of

Property portfolio:

Dinnerware/drinkware-Blue’s Clues, Rugrats, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Disney Princesses, Monsters, Inc., The Powerpuff Girls, Harry Potter, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Batman, Clifford the Big Red Dog, VeggieTales, Barbie, Teletubbies, Sesame Street, Action Man

Gift-Curious George, Madeline, bang on the door

The latest: At press time, the company was finalizing negotiations on 2002 lunch box licenses for The Powerpuff Girls, Disney Princesses/Tinkerbell and Thomas the Tank Engine. Just inked for next year are Power Rangers, Peanuts and DreamWorks’ Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. On the dinnerware and drinkware front, Zak Designs was in final negotiations for Cubix, Jimmy Neutron, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank Engine and Disney’s Lilo and Stitch licenses at press time.

Licensing philosophy: Kids ages two to eight are the core target for dinnerware, drinkware and lunch boxes. And because these product categories lean toward impulse purchases, they tend to be license-driven, says Craig Seaver, senior director of licensing at Zak Designs. Indeed, in-licensing accounts for over 80% of the company’s business.

So how does Zak net spot-purchase attention at retail? By picking up licenses that boast equal kid-to-parent appeal ratios. ‘Although the end-user is the child, parents tend to be the purchaser,’ says Seaver. Thus, the company tends not to consider licenses-however hot amongst kids-that offend parents.

‘We look for licenses that either already are or have the potential to become classics/evergreens and perform at retail,’ says Seaver. ‘My job is to develop long-term relationships with all of the major licensors and stay on top of pop culture trends, with the intent of catching these properties on the way up.’ And according to Seaver, working with established licensors with excellent track records helps reduce the risk of choosing licenses that don’t pan out.

Although Zak Designs’ lunch box line debuted at SHOPA last November with a license for Disney/Pixar flick Chicken Run, 2001 is the focus year for introducing the line at retail. ‘We noticed that the lunch box category seemed to be a stale one in terms of product innovation over the last few years,’ says Seaver.

The company expects to shake things up this BTS season with Wal-Mart, Toys `R’ Us, Fred Meyer and Kroger carrying the 2001 lunch box line that features Clifford the Big Red Dog, VeggieTales and Crocodile Hunter. Burlington Coat Factory, which recently chose Zak as its exclusive lunch box provider, will also house the line.

Credit check: Rather than choosing licensees that span several product categories, Santoro Licensing, a division of U.K.-based Santoro Graphics, looks to work with licensees specializing in a particular category. ‘Zak was chosen as a bang on the door licensee because it is a melamine specialist,’ says company co-founder Meera Santoro. ‘A 98% marketshare was good enough for me.’

The fact that the company has a growing concern in Zak UK-allowing product success of any acquired property to translate on both sides of the Atlantic-was of particular interest to Santoro. Zak USA has been developing a gift/specialty-targeted product line in harmony with the current U.K. program that Santoro plans to replicate in the U.S. ‘We’re starting at the top and working our way to mass to ensure the longevity of the brand,’ says Santoro.

Zak’s bang on the door product range encompasses coffee-to-go drinkware, fanny-packs, lunch boxes, sports bottles and funky tumblers. Santoro and Zak were looking to work on retailer exclusives for the bang on the door line at press time. ‘Zak is working to provide incentive for retailers to support the brand via displays and promotions,’ says Santoro. ‘Its products really capture the `groovy’ and `wobbly’ feel of bang on the door.’

Based on its bang-up job on bang on the door thus far, Santoro would consider working with Zak on other projects. Says Santoro: ‘It’s a very co-operative company when it comes to listening and trying to understand our vision for brand development.’

About The Author


Brand Menu