Brands to Watch: Meet the 2020 Class of Incoming Pleasure Purveyors

Brands to Watch: Meet the 2020 Class of Incoming Pleasure Purveyors

No matter how many vibrators, lubes and other miscellaneous pleasure-enhancing sexcessories make their way into the marketplace, adult retailers and consumers alike are always eagerly awaiting the latest innovations. The ever-growing sexual wellness landscape is constantly evolving with modern tools that speak to today’s consumers with a fresh approach to addressing their many sexual needs and desires.

Motivated by the mainstreaming of pleasure products, new startups are aiming to further normalize the use of pleasure products with discreet, artistic new designs that their owners can proudly display, and items that are boldly tackling intimate needs that have previously gone unsatisfied. These up-and-coming brands are also taking a modern approach to marketing with campaigns that reflect and celebrate the diversity of today’s consumers. While startups in other industries are able to take advantage of mass  marketing tools and advertising options, such as social media, new sex toy companies are quickly learning how to be resourceful in order to bypass the ban on the promotion of their products that exists on just about every platform. From joining forces with social media influencers to spread the word on new toys to more traditional efforts such as trade shows and consumer expos, blossoming sex toy companies are successfully getting their branding across to consumers nationwide — and that’s just the beginning.

The hardest thing to do is to really tell your own narrative in a sea of competing voices.

With the introduction of several new, exciting releases, 2020 is already shaping up to be another year of innovation and evolution for the adult retail industry. Armed with a progressive vision of what pleasure products should look like, these emerging companies are quickly rallying support from the sexual wellness community and consumers alike to give them a jumpstart in the competitive world of sex toys. In this month’s special report, we’re introducing you to the up-and-coming brands that are ready to make 2020 their year.

The New Kids on the Block

The adult retail industry is constantly growing as new sexual wellness and pleasure innovators conjure up new products to meet the consumer needs that have yet to be addressed.

For Holland-based Ylva & Dite, the modern pleasure products brand is targeting today’s shoppers with a contemporary color palette.

“Our main innovation is in coloring,” said Roy Jacobs, who handles research and development for Ylva & Dite. “We are able to provide you with any color dildo you’d like. We think that standard colors are a thing of the past; we believe in a colorful and bright future with different customer needs and wants. Every customer has a different taste and a different color preference. We are able to serve them all.”

Ylva & Dite’s product line spent a couple years in development before the company began to actively sell them at the beginning of 2019.

“So far all our customers are not just happy with our products but mainly amazed,” Jacobs said. “They can’t believe that all of a sudden there is a Dutch company providing the world with the most beautiful dildos, most beautiful colors and most beautiful designs. Customers are very happy with our products and we hope we are able to keep this standard.”

Le Stelle hit the pleasure products scene in 2019 as a “human-centric design company” with a mission to “introduce ‘thoughtful technologies’ into the industry without compromising on aesthetics,” said Alvin Huang, Le Stelle’s chief strategy officer.

“Internally we’ve adopted a three-pronged approach that can be summarized as: looks, function and feel,” he said. “From a design perspective, we want to experiment with bold and unique colors that stray away from the traditional purple and pink. We also want our customers to really experience the product from the moment they first hold it in their hands. So the feel and texture of our products is very important to us. We’ll consider everything from the smoothness of the silicone to the performance and ergonomics of the product while it’s in use. Functionally, we try to design products that offer features beyond the traditional catalog of power and speed settings.”

Huang uses Le Stelle’s new Opus line of bullet vibes as an example.

“We’ve taken this classic toy and added a twist to it by pairing it with a high-grade silicone sleeve (with wrist strap),” he said. “The impetus behind this is to make the bullet suitable for both internal and external use while keeping it easy to use, clean and maintain.”

Since arriving on retail shelves, Le Stelle reports a positive response from retailers through re-orders and consumers through social media engagement.

“To cap off an exciting year, we’ve also just been nominated for two XBIZ awards (Toy of the Year and New Pleasure Products Company of the Year),” he said. “I can’t express just how much it means to all of us at the company to receive this kind of recognition from our peers in the industry — it’s truly the icing on the cake!”

plusOne is a pleasure products industry newcomer that launched with a bang, bringing is line of affordable, premium quality sexual wellness devices to the mass market via major retailers such as Walmart and Target.

