If you truly want to spy innovation -- for better and, sometimes, for worse -- the exhibit area to prowl at the ispo winter show in Germany is the so-called “BrandNew” segment.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, participants in the contest must be new companies, brands or products not more than three years old. In its 10th year and 19th showing at this winter ispo show, Feb. 7-10, 2010, in Munich, the event attracted 305 entries from 25 countries, according to the show, accounting for an 8-percent growth over last year.
“What surprised us was the unbelievable increase in quality among the applicants,” wrote Markus Hefter, group director for the Messe Muenchen GmbH, the owner of the ispo show, about the BrandNew start-up competition. “It has never been so difficult to select the top 50, i.e., the eight winners of the product categories, as well as the 42 finalists.”
The area is deceptive at first: Buried in the back of one hall, it is a rather barren section with small booths (like large cubicles) built in a circular pattern. They are plain because all the winners get a booth space -- that is, just a small simple area with a few necessities such as a couple of chairs and electricity. Most drag in a suitcase or duffle of product and set it on shelves or drape it over hangers.
Many are ready for the manufacturing and logistics that will be needed when international distributors hit up the area on the first day or two, looking for products they can represent in their home countries. Some companies are only dabbling their toes to see how their product ranks, or they are rating interest for the future and making contacts for when they may be ready to spread their international wings. (Click here for a Feb. 20, 2002, SNEWS® story about Isis for Women’s experience as a BrandNew winner.)
At the end of the show, many now have eyes-wide-open about their companies’ potential, although some arrived unaware what was about to happen with all the exposure to international press and distributors.
“We were expecting a consumer show, and we found out this was a trade show…. (But) this has far exceeded my expectations since my experience was basically zero,” Patrick Leger, sales manager for finalist BIKND, a new soft-side bike transport case, told SNEWS. “The hope was to find distributors, and interest is very high.
“Getting contacts to distributors,” he added, “has been phenomenal.”
The product (www.biknd.com - photo right) was introduced at the 2009 Interbike show in Las Vegas, is already announced as the sponsor of the professional Garmin Transitions bike team, and product will be in by April.
This year’s round also had a high showing of ecological/fair trade-oriented items, urban style and fitness products, although outdoor, ski and bike were also represented.
“The trend of being fashionable, yet environmentally conscious is being proven by our finalists and winners,” noted BrandNew literature. The literature also said there were many fitness products last year but “the jury was surprised to see this trend continue so strongly. The submission of topics was yoga, running and even workout machines…. It is a clear sign that the fitness trend will continue.”
SNEWS took a look around the BrandNew area to scope out a few highlights among the companies represented as winners and finalists. See below for picks in four areas: outdoor/ski, fitness, run/bike and miscellaneous.
UTY (Utility is Necessity) -- France -- A new line of sportswear and outerwear that combines function and protection. Sound ho-hum? It’s designed with the disabled in mind and developed with the input of disabled athletes. Colors are brilliant for better visibility, lack of zippers in the rear for comfort while sitting, and designed for easier on and off. www.utyltd.com
SkiGo by Moticon -- Germany -- Sensors are incorporated into an insole to allow a ski instructor to “spy” on what students are actually doing with their weight and body for better instruction (photo left). www.moticon.de
Monkee -- Germany -- A fashion-function climbing line of apparel that uses natural materials -- all are recyclable, recycled and “bio-certified,” as they put it. An emphasis is on dual-function: climb in it and hang out in it. www.monkeeclothing.com
ixSave -- Germany -- A kit that contains a tool to remove ticks and a small container to put it in to send to a lab for testing. Results are posted online, where you can check up on your own tick using a code in the kit. www.ixSave.de
