Toys Turns on the Heat for Kitchen Play
July 2009 | The four-day International Tokyo Toy
Show wrapped up on Sunday, June 19, at Tokyo Big Sight, the city’s
international exhibition center. The event drew 132 companies
displaying 36,000 toys.
Takeo Takasu (Namco Bandai Holdings Inc.), chairman of the Japan Toy
Association, spoke with optimism at the event, reporting that
Japan’s domestic toy industry suffered only a small (1.2 percent)
drop in market size in fiscal 2008.
Trumping the card games that were last year’s blockbuster, this
year’s show highlighted the growing popularity of cooking
toys. Four major players — Sega Toys Co., Tomy Co., Bandai
and Megahouse Co. — increased their products in this niche area to
37 in fiscal 2008 from just 10 the year before; domestic Japanese sales
in the category increased by 3.5 times.
Among the various treats these toys can produce are Chinese
dumplings, ice cream, cotton candy, “mochi” sticky rice and
bread. Sega Toys has around 110,000 of its Ice Kurin ice-cream
maker since last July. Tomy Co. displayed its Nama Carmel Pot, a
kit children can use to make fresh caramel in a microwave oven; it won
the “trendy” category at the Japan Toy awards this
Atsuko Shimizu, a member of the marketing team for Sega Toys, said
cooking toys became popular due to the recession because people are
growing more reluctant to dine out.
“Families can play with their children while cooking together .
. . which also facilitates family communications,” observed
“Simplicity is back,” agreed Marian Bossard, TIA’s
vice president of meetings and events. “Cooking at home is a
reflection of a challenging economy. There’s a real
connection between children’s role play and what parents are doing
in the kitchen.”
The beginning of the cross-Pacific kitchen toy trend was spotted at
the American International Toy Fair held in New York City in February
2009, when nearly 25 companies specifically identified themselves as
featuring household and/or cooking toys and play sets.
Along with the rising popularity of the (U.S.) Food Network and its
chefs – like Duff (Ace of Cakes), Giada De Laurentis (Everyday
Italian) Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives), not to mention
superstar Rachael Ray – who have obtained celebrity status, the
trend for food- and kitchen-related toys will likely continue to
The newest batch of cooking and baking toys allow children to
customize their own edible creations. Through a licensing agreement with
JAKKS Pacific, the popular Girl Gourmet line now includes a Cake Bakery
kit featuring Duff Goldman. "Now young bakers can pretend to be just
like me and make beautiful fondant cakes for their friends and family,
but without all the mess that I make! [I wish we had this product when I
was a kid!]" says Duff Goldman, who bakes and creates fantasy cakes on
his hit Food Network series, Ace of Cakes.
They are also several role play toys allow younger children to
experience the fun of working in the kitchen through experiential
- For fall 2009, Hasbro is bringing back its original aqua color for
the classic EASY-BAKE Oven and Snack Center. Since it was first
introduced in 1963, there have been 11 models, each reflecting the
colors and oven styles of their day.
- Alex Toy’s Sweetheart Café is a 40-piece role play set
which includes a chef’s hat and apron.
- Young gourmet chefs will enjoy Plan Toys Cooking Utensils set,
Schylling Rose Tin Tea set, and Melissa and Doug’s wooden Sushi
Slicing play set.
- Parents can teach kids about nutrition and let them pretend that
they are part of the food preparation process with Learning Resources
Pretend N Play Healthy Food Snacks Set, Plan Toy Assorted Fruits and
Vegetables, and Melissa and Doug’s Food Groups.
Kids love emulating their parents,” says Reyne Rice, TIA toy
trend specialist. “Cooking is a creative learning activity which
adults and kids can share at any age.”