“We are meeting the underserved needs of the consumer that may be intimidated by shopping at adult stores, or hesitant to spend $50 to $100-plus online to try something new,” plusOne's director of marketing Stephanie Trachtenberg said. “At the same time, by being at the mass market, we are helping to break down the taboos and change the conversation, and ultimately driving total industry acceptance and growth. We are the perfect ‘first entry point’ into the category and our presence at mass is helping to open the doors to adult stores, as our consumer continues to explore and discover their needs.”

The anal play category has increasingly expanded in recent years with the development of body-friendly designs that cater to the diverse needs of curious consumers. As mainstream women’s magazines continue to explore this once-taboo sex act, the need for more beginner-friendly options increases.

Odile Toys founder Benjamin Jay says its new flagship product Odile — “the gentle butt plug dilator” — was created to fulfill the need for a truly beginners-friendly anal toy.

“Good anal sex requires good anal dilation first, and I believe that the sex toys on the market for anal dilation are not doing the job properly,” Jay said. “Anal dilation mostly refers to slowly and gradually widening the anus. In the market you mainly find two types of anal dilation sex toys: set of plugs and inflatable devices.”

According to Jay, a set of plugs may not be an ideal option for experimenting with gradual anal dilation.

“First, the product sizes — small, medium and big — have a 25 percent girth increase between each size which is not gradual enough and increases the risk of causing micro-fissures in your anus,” he said. “Second, having to deal with three toys to do one job is not user-friendly and can easily become messy. And third, the standard set of plugs design has a ‘neck’ that reduces the dilation at the sphincter, which is where dilation is most needed, and prevents the user from doing penetration movements for play.”

With inflatable devices, users may encounter some issues associated with over-inflation. Jay adds, “Even visually, it’s not a sexy product. Based on this, I thought that the perfect anal dilation had to be done by one single product that was easy and comfortable to use, and once inserted inside the anus allowed the user to control precisely and gradually its girth while dilating the whole anus equally. I wanted a ‘sexy’ sex toy that allows the user to focus only on pleasure, and was something that all genders would want to use.”

Odile is an orifice dilator that allows the user to control the girth of the shaft slowly, precisely and safely from 1 inch in diameter to 1.5 inches while it is inserted inside the anus. Featuring a key at the base of the toy, Odile expands when it is turned.

According to Jay, consumers and retailers alike are already in high anticipation of the release of Odile, which has been available for pre-order since early November.

“It sounds cliché easy, but truly, and without doubt, our product is our best accomplishment so far,” Jay said. “I really wanted to create an amazing product that is easy and comfortable to use, offering a smooth and reliable mechanism for enjoying anal dilation, but also with a seductive and characteristic design.”

Today’s pleasure product innovators are focusing on improving sexual experiences for adults by making them more comfortable and safe to explore. Ohnut was established as a “bumper” that’s used to make penetration more comfortable for those that experience pain.

“Nothing like Ohnut has ever really existed before,” said Emily Sauer, founder and CEO of Ohnut. “While a miniscule amount of other ‘bumpers’ exist on the market, no one was talking directly to people who experience pain during sex. This is such an underserved community (not to mention a very large one — 75 percent of women will experience painful sex at some point in their lives) and we have to realize that for these folks, we can’t even start to talk about pleasure before we address their pain. It’s a simple design and concept that’s making a huge difference in the quality of couples’ lives.”

According to Sauer, her brand is finding the most success in progressive-minded stores that are keeping up with millennial trends and messaging.

“Ohnut lives best in the sexual health or cock ring section (sometimes the anal section too!), and it’s our goal to make sure that customers don’t feel like something is ‘wrong’ with them,” she said. “For example, we don’t to lead with Ohnut as an ‘aid for painful sex’ (yikes!), but instead a ‘wearable to customize penetration depth.’”

Sauer says that since the introduction of Ohnut, the company has received a positive response from consumers — including some “heart-wrenching” messages for users.

