The founders of BeginAgain Toys are using crowdfunding to help ramp up production of toys made from bioplastics. Chris Clemmer and David Bowen started a crowdfunding campaign through the Kickstarter website in mid-November to bankroll production of Sprig Toys products in the United States. Clemmer and Bowen bought Sprig Toys about a year ago from Wham-O and plan to make toy dump trucks and similar products under the Sprig brand name using sustainable plastics.
Clemmer and Bowen actually founded Sprig Toys about a decade ago, but they sold it to Wham-O in 2010. Sprig Toys won numerous awards for its use of bioplastics in toys. After buying Sprig Toys, Wham-O moved production offshore and did not seem to do a good job of exploiting Sprig's early success.
Clemmer and Bowen recently repurchased the Sprig Toys business to expand on their mission to make toys from bioplastics. Several years ago, after they sold Sprig Toys, they started BeginAgain, a Fort Collins, Colo., company that makes bioplastic toys like Eco Rigs under license from John Deere Co.
Clemmer said in a phone interview that the new Sprig toys will be injection molded by Pikes Peak Plastics Inc., the Colorado Springs, Colo., company that molds BeginAgain's Eco Rigs from a bio-derived polyethylene/corn cob mixture.
"The tooling is being made in the United States for Sprig Toys," Clemmer told Plastics News in a recent interview. "Our bioplastic material, too, is U.S.-made."
Clemmer said the new Sprig toys will debut next spring.
U.S. toy sales could grow by 4.5 percent in 2017, according to NPD Group Inc. The Port Washington, N.Y., market research firm based its opinion on activity in the first half of the year. NPD estimates the U.S. toy market grew 3 percent though the first half of the year, according to NPD Group.
"The toy industry is off to a slower start in 2017 than last year, but much of it has to do with the fact that the industry is comparing against strong Star Wars movies sales from last year, as a result of the December 2015 release of Star Wars: Episode VII," noted Juli Lennett, senior vice president and U.S. toy industry analyst for NPD.
Games and puzzles showed the highest growth in the first half, increasing by nearly 25 percent, while building sets, so popular recently, slipped about 10 percent in the January to June period of 2017 compared to a year ago, according to NPD research.
The National Retail Federation predicted retail sales of all types should be 3.6 to 4 percent higher this holiday season compared with the 2016 period.
Looming in the background is a possible merger of toy icons Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc. The two companies have discussed the possibility several times in recent years. Recent published reports indicate they were talking to each other again this year before backing off.
Recent merger speculation was fueled by a sudden downturn in Mattel's financial performance and stock price that coincided with a rising Hasbro stock price.
"A merger would certainly have a big impact on the toy market," said Murdough.
"But whether the government will allow it is another question," he added.
Mattel makes most of its core products in company-owned factories in China and elsewhere in Asia and Mexico. China alone accounted for some 70 percent of Mattel's toy production five years ago. Third-party manufacturers make most non-core toys. Typically, Mattel makes toys in multiple locations to offset disruption caused by political instability or other trade risks.
Hasbro's toys are mainly made by third-party manufacturers, mostly in China. Hasbro's last two major company-owned plants were sold in 2015. Cartamundi UK Ltd. acquired the plants in East Longmeadow, Mass., and Waterford, Ireland.
Read about this year's hot toy, an injection molded animatronic robot called the Fingerling Baby Monkey, developed by a Canadian company.