Point 65N kayaks -- Sweden -- The first modular kayak for easier storage and transport, plus the ability to be either a one-person or two-person sit-on-top. Point 65’s Tequila, of which its first container of boats was to land in the United States in January, has three parts, each weighing about 10 kg. Two pieces to make a one-person kayak will retail for $700, while all three pieces to accommodate two people will sell for $1,100, a representative from Sweden told us. www.point65.com
Wosh Suncare -- Germany -- Created by a pale-skinned man who wanted to go outdoors, WOSH is called “anti-agining” because of ingredients said to “regenerate cells.” With a creamier texture than many sunscreens but without the contents deemed by many as harmful, WOSH founder Daniel Rintelmann said they are looking to enter the U.S. market via the cosmetic industry. www.wosh.com
Hock Fitness -- Germany -- This company’s dumbbells, jump ropes and other handheld equipment are a total wow -- of course, so is the price. So be it, when interior design is combined with fitness. A stand with five sets of hand weights, from 1 kg to 5 kg retails for EUR 3,500 (which would translate to about USD $4,600 - photo left). “It’s a niche,” a representative said. No kidding. If you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it? www.hockdesign.de
Schnecke -- Germany -- What companies need to figure out is that a name in one language may not translate. The “Schnecke,” which means “snail” in German, is an alternative to a stability ball that adds, well, stability. From the side, it looks more like a flattened ellipsis shape than a ball. Plus, they can be piled and kept in place more easily. www.fitness-schnecke.de
Sensoboard -- Germany -- More than a balance board, more than a wobble board, it calls itself a “never ending ride.” It has a base that has bungee-like cords attaching to a top surface that wobbles and can be adjusted to five levels. Developed by a former pro windsurfer, its retail, we were told, was EUR 399 (approximately USD $545). www.sensoboard.com
Indoor Real Run -- Germany -- Not many homes will invest in this monster, but maybe a gym with lots of money? Possibly. It’s a humongous treadmill (can accommodate up to eight people) with a huge screen in the front to show outdoor scenes you are virtually moving through (photo right). Invite all your buddies over when the weather is bad. No word on cost. www.indoorrealrun.com
ON running shoe -- Switzerland -- A racing-weight shoe with a cushioning system on the outsole with 13 short sections of “tubes” if you will, like short rigatoni pasta glued on from the sides. Its triathlete developer claims it can disperse both horizontal and vertical impact better than other shoes. www.on-running.com
O-Synce -- Germany -- A personal GPS device for mounting on bikes that can be operated with a finger touch without moving your hands and utilizes uploaded Google maps to save cost. Another version fits over your wrist and fingers like a strap for a pole and allows control with the finger it’s on -- designed for sports such as skiing. These were introduced at Eurobike 2009, we were told. The super coolest product that we weren’t allowed to touch because of its fragile prototype form (but it was placed gingerly on our head to experience) was a patent-pending speed-distance type trainer that snugs under the brim of a cap/visor, is easily read by a simple nano-second glance upward and with a contrast that changes automatically based on available light. Cost pending and availability speculated to be later this year or early 2011. www.o-synce.com (Pronounced “Oh-Science,” which we told the German creators is not how English-speakers would say it, but c’est la vie.)
BIKND -- USA -- An inflatable, soft-sided bike case for airplanes, cars and storage that users pump up for protection. Unsure about your beloved expensive bike? The professional bike team, Garmin Slipstream, has already adopted it. It’s lighter weight, easier to fit bikes into, and stores better when not in use, we were told. Retail is set at about USD $600 in North America. www.biknd.com
Robokeeper -- Germany -- Last but not least, this product was not in the BrandNew area but attracted a large crowd. A bit like a huge soccer arcade game, the Robokeeper (deemed by one U.S. attendee as the best thing at the show…but we’re not convinced) has cameras that capture you and the movement of the ball when you kick it, and directs the robot-goalkeeper to flip and move to keep your kicked ball from going into the net. Difficulty level can be adjusted. Kinda reminded us of the moving ducks you shoot at found at the county fair. www.robokeeper.com
To see the rest, to view more photos and to find an application for the 20th annual BrandNew awards, go to www.ispo-brandnew.com.