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Sustainability In Toys: What Happens Next? Part 1, Plastic

COP 26 has been and gone. (Most) of the world’s leaders have agreed that urgent action is needed on environmental matters, not least of which is addressing CO2 output and global warming. While some of the solutions to global warming are beyond the ability of the toy business to resolve, there are clearly some actions we can all take which will help.

As we head towards another year it is perhaps a good time to take a look at where we are at on sustainability in the toy business. In the first article in this series we take a look at plastic:

Clearly the majority of toy products on sale are either mostly made from plastic or contain some plastic. Plastic being derived from oil and causing significant ocean pollution and other challenges has been very much in the public dialogue in recent years. Toy companies are increasingly aware of this. The low hanging fruit has been excess plastic in packaging, because plastic is cheap comparatively it has always been a large component of toy packaging (including the ties and fittings used to secure product during transit in pack). Much of that type of needless plastic has already been removed, but there is more still to do on that front. Solutions include clever packaging engineering to remove or at least reduce plastic usage, using sustainable materials such as cardboard and removing unnecessary shrink wrap on some products.

Looking forward, there is of course a potential long-term successor to plastic derived from plastic – that is ‘plastic’ produced from sustainable materials. This ‘bio-plastic’ is already available and being used by some companies in products. Lego has made large strides in this area, and is committed to going much, much further. In 2015 Lego announced a $150m investment in formulating a biobased alternative to oil-based plastic bricks, and their pledge is to switch all Lego bricks produced from 2030 onwards (that’s some 60 billion bricks p.a.!) to bio plastics.

Without getting too far into material science, we do know that there are some drawbacks with bioplastics, at least currently. Firstly, they are not proven to be as durable or to hold their shape as long as oil-based plastics, but perhaps that can be addressed with science/technological advancements over time. We also know that bio plastics are considerably more expensive – from talking to people in the business, we have heard costs to be c. 30% higher. At this stage it is not clear whether this is a price variance which can be reduced over time with volumes of scale, but it is clear that consumers are going to need to be willing to pay more for a greener product, and that retailers are going to need to support that also to get mass adoption of toys made from bio plastics.

We predict big change ahead in this space – plastic is so clearly in the environmental firing line, that bioplastics are an inevitability. As always, some companies will lead the charge, and others will lag, following far behind, but over the next decade we predict a mass transition from fossil fuel-based plastics to bio plastics in the toy business.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of this series of articles on Sustainability in toys.

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out

We also run a Strategic Sourcing Consultancy advising toy & game companies around the world on their Sourcing strategies, reviewing their vendor base & suggesting improvements. To date our Sourcing services have saved our clients $tens of millions. For more information on how we can help, just go to:

Asia’s Fast-Growing Economies To Drive Long Term Growth In The Toy Business

For the last 2 centuries or more the economic powerhouses in the world have been Western, Europe first, followed by the might of the USA. Looking further ahead into this century though, it is clear to see that future economic growth on this planet is going to grow most rapidly in Asia. Asian countries once viewed as 3rd world are now coming to the fore.

There are various data sources supporting the evident economic growth ahead in Asia, the one we will refer to in this article is Price Waterhouse Coopers ‘The World In 2050’ published report. That report shows clearly that the largest 5 economies in the world by 2050 will be (in order of size): China, India, USA, Indonesia & Brazil. Much has been written about China’s economic miracle since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Opening up’ of China’s economy, but far less has been written about the massive economic growth prospects of India and Indonesia.

India is still today a country with many problems to resolve including massive infrastructure investment needed, terrible poverty for hundreds of millions of people and issues with public health which would be viewed as catastrophic elsewhere, but in India are just viewed as normality. At the same time though, India’s massive population is still set to grow further, unlike China’s current population trajectory. Additionally, having contributed so much to major global tech companies away from India, that trend is now reversing with India’s tech scene gathering pace. In terms of consumerism, India has a growing middle class of several hundred million people who are now finding they have disposable income and want to give their children more affluent upbringings than they may have had. The massive growth of Hamleys in India shows that India is no longer just a low quality, super low price point market, there is a growing appetite for ‘international’ standard toys.