“People have even claimed that Ohnut has saved their marriage,” she said. “It seems like people are just so relieved that someone is talking to them, advocating for them, and just wants their lives to be a little bit better.”

Women continue to be the target demographic for pleasure products companies, including those that are up-and-coming. Lara Pack founded Elixir Play after many years of personal issues with pelvic pain and turning to pelvic physiotherapy for assistance. It was through this experience that she realized the importance of external stimulation and thus the benefit of sex toys.

“Our products are designed with a woman’s body in mind and particularly women who are new to sex toys,” she said. “They are soft, flexible and easy to use, which can help bridge the barrier for many women who are hesitant to use toys. We have also worked with healthcare professionals to truly understand some of the issues women face and how our toys can help women who may have experienced pain or discomfort during sex.

“Our new range is officially launching at XBIZ in January but early signs have been extremely positive,” Pack added. “We have a waitlist from direct-to-consumer and a number of distributors who are keen to stock the products.”

Melanie Cristol created Lorals latex panties, which are patent-pending, to solve a problem that’s faced by 80 percent of women.

“While research says that oral sex is the most pleasurable sexual activity for people with vulvas, 80 percent have turned down oral when they want to say yes because of things like a partner’s scratchy beard, being on their period, not having showered, or due to medical concerns,” Cristol said. “Meanwhile, 93 percent of their partners enjoy performing oral sex, and most of them want to be doing it more often. Lorals makes it easy for people to say yes to this kind of pleasure, with our single-use panties worn during oral sex and rimming. They’re so thin that you can feel all of the sensations, and the nonporous condom-grade material blocks whatever is holding you back from enjoyment. With Lorals, everyone can ‘Love Oral Always.’”

Lorals can be used to overcome a myriad of concerns leading up to oral play.

“Our customers love using Lorals when they’re with a brand new partner and don’t want skin-to-skin contact yet, or in situations (like after the gym) where they feel sweaty and would otherwise say ‘no,’” Cristol said. “Many use Lorals when they’re on their period to have mess-free and worry-free period oral. Lots of our customers use Lorals regularly for rimming, or to try rimming (or, for that matter, cunnilingus) for the very first time. We have polyamorous customers who use Lorals with secondary partners and have skin-to-skin oral with primary partners. We have transmasculine, transfeminine, and non-binary customers who love our product because Lorals allow them to separate thoughts of their genitals from the actual sensations of oral sex.”

Menstruation products also have seen a revamp in recent years; and with more mainstream talk about period sex, companies like FemTech Inc. are bringing even more innovation to the category.

“Tampons were created in 1930 and have had very little innovation since,” FemTech, Inc. founder and CEO Farrah Dahl said. “These products are messy, can cause infections, are uncomfortable, and can prevent physical activity, including sex. Often women avoid any activity that lacks quick and easy bathroom access. To circumvent these issues, we created FemTech, Inc. to provide progressive solutions for women’s health. Out first product My V. puff provides quick and easy period protection that is undetectable during sex.”

My V. puff can be inserted a few inches for everyday wear or closer to the cervix for use during sexual activity. The material was designed to mimic vaginal tissue and during testing, it was undetectable by male sex partners, Dahl says.

“In our pre-launch focus groups, 100 adult industry performers used My V. puff while filming sex scenes,” she said. “During post-production interviews, 100 percent of their male partners confessed to being unaware the women were using period protection.”

FemTech launched My V. puff during the summer and sold out of its first two runs. According to Dahl, the company is now negotiating a B2B partnership with a major health club franchise, several large-scale music festivals and big-box retailers.

As an essential for pleasurable sex, the demand for lubricants is never waning, and new brands are making their way into the marketplace to bring consumers even more options.

Making their way from Brazil, Orgie Company established its international business in Portugal to bring its brand to regions outside of Brazil.

“Among our product lineup, no doubt that our Sexy Vibe! product — the liquid vibrator — is proven to be unique and very surprising to wholesalers, retails and end consumers, said Raquel Shaw, international relations manager for Orgie Company. “We did our homework and knew that this sort of product was quite unfamiliar in foreign markets.”

