It is one of the largest toy fairs in the world, arguably the largest in Europe. Every year, just a few weeks after Christmas, all toy professionals meet in Bavaria in Nuremberg, Germany. With a very clear trend this year for a more environmentally responsible toy.
"We are on a return to nature. For us, it's nature with our animal figurines, explains Alexandre Pratlong, general manager for France of the German manufacturer Schleich. For other manufacturers, it will be wooden toys. On a daily basis, we very often talk about biodiversity and environmental protection, and children are made aware of this very early on. We can see that we have a demand that is accelerating very strongly and this is not the first year, it has been for 3 to 5 years ".
A need for nature
For 85 years, with these plastic figures of farm animals, wild animals and more recently dinosaurs, Schleich has always offered a very classic toy. The brand has grown massively in France, "as soon as we felt a need from families to distract children from screens", says this professional whose company is posting double-digit growth bolstered by another need, nature.
"Today's environmental constraints and the awareness of populations around the world mean that the company has initiated a process to manage its carbon footprint and improve the selection of materials used. We are entering into an eco-responsible approach which will be unveiled in the second half of the year ", Specifies Alexandre Pratlong.
In France, 2,000 kindergarten classes use these Schleich figurines for learning language, motor skills, geography or the development of species. They are certainly plastic figurines "but high-end plastic", qualifies its general manager for the French market, in a sector where plastic has been almost omnipresent since the early 1960s.
Customers attentive to the materials used
So much so that making wooden toys passed almost even less than ten years ago, for an absurdity. "With our wooden toys, a few years ago, they looked at us as the last of the Mohicans", remembers Catherine Varacca. She runs the French company Jeujura, which has only been making 100% French wooden toys since 1911.
"We were asked the question: but why do you continue to manufacture in France? Why don't you relocate production to China like everyone else?", remembers the director of this more than a century old company. Today, she is certain that she made the right choice even if she regrets that producing in France remains restrictive. "It’s an obstacle course but I know why I am doing my best to maintain my production in France", she says.
And now, for the past five years or so, consumers have been asking him questions they never asked before: Where does this product come from? How is it made? Is your wood French? Are your colors water-based? The distributors did not ask these questions either. Today, explains Catherine Varacca, they make choices based on the origin of the product, favoring proximity and they pay attention to the materials used.
Minimize plastic and packaging
"We've been working on this file for three and a half years now, all that is packaging, clips to hold the products, the window boxes that we ask to be removed, no need for plastic around the toy. also to be able to touch it ", testifies Olivier Donval. This man knows this Nuremberg toy fair like the back of his hand. He has been coming there every year for 17 years with an average of ten appointments per day for four days. All manufacturers know who he is and how important he is. Olivier Donval is a toy selector for one of the largest French distributors: JouéClub. He himself owns a franchise store in Vire in Calvados. He knows his stuff and closes the next Christmas catalog every year in Germany and is already preparing the Christmas 2021 one.
This experienced man clearly sees the increasingly large role played by eco-responsible toys, as professionals call them. Behind this term, we find social, health and environmental responsibility. "Since the end of last year, at the end of 2019, it has become the trend in toys, explains Olivier Donval, who is delighted with it. Everyone is doing it. Recycled and recyclable plastics, natural paints ... "
A new "craze"
On the stand of the Italian manufacturer Clementoni, one of the market leaders for scientific games and puzzles, the label created by the brand "Play for future, recycled materials" is proudly displayed on a large green background in the middle of a sheet of heart shape. Below, on a television screen, you can see the exhaust fumes of cars and the smoking chimneys of factories. Gaylor Cornuault, Marketing Director for France at Clementoni, says: "All the children of the Clementoni family play only with the toys of the family brand. Besides the fact that 90% of the products are made in Italy, the owner-parents have, with conviction since 2014, sought to limit the impact of production on the environment. Recycle, use less water, have raw materials from suppliers close to factories to limit the presence of trucks on the roads… "
"It did not initially meet a demand from consumers or distributors, argues Gaylor Cornuault. The company did not even invest in communication on this aspect, finding that it did not interest many people at the time ". Then times changed, explains the marketing director: "It turns out that we are meeting a market demand that comes from consumers and which also makes distributors react, who feel that consumers who come to the store are looking for this type of product that is cleaner, recycled, recyclable, etc. from now, at the end of last year, we feel a trend since the second half of 2019 and today, we have a real craze, we feel that it speaks to everyone !"