Indonesia has around 275million people and is expected to rise above 300million sometime between now and 2050. Today Indonesia’s economy is the 15th biggest in the world – around the size of the Netherlands – just above $1 trillion USD. Yet by 2050 it will hit 4th biggest economy in the world. With economic growth typically comes an accompanying growth in consumerism.

Whereas Asia was once viewed by Western toy companies as difficult to access, difficult to scale up and therefore were often a lesser priority, this view can no longer be allowed to prevail. Lego’s massive store opening program in China (targeting 300 stores by end 2021) is just one example of a significant shift in focus for Western toy brands.

Over the next few decades, the economic fulcrum of the world is going to shift dramatically towards Asia, and alongside that will come increased sales opportunities for toy companies in the West, alongside a growth in Asian toy companies seeking to sell their toy lines into the West. Interesting times are ahead!

Do you need help to grow sales for your toy company? We help people from all around the world to sell more toys, both in their home markets and into export markets. For more information on how we do this, check out our services here:

Have you listened to our Playing At Business podcast? We talk about selling toys & games, interview successful people from across the toy business & we look at key trends in the toy & game business:

How To Create & Build Brands In The Toy & Game Business

There can be no doubt that the big money in the toy and games business comes from building and selling brands. Growing by acquisition is a proven formula for successful growth in this industry. Brands which get into retail each and every year also provide stability and security in a turbulent marketplace with massive annual product churn. It isn’t easy though to build a blockbuster toy or game brand, but here’s some thoughts on how to do it:

  • Focus on building your own brands – this seems painfully obvious, but often companies get distracted by chasing easy win sales on licensed products or on jumping on saturated trends which will come and go leaving no ongoing legacy for the company. We need to do some of these things no doubt, because we need to generate revenue and pay our overhead, but while doing all this we also need to think about and ensure organisational focus on creating something ownable with longevity.

  • Take a longer perspective – so often companies focus on the next annual selling cycle or even next quarter, but brand building takes tenacity and above all time. Some brands are flyaway successes from the start, but most take time to build. A good solid brand may take 5 years to build to maturity, so we might need to avoid heaping massive year 1 sales pressure on our own I.P. products. By focusing more on organic growth we can build brands and branded products with an upwards sales trajectory which will stick in market. If we follow the standard toy launch model of dump and run i.e. ship in as much stock as possible to retail and hope it sells through, then we are far more likely to kill our brands.

  • Create compelling products with timeless appeal – there is a reason why certain things keep making a comeback i.e. Yo-Yos, fidget toys, slime/goo. That’s because the reasons why those toys were appealing in the past still apply. There are very few major brands in toys and games which don’t have really good products with proven play patterns.

  • Create a clear, distinctive and ownable visual identity – to make brands ownable, you need distinctive visual identifiers i.e. logo, design style, fonts and all that good stuff. There are plenty of brands in the toy & game business which you would recognise just from a logo, design pattern or font.

  • Use partnerships to level up your brands – for those trying to bootstrap their way up, partnerships can be really effective. A successful cross-promotional partnership benefits both sides and works best where there is an obvious fit between the products. For example, you can find Monopoly branded scratch cards in retail, which is an obvious fit with the classic Monopoly game brand being all about accumulating money. Needless to say, if you have a small hardly established brand you may not get a massive global deal, but with some ingenuity and persuasiveness you may be surprised what kind of partnerships you can create.

  • Help your retailers build a point of differentiation – there are many retailers who hate having to sell the same products as the major mass market retailers who trash the price on everything and make it hard to maintain profitability. Can you find some exclusive iterations or brand extensions of your core products to help ensure retail support with smaller retailers who will better nurture your up and coming brand versus the mass market box shifters?

We run a Consultancy business helping toy & games companies get ahead. For more information, check out

We also run a Strategic Sourcing Consultancy advising toy & game companies around the world on their Sourcing strategies, reviewing their vendor base & suggesting improvements. To date our Sourcing services have saved our clients $tens of millions. For more information on how we can help, just go to:

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