BURBANK, Calif. — The mainstreaming of sex toy culture has inspired progressive manufacturers to debut designs with unique market potential, and nowhere was this more prevalent than the ANME trade show floor.
The trade show’s booth displays showcased the influx of mainstream health, tech and aesthetic trends into sensual products. Customer requests have led manufacturers to focus on simplicity, functionality and clean, streamlined details. The influence of consumer reliance on smart devices was evident in products of all price points and target markets. The most beginner-friendly vibes now tout touch pad controls, pressure-sensitive functions and interchangeable attachments. Even traditional, realistic dildos have gotten an upgrade from proprietary blends of real-feel skin material and warming options. Times are quickly changing in our small but mighty industry, and ANME supporters came out in droves to show off their latest additions to the retail race.
Power was the name of the game for the majority of toy manufacturers. From luxury lines to basic vibrators, toy companies are putting a big emphasis on the strong, rumbly motors in their latest creations. “All of our vibrator designs begin with the motor — or ‘from the motor up,’” as we've coined at Evolved,” says Meghan Dunkel, international sales and education for Evolved Novelties. Ask any exhibiting toy business about what they'd like to highlight about their new releases and the response will be almost universal: “powerful pleasure,” to quote FemmeFun's Regional Manager Guz Bautista. His company was one of many to offer tiny toys that pack a punch. Nu Sensuelle Account Executive Peter Kalker was on hand to demo the company's new exterior options for their notoriously strong bullet vibes. “We're all about the power,” says Kalker of their new silicone bunny ear and smooth ABS bullets. The Nu Sensuelle team's pocket-sized toys were contrasted by the large-and-in-charge wands of Doxy and Vibratex. Eddie Romero of Vibratex proudly showed off the cordless version of the well-known best selling Magic Wand, which has received rave reviews from the sex education community.
Silicone dominated the trade show floor as the material of choice. The industry-wide change from materials like TPR and jelly was more prevalent than ever this summer. Companies like Blush Novelties, Evolved Novelties, and Hott Products showcased new, all-silicone lines that offer flexibility and comfort for health-focused consumers. Many companies are slowly parsing down their thermoplastic product lines and using silicone for even the most budget-friendly of toys. “That's our specialty: a good price structure for our quality,” says Chris Post, VP of Hott Products. Their Wet Dreams toy line brings body-safe materials and luxury design into the hands of lower-budget consumers. Evolved Novelties has tapped the marketplace and Meghan Dunkel agrees that “customers are seeking entry-level, lower-priced toys with same quality as higher-end brands.” Evolved recently teamed up with Adam & Eve to track consumer feedback, and the results were evident in the plentiful offerings of affordable silicone vibrators in their booth.
Luxurious aesthetic in designer-priced and entry-level pleasure products has grown from a trend to a mainstay. Small boutique brands and larger manufacturers alike showcased toys and accessories with beautiful packaging, shiny, sleek details and smooth finishes. OVO, Crave and Bijoux Indiscrets showed their latest wares, which could easily make the leap from the bedroom to the runway. Elsa Viegas, CEO of Bijoux, highlighted the beauty and versatility of her latest fetish fashion harnesses. “Our vegan-leather designs are crafted as jewelry and kink wear,” says Viegas. “You can decide how much you want to reveal.”
Crave's Ti Chang updated an industry standard with details fit for the most discerning of consumer. “The Crave Bullet is a product we've reimagined to bring it in to modern times,” says Chang. “We've introduced high quality materials such as stainless steel, and new functionality such as waterproofing, improved button and USB rechargeability while keeping the aspect people most love about the product: its versatile size.” OVO also updated their cornerstone style, adding new gold and silver ABS details to their affordable silicone vibrators. While the overall designs have retained their luxury look, OVO has added consistency to their controllers through touch pad technology along with more uniform families of brands.
By contrast, other manufacturers are pushing the envelope with VR toys and extreme fetish products targeted to an audience that is quickly outgrowing the niche label. XR Brands showcased iFuk, an interactive experience for men that combines Smart phones, VR goggles, and a masturbator equipped with a remote controller. Users can create their own personal femmebot that responds at the push of a button. “We're focused on covering the basics of tech on one end of the spectrum while pushing forward into more advanced technology on the other,” says Gerardo Ramos, Director of Operations for XR. The company also unveiled new additions to existing lines of traditional fetish gear, like Tom of Finland and Zeus Electrosex. “We're getting back to the roots of fetish, where we started and built our name, and coming up with unique items for the market,” says Director of Marketing Peter LaMantia.
Several manufacturers surprised customers by delving into unexplored avenues. Kama Sutra debuted Rythm, a line of lush, all-silicone vibrators to compliment their sensual edible offerings. System JO, often known for their large-quantity releases of medical-certified lubricants, focused solely on a new collection called JO Gelato. “Our flavored lubes bring favorite sweet treats to life, enticing consumers to “become the dessert” with flavors like Mint Chocolate and Creme Brule,” says Regional Sales Manager Heather McNeely.“We've also just paired with Emily Morse of Sex with Emily to further our connection with the sexual wellness and medical communities.” Wicked Sensual Care also kept things short and sweet with a single new release: a water-silicone hybrid lubricant that mimics and maintains natural moisture. Cassie Pendleton, Director of Marketing for Wicked, notes, “we innovate as we formulate, and the texture of our newest release is how a hybrid should be.”
The latest ANME offerings extended beyond our usual idea of what makes a sex toy. “There are a lot more luxury toys and products with powerful vibrations than in the past,” says Sadie Allison, Sex Educator and Owner of TickleKitty.com. “I'm enjoying the attention to detail and the competitiveness in creativity and design.” Trends and styles change by nature, but innovative businesses are making sure the bar stays raised for pleasure products. Gerardo Ramos of XR Brands echoes the universal reality of design and manufacturing. “The industry is changing to a much faster pace, and it's easy to fall behind if you can't keep up.”