NATIONAL CITY, CALIF. - Injection molder B&P Plastics Inc., doing business as Advance Plastics, has jumped into the fast-spreading pog fad with its trademarked Hammer Slammer. The pog game originated at Hawaii's Haleakala Dairies decades ago and has been popularized since 1991. It features decorative cardboard disks, also called pogs, that kids collect and trade - and stack and knock over by throwing a hockey-pucklike plastic or metal ``slammer.''
The trademarked acronym POG comes from the dairy's passion fruit/orange/guava drink. Other firms' cardboard disks have names such as Power Caps and Jots, but are known among players generically as pogs.
Haleakala Dairies sold the rights to the POG trademark to the World POG Federation, which was formed last year in Costa Mesa, Calif., and licenses fast-food, beverage, chewing-gum and theme park marketers to use game pieces and accessories assales incentives and attractions. Newsweek magazine devoted a half-page to the phenomenon Jan. 30.
Many school administrators, however, bar the fad from classrooms as a distraction and a gambling vehicle.
Advance Plastics' two-step molding operation coats a core of steel washers with a proprietary thermoplastic elastomer cap on the top and rubber with finger grips on the bottom. The result: a softcoated, resilient slammer that delights young players.
Owner Bruce Browne said the fad could increase his sales by $1 million to $5 million this year.
Advance Plastics' 1994 revenues were about $3 million, of which $100,000 in December can be attributed to the fad. Growth in computer peripherals should increase Advance Plastics' 1995 nonslammer revenues to $4 million to $5 million, Browne said.
While dozens of manufacturers have entered the fray, Browne said Advance Plastics may be the only one with an approved patent application and a dedicated operational unit. Production began last summer, but sales started slowly. Staff artists have created three collector series and related packaging.
``Most slammers are made of metal or hard cardboard or Lexan'' polycarbonate, said Don Tovar, business development manager for Circle K Corp. in Phoenix, ``but Advance Plastics created a second-generation one like a small tire that is two or three times heavier and made of completely different material.''
Tovar said playground friends of his 7-year-old son were ``screaming'' for the Hammer Slammer after seeing it bounce and recoil, exploding a pile of pogs. McDonald's Corp.'s recent national promotion prompted Tovar to advance the timetable on getting the product into Circle K's 2,452 stores.
Advance Plastics' ``packaging and assortment drew a decent response from people we saw initially,'' said Howard Hirsch-mann of Colman & Hirschmann, a manufacturers' representative in New York.
Hirschmann sees the fad as having a life of six to 18 months for children - mostly boys ages 6-15. He is building a permanent display to exhibit Hammer Slammer adventure products for buyers visiting his building, particularly during the International Toy Fair opening Feb. 13. Among the products: a new game pack, retailing for $8-$10, with a slammer, 25 caps, a 4-inch pad and a poster.
The half-inch Hammer Slammer retails for $3.50-$5, and the three-quarter-inch model, $4.50-$6.95. A 4-inch pad sells for $2-$3, and a 12-inch pad, $6-$10.
``Kids like the weight, and an article in [Michigan's] Grand Rapids Press identified the Hammer Slammer as the hottest product,'' said Jim Gianunzio of Beckett & Associates, category manager for the 86 family-owned Meijer Inc. retail stores in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
Advance Plastics ``put finger grips on the back, giving it an added feature,'' said Jerry Harper, a Columbus, Ohio, manufacturers' representative who has placed the Hammer Slammer on a test basis in 43 of the 230 Drug Emporium stores.
Harper said other slammers made of metal, usually brass, can develop jagged edges.
Advance Plastics can produce 30,000 pieces a day on a pair of 200-ton Kawaguchi machines, a 230-ton Van Dorn and three 88-ton Battenfelds. Secondary operations include foil application.
Another 14 injection molding machines handle other projects, which have not been affected by the new business line.
Advance Plastics employs 65 at a 35,000-square-foot facility on 21/2 acres in National City and is affiliated with B&B Productos, a Tijuana, Mexico, maquiladora that has more than 30 injection molding machines and assembly lines for electronics, housewares and toys. B&B employs 125.