Fellow newcomer lubricants brand Amor Oral is focused on bringing creative new flavors to the marketplace.

“We want consumers to love their intimate moments and find ways to turn good sex into great sex,” Amor Oral founder Sean Johnson said. “So we offer a quality water-based personal lubricant with great flavors. Our goal for 2020 is to continue our expanse in flavor to make sure that we offer the right flavor for our consumers and their partners at a price point that is good for Amor Oral, our retailers and the consumer.”

Johnson says he’s observed two different types of Amor Oral fans, as well as among retailers that are embracing the brand’s potential to drive impulse purchases.

“First, repeat purchasers are finding the flavor that they love and buying it over, and over, and over again,” he said. “Second trend is the flavor testers. With our variety of flavors, consumers are finding new and fun ways to experience great sex with Amor Oral. On the retailer side, we are growing a strong group of retailers that we have been able to partner with to drive their fun and exciting impulse purchase programs, utilizing our flavored lubes as cross sales with their higher-priced dildos and toys.”

2019 saw the meteoric rise of CBD products in various forms from skincare to bath and body and edibles. The cannabis-derived ingredient — which is known to enhance stimulation, reduce pain and increase blood flow — obviously made its way to the adult products marketplace. This year, Angela Mustone, a Montreal-based entrepreneur and pleasure products industry vet, introduced her new line of HighOnLove cannabis-oil infused sensual cosmetics that are elegantly packaged in trendy rose-gold tinted glass bottles.

According to Mustone, it’s the widespread media attention that CBD has received that has gained her brand such a warm reception from adult retailers.

“With the reception from media and consumers, mainstream retailers have taken notice,” Mustone said. “[In 2019], we have partnered with popular online skincare retailer AskDerm to showcase our entire collection of wellness products. This collaboration allows HighOnLove to significantly increase distribution. We have also opened our Amazon store to reach even more consumers.”

Retailers themselves can get in on product manufacturing through private labeling, which enables them to further promote their own brand. Global Novelties is a new U.S.-based private-label solution that’s headed up by industry vet O’Bryan.

“By making private label a priority, retailers can increase margins, reduce competition, build brand visibility, drive customer loyalty, establish new sales channels, and eliminate comparison shopping,” she said. “By taking advantage of our full-service solution, our clients have access to our dedicated industry experts in graphic design, copywriting, videography and marketing at a fraction of the cost of employing their own in-house team. It's as easy as one, two, three — pick the product, pick the packaging and we'll design the artwork. This is a great time for retailers to consider what private labeling can do for their business.”

Overseas in France, Gangbangster is making a name for itself as a new company by engaging buyers worldwide with its range of extreme toys. According to Vincent Renou, Gangbangster’s sales manager, it’s the brand’s affordable prices that are appealing to buyers.

“Large-size dildos are more expensive because of the material and the cost of the production,” says. “We wanted to demonstrate that with high-quality vinyl that’s certified safe, the XXL dildos could be sold for even less than $50 in retail stores. The users of this dildo want different sensation and we can propose today more than 400 different quality item to discover different types of pleasure. Moreover, they are all made in Europe (France, to be exact) with all of the safety certification that’s demanded for manufacturers, and this point needs to be underlined.”

Growing Pains

Unlike startup companies in other industries, launching a new pleasure products brand presents several unique challenges — including having trouble securing investors and other services that are essential for any company’s success — simply because of their adult nature.

“We had some trouble getting the company started, as there is some resistance from usual business partners when you mention you will start a company in sex toys,” Jacobs said. “An example is a packaging company, which didn’t want to work with us when they heard we developed sex toys.”

Dahl breaks down some of the obstacles that pleasure product industry startups face leading up to a product launch: “To secure investments and loans, we needed to provide evidence of demand and market validation, customer acquisition cost, product manufacturing/marketing budgets, etc.,” she said. “These are difficult tasks pre-revenue. It's a catch-22 because you need proof of sales for investors but are unable to manufacture and sell without their investments.”

Female-owned companies are faced yet another obstacle — discrimination against their gender.

