Industry Innovation

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"Made in the U.S.A." has come to the forefront once again in housewares, and EdgeCraft is positioning itself to reap the rewards.

Based in Avondale, Pa., the company makes many of its products, some of which are under its Chef'sChoice brand, in the United States. "We are one of the select few electric appliance companies that actually manufactures in the U.S., and we are a vertically integrated manufacturer," said Sam Weiner, EdgeCraft's president. "We do our own molding, plating and assembly operations. We also manufacture our own knives."

EdgeCraft treats the products it imports, which come from Europe and the Far East, from a manufacturer's perspective as well. "We know product development and manufacturing," Weiner said, "and we consider all of our products--whether manufactured by us or one of our overseas manufacturers--from the perspective of an experienced and committed U.S. manufacturer."

This focus resonated well at the International Home + Housewares Show last month, Weiner said. Among the products EdgeCraft debuted at the show were the Classic Waffle Pro, which makes waffles with a deer head shape in the center; the Pie Maker, which produces small pies; the Model 680 Electric Glass Kettle, above, a cordless tea kettle; and a complete line of hybrid sharpeners, which combine both electric and manual sharpening.

]Weiner said the hybrid sharpeners received a particularly strong response from retail visitors to the company's booth. They "have resonated well with our customers who have embraced the high quality of Made-in-the-U.S.A. appliances from trusted and well-established brands," he said.



Aladdin continues to make transporting food and drink easy, nearly spill proof and fashionable.

At the recent Home + Housewares Show, it harkened back to the old days with its Heritage plaid tin lunch box, right. This modern take, however, includes three leak-proof, microwave- and dishwasher-safe food containers in various sizes, each with lunchbox-inspired latches. A container wrap with elastic loops keeps the containers secure while on the go and doubles as a placemat.

In the same vein is a vacuum-insulated beverage container. The double-walled, stainless-steel container features the same heritage plaid design and includes two drinking cups.

Also new from Aladdin is a double-walled white diner-style mug. The BPA-free plastic mug is compatible with single-serve coffee machines and includes a press-on lid.

The trend-right Mason insulated tumbler is also new, a variation on the original featuring a classic metal lid and a no-sweat exterior and heavy plastic straw. It is tinted blue and, like the classic mug, is designed to work with single-serve coffee machines.



If you thought that anything that could be done to a water bottle had been done to a water bottle, a trip to TTU's booth in Chicago proved otherwise. The company displayed a wall of new Rove beverage containers, each with its own set of clever bells and whistles. There was a to-go container that contained either a coffee press or a tea infuser; a filtered Tritan water bottle; an oversized cup with a hand mixer and straw for shakes and other drinks; a dual-opening glass bottle with a hot mesh infuser that controls the strength of the brew and keeps loose tea leaves out of the mix; a borosilicate glass container with a Tritan lid and a mesh infuser and straw; and a travel mug with a port for either a car or computer charger to keep the drink warm.

TTU also introduced several licensed Kellogg's collections, left, in a variety of materials and in a tiered price point range for different channels of distribution.  The initial launch includes some of the top-selling cereal names like Frosted Flakes, Special K, Froot Loops and Rice Krispies. Products run the gamut from plates, bowls and mugs to glass milk jars and metal tins, many sporting vintage designs.

Another new license agreement brings several soda brands to the tabletop, including Dr. Pepper, Hawaiian Punch, 7Up, A & W and Schweppes. Most of these items are beverage-related, such as to-go cups, beer mugs and barware as well as galvanized tin trays and buckets.


Better Living

Consumer lifestyle trends along with recognition for innovation added up to a successful Housewares Show for Better Living.

At the show, the Ontario-based company introduced the Extendable Squeegee, right, which was nominated for the International Housewares Association's Innovation Award. Made of lightweight, rust-proof aluminum, the Extendable Squeegee extends to 18 inches.

"We had a lot of excitement at our booth, and a lot of attention for the Extendable Squeegee," said Matthew Albo, Better Living's vice president of marketing. "Buyers saw that it was an Innovation Award nominee and they came to our booth to know more about the product."

