When Playtex Products LLC set out to reinvent the sippy cup, it learned small things in life can make big differences.
The cups placate cranky toddlers in restaurants and are part of the social glue of the play group. When they're poorly designed or hastily reassembled, spills and other bad things happen. And while sippy cups may be one of the more important purchases parents make from a quality-of-toddler-life standpoint, they seem too inconsequential for parents to bother researching online before buying.
Hence, when 4sight Inc., the New York-based design firm behind the makeover, began its deep dive into sippy-cup anthropology, one of the "ah ha" moments was when moms would open up a drawer that was really a window into their secret shame.
"The drawer would have a hundred pieces of sippy cups, and they didn't even remember what they went to," said 4sight President Stuart Leslie. "There were caps and cups and valves and all these things. They would have this look like they were almost embarrassed."
Moms used only a small fraction of those sippy-cup parts. Dads, according to the moms, knew even less about them or how to assemble them properly, Mr. Leslie said. And the moms said the surplus parts were a result of bad purchase decisions combined with reluctance to admit defeat.
"Moms told us that they find the aisle difficult to shop, filled with many cup options offering a plethora of different colors, sizes, shapes, drinking features and benefits that don't provide clues as to why or when each should be used," said Nick Senter, associate business-global infant-care marketing at Playtex owner Energizer Holdings.
The stakes are high. Playtex of New Providence, N.J., recently ceded leadership in the $687 million infant nursing/feeding accessories segment to Munchkin, when its sales slid 10 percent to $92.5 million for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 26, according to IRI.
While some moms wanted cups organized by the types of liquid they hold, 4sight qualitative research and Playtex quantitative research with simulated shopping experiences showed more moms wanted them organized by "usage occasion." The four identified, which became names of the product lineup prominently highlighted on packaging, include:
• TrainingTime, contoured for little hands with removable handles for when little ones advance.
• AnyTime, designed to promote independent drinking skills, be spill proof and easy to hold, and help foster transition to regular cups.
• PlayTime, a double-walled cup designed for easy manufacturing with a wide variety of licensed characters, which helps prevent accidental sharing in play groups.
• TravelTime, tall, easy to grasp and meant to look like adult travel mugs.
Various lid options with and without spouts are available and completely interchangeable to minimize the waste of the sippy-cup drawer.
Playtex also has replaced the frequently leaky screw cap with what it says is a leak-proof Twist n' Click "bayonet style" connection that goes together the way lenses go on cameras (or bayonets go on guns). The toddler of the 21st century will be well armed to face the future of liquid refreshment.