While it may be a real no-no for kids to play with their food, Thermos doesn’t see any reason why they can’t have some fun with their lunch boxes. For this year’s back-to-school season, the 100-year-old company has injected new life into its line of kids lunch kits, making them customizable, interactive playthings as well as reliable food transporters.
Thermos licensing director Julie Ryan says the company had to start adding play value and customizable features to its kits or get left behind. ‘If you look at the sports bags and purses that kids are carrying,’ she says, ‘everything has some sort of special accent and/or play value, or is made out of a unique material.’ And her company’s market research shows that kids are so fashion-conscious these days that they’re more apt to see their lunch box as an accessory rather than a practical container.
To that end, this year’s kits featuring lead licenses Barbie, Polly Pocket and Scooby-Doo are loaded with bells and whistles. The Barbie hard-sided plastic box retails for US$5.99 and comes with a static cling sheet printed with a wardrobe for Barbie. The sheet has three outfits and coordinating (naturally) accessories that will stick to the Barbie printed on the outside of the box.
For Mattel’s Polly Pocket soft-sided lunch kit (US$7.99), Thermos added a flap that can be unzipped to access a non-breakable mirror and seven pieces of stickable clothing just like Barbie’s. Meanwhile, a new Scooby kit has an outside pocket containing a double-sided picture that can be flipped or removed.
Look for similar innovation in 2005, with licensed lunch kits featuring Batman and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. Ryan says the domestic licensed lunch kit market (valued at roughly US$125 million) is projected to grow next year, and she’s looking to pick up more licenses in preparation. Additionally, Thermos’s Funtainer line of stainless steel, hot/cold insulated bottles and jars will feature licenses for the first time next year, with Batman and Star Wars kicking things off. Ryan notes that Funtainer sales are up 500% so far this year, and major mass accounts are more inclined to buy kid-targeted Thermos products if they’re licensed.