CHICAGO — The annual International Home + Housewares Show at Chicago's McCormick Place is geared around housewares companies and the retailers looking for new items to stock in their stores.
Material selection — especially specifics on which plastics these new products use — is not a big focus for marketing executives staffing the booths.
"It's BPA-free," offered one communications director for a company expanding into a new series of kitchen appliances.
Through three exhibit halls worth of storage bins, mugs, cake decorating tools and, yes, kitchen appliances, there were two exceptions. The resins most retailers recognize and offer up to differentiate their products are two brand names — Teflon and Tritan.
And the makers of those two products, DuPont Co. with its Teflon-brand polytetrafluoroethylene and Eastman Chemical Co. with its Tritan copolymer, were busy throughout the show as well, making sure those names remain on retailers' lips.
"We really wanted to pull together a marketing campaign," said Christa Kaiser, global consumer business segment manager for Teflon finishes.
Teflon's nonstick PTFE, she said, has taken a beating the last few years from the makers of competing ceramic coatings, so DuPont has introduced its coating system available in multiple colors, such as "hot chili," "spicy olive" and "aubergine purple" and stressed its long-term status as a safe material.
"We're just being a little more aggressive with getting the name out there than we had been in the past," Kaiser said in an interview at IHHS, held March 2-5.
Teflon has been on the market for more than 50 years, she said, and an increased public relations effort is aimed at reminding retailers and consumers of its established status in housewares.
Eastman, on the other hand, introduced its Tritan-brand copolyester recently, in 2007. But it quickly became the established replacement for polycarbonate in baby bottles, water bottles and other food containers. It is showing up in a new line of blenders and steaming trays under chef Wolfgang Puck's line of products for WP Appliances Inc., in meat grinding attachments for Bodum Group's stand mixers and in a 3½-gallon beverage dispenser.
The Tritan name is frequently mentioned not only on the trade show stands, but placed on product labels that individual buyers see at the stores.
"Consumers are a lot more informed and want to know what things are made of," said Marty Boykin, global business manager for Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman's durables business unit.
At IHHS, Eastman was able to meet with brand developers to discuss upcoming products, building on its recognition among industrial designers while making sure that buyers for international retail giants know about Tritan. The firm also handed out re¬usable double-wall drink cups modeled after the former Solo Cup's disposable cups to show the resin being used in solid colors, rather than the transparent version.
"We have people we meet with here every year who come to us wanting to use Tritan specifically," Boykin said.