This Q3, kids will have more reasons to play with their food as toycos set about spiffing up their lines of confection/toy hybrids. Candy isn’t a new domain for toy manufacturers, but revamped, season-neutral category offerings may take a bite out of the US$28-billion States-side confectionary market and offset the current sales slump in the US$20-billion toy industry.
Despite current concerns surrounding the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S., the National Confectioners Association says confectionary sales are growing at a steady rate. According to NCA stats, retail sales of confection products in the U.S. grew by almost 2% in 2005, and a 2.3% increase has been projected for 2006. Certainly, Toronto, Canada-based Dynatech Action and Funrise in Woodland Hills, California are looking to grab a slice of this multi-billion dollar pie by moving into the realm of food-based toys.
Dynatech’s new Edibles toy line is geared to boys and fuses two faves – hard candy and action figures. The toyco uses a patented process to craft figures with moveable limbs, torsos and heads from the translucent sweet stuff. Not surprisingly, Dynatech has licensed Marvel perennials Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine and The Thing for an initial product launch in Q3 this year.
According to Dynatech president and CEO Brad Pedersen, the new line of confection toys grew out of a need to make playthings with year-round appeal. ‘Traditional toys have become very seasonal,’ Pedersen says. And he thinks confection toys’ low price point can help buck this trend. Ringing in at approximately US$4.99 a pop, he expects kids will spring for more than one Edibles at a time.
Fizzheads holds similar promise for Pedersen. The new toy/candy hybrid line makes water sweet and colorful by using a straw with a specialized dispenser that resembles the head of an action figure. Kids can drop in an effervescent tablet, watch it bobble and fizz, and then drink the resulting mixture. Like Edibles, Fizzheads is slated to hit mass retail this fall sporting characters culled from the Marvel universe. For US$2.99, Fizzheads comes with four tablets, the straw and dispenser. Packs of four additional tabs cost US$1.99. The toyco plans to add to the license roster and Pedersen says his team is currently scouting for properties with both boy and girl appeal.
Funrise Toys has also gotten in on the act by reinventing a ’90s hit. Dr. Dreadful Candy Lab was introduced to the North American toy market by Tyco in 1994. By the time the line was discontinued in 1996 (when Mattel absorbed Tyco), more than 150 million units had found their way to North American kids. The toy functioned like a mock laboratory, where kids could make disgusting-looking candy with different sets of ingredients. Funrise revived Dr. Dreadful last fall and Susan Spiegel, VP of marketing, says it has since sold out in the U.S., Canada and Australia. There are three new Dr. Dreadful products due out this fall, two food labs and a drink maker.
In the current climate, it’s quite possible that sugar-based toys might rouse protest from parents concerned about childhood obesity and health. ‘We’re sensitive to that,’ Pedersen says, adding he is looking into sugar-free variations of Dynatech’s confectionary toys. Meanwhile, Cristy Collins, director of product development at Funrise, is taking a similar line. ‘The reality is that we’re dealing with sugar-based products. But there are things we can do, such as fortification with vitamins and looking for ways to cut the sugar down.’ She hopes to introduce a more nutritional version of Dr. Dreadful by 2008.