Hudson, Ohio — Sustainability is not just an issue for single-use packaging suppliers.
That was one message from toy industry heavyweight Isaac Larian, whose MGA Entertainment Inc. came up with the Bratz dolls and now the award-winning L.O.L. Surprise! collectible dolls.
Larian said MGA has worked for three years and spent millions of dollars on the challenge of making the packaging for L.O.L. Surprise! dolls more sustainable. He spoke with Plastics News senior reporters Bill Bregar and Frank Esposito at Little Tikes Co.'s 50th anniversary party.
Larian left his native Iran in 1971 and came to Los Angeles alone at age 17. He started an import-export business when the 1979 Islamic Revolution ended his plans to return to Iran. Before getting into the toy business, he sold imported electronics.
Q: Single-use plastic products are under attack. Little Tikes products are certainly durable, so they don't fall into the single-use category, but what about MGA's products?
Larian: So there are two things. One is, when you look at Little Tikes, the Little Tikes toys are truly indestructible. They last forever. My son, who is 33, still has his Cozy Coupe from when he was 2 years old. So to me, I think that's a great thing because you have to have a piece of plastic that's iconic that you keep for generations.
The L.O.L. Surprise! dolls are made in China. Taking advantage of the unboxing video phenomena, kids peel away a lot of packaging to find out which collectible doll, plus accessories, is inside. First of all, we partnered with TerraCycle. We do whole recycling, which is great. Consumers get their packaging they don't want, they just take it to a place, prepaid and ship it, and it gets recycled. They don't have to anything. All they have to do is put it in provided boxes.
The second thing that we are looking at, we have hired scientists to find and make biodegradable plastics.
Q: We have reported on LT Molding Solutions, the effort by Little Tikes to move into custom rotational molding. We know that Tikes has done some contract molding for years. Do you support that?
Larian: One hundred percent, yes.
Q: Toys R Us closed all its stores last summer. What has been the impact on MGA and the toy sector?
Larian: You're never going to replace Toys R Us. The toy industry as a whole is down this year, double-digit, down 15 percent in my estimation this year.
What people don't understand is what Toys R Us offered to the toy industry. If you're a small toy company or entrepreneur and you came up with a product line, Toys R Us was the only retailer who had room to give you a chance [with shelf space].
Q: Just the week before this anniversary event at Little Tikes, Mattel Inc. rejected your latest unsolicited bid to merge MGA and Mattel. What is the story behind that?
Larian: I offered to merge the two companies on the condition that I would run the business. Because of who they have in there, nobody in there has any toy experience. The board just sent a form letter. They didn't even return my calls.