Albo said the Extendable Squeegee is appropriate for current trends toward larger bathrooms. "It's the perfect solution to reach higher glass enclosures found in bathrooms with the higher ceiling heights we're seeing in newer houses, condos and apartments."

This was the second year in a row that Better Living has been nominated for an Innovation Award. The company's Trickle Tray, designed to better drain soap and sponges, was recognized last year.

Better Living is also known for its bath and shower dispensers for soap and shampoo. The company pioneered the category in 1991 and today offers models to coordinate with any decor.


Schmidt Brothers

After a full year at retail the Schmidt Brothers cutlery brand has gained momentum. As a result, its booth at last month's International Home + Housewares Show was "mobbed," according to Rick Lapine, executive vice president of Hudson Home Group, the company that licenses the name and produces the product.

The show was all about store expansion, according to Lapine; it will now sell at 1,000 doors, he said. Retailers were attracted to its existing Titan and bonded teak lines, as well as the new Carbon 6 collection, above, of one-piece high carbon-steel blades with a black finish, and a new Damascus series comprised of 67 layers of VG20 steel.

The Damascus collection of four key knives (chef, santoku, parer and simple utility) has an "ubercool" walnut handle, said Lapine, with four brass rivets and comes packaged in a solid acrylic block with a magnetic closure. With prices roughly 30 percent lower than many other big-name brands, Lapine said, it considers itself as an affordable alternative in cutlery.


West Bend

The West Bend unit of Focus Products Group used the International Home + Housewares Show to enhance the "fun" part of food.

Among its introductions were several products that expanded its collection under the Jelly Belly label. This grouping, based on Jelly Belly jelly beans, was enhanced with the Jelly Belly Snow Cone collection, which features items such as the Jelly Belly Portable Ice Shaver, decorating kits and flavor syrups in 10 Jelly Belly flavors.

Popcorn got huge play at the West Bend booth, with two new products. The Stir Crazy Deluxe, right, and the Air Crazy Popper both come in bold colors, and come with features designed to add ease and convenience to popcorn making. Among these are removable heating plates for easy cleanup and covers that double as serving bowls.

West Bend views the popcorn makers as particularly timely additions to its line. "Popcorn is a major statement for families today," said Howard Kaney, marketing manager for Focus Products' retail division. "It's a year-round food that produces a lot of value."

The company also made its statement in the yogurt category with its launch of the Soft Serve Yogurt Machine. This is designed with Make & Dispense and Store & Serve containers, which offer consumers easy ways to personalize their homemade yogurt treats.

This is seen as another timely launch for West Bend. Yogurt consumption is at new heights and "this is a category that should continue to increase," Kaney said.

In the cooking arena, West Bend debuted the Portable Slow Cooker, which allows home cooks the flexibility to make meals at home or meals that can be brought for entertaining outside of the home. "Slow cookers are still a strong category," Kaney said. "Consumers want more control over the ingredients in their food, and they are versatile and simple. You find consumers using these more at parties."



HMS MFG. Co. is taking advantage of the strong recognition of the Hefty brand to add new products in the drawer cart business. The Troy, Mich.-based storage products company has added three SKUs into the competitive drawer market, each offered under the Hefty brand name. The SKUs are two, three (left) and four drawer carts that retail between $29.99 and $39.99.

"We have created a front-stage drawer cart that includes design features that make it easier for the consumer to use these carts," said Wes Eckhardt, category manager for the company. "It is a double-sided drawer system and is quite durable; perhaps two to three times stronger than most products on the market."

HMS officials said they are quite proud of their nearly four-year relationship with Hefty and they expect to expand the line to other segments, including bag storage in coming months. "We are offering retailers a product that includes the Hefty name, which is known for strength and has about a 99 percent consumer recognition rate," Eckhardt said. "As tough as it is out there, consumers are still willing to purchase a premium product, providing it offers a bit more and will last longer. That is what we have done with this product."

HFN Staff | News & Commentary

HFN provides detailed information on the key home classifications: Housewares, Tabletop, Floor Covering & Rugs, Furniture, Home Textiles, Lighting, Home Decor, Mattresses & Bedding, Gifts, Major Appliances and Consumer Electronics as well as Business, Finance and Retail.

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