“In an average year, venture capitalists invest $85 billion in mainstream startups but only 2.2 percent have female founders,” Dahl said. “So, a sexual wellness brand owned by a female who works in the adult industry is pretty much SOL. So I decided to bootstrap My V. puff, taking it one day at a time.”

All of the stigma and stereotypes surrounding pleasure products that create challenges to obtaining the same support as mainstream startups ultimately negatively impacts the consumer.

“It is so sad because these barriers mean it is harder to access the consumers who could truly benefit from our products,” Pack said. “Within the industry my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Most people have been so kind in sharing experience, expertise and support. Yet outside the industry it really is a challenge.”

Nothing has created more of an obstacle for pleasure product brands than social media platforms that prohibit the promotion of adult products in any form — including but not limited to utilizing the platforms’ advertising tools and simply using any type of sexual language. Even women’s health products are often viewed as too obscene to be on social networking sites.

“Social media advertising (on Instagram, Facebook) has been a challenge — one out of every three ads are returned to us for violating their policies for using words like ‘vagina,’ ‘tampon,’ ‘menstruation,’” Dahl said. “Corporate giants with biased and antiquated policies are dangerous for everyone who uses the internet. In 2020, we'll focus on user-generated content, video, experiential marketing and live-stream sexual health Q&As. We want to touch the market on a more personal level than traditional advertising allows.”

Other alternatives that Dahl says she’s exploring include a tour bus that will take FemTech’s brand ambassadors coast to coast to promote the brand at festivals and college campuses.

Ohnut is trying to circumvent Instagram and Facebook’s limitations by focusing on press coverage and partnerships with influencers to promote the brand.

“We’re always working on strategic partnerships — whether those are with hospitals and practitioners or heavy hitters in the sex and wellness space,” Sauer said. “We also launched a patient advocacy initiative in collaboration with Duvet Days called the Pain Perception Project (PPP), and we’re hoping to expand that initiative next year.”

After experiencing the discrimination that pleasure products are faced with, Amor Oral also reached out to its connections for promotional support.

“The majority of the traditional push marketing activities are not allowed currently for this industry, so instead of PPC ads on social media sites, Amor Oral had to find fun and creative ways to introduce our flavored lubes to new consumers and retailers,” Johnson said. “This is why we make sure to offer only the very best products for consumers to experience and love. Then we work with the retailers that we partner with to pull in new consumers.”

Even plusOne — which can be found on family-friendly Target and Walmart store shelves — won’t be seen in online ads on social networking sites.

“We don’t have the opportunity to run media on the top social networks, which for us — being the brand for the mass market, but not having access to mass messaging — makes it particularly challenging,” Trachtenberg said. “However, we’re making headway; and in fact, we were the first sexual wellness brand to run print campaigns in InStyle, Women’s Health, Star, In Touch Weekly, Life & Style, OK! and Soap Opera Digest.”

The lack of acceptance of pleasure products only serves to further the stigma against sexual wellness. Cristol says that she is constantly encountering potential business partners, and even some customers, that aren’t comfortable talking about oral sex.

“Our non-adult-industry contacts feel awkward about introducing an oral sex company to potential stakeholders; our customers feel uncomfortable leaving their name on product reviews,” Cristol said. “There’s a lot of stigma associated with sex, and particularly oral sex, and particularly oral sex for the benefit of women, transgender, and non-binary people. One of our major goals is to make these discussions commonplace! Sex (including oral sex) is a fun and healthy part of life, and it doesn’t deserve the stigma it receives.”

Huang says that he believes that the restrictions around mainstream advertising may ease up over time.

“In the interim, there are a couple ways we can work around this,” he said. “Collaborations with independently curated sites is a great way to get your product noticed, and to tell your brand narrative. Moreover, creating products that are not purely pleasure-focused (take the Hitachi Magic Wand, for example) can not only diversify your product line, but also introduce your brand to mainstream platforms that bring you greater exposure.”

Being a new company in any industry is a challenge in and of itself. Standing out amongst a multitude of brands and competing against industry giants is a challenge that pleasure products companies are faced with.

“The hardest thing to do is to really tell your own narrative in a sea of competing voices,” Huang said. “We have some great, well-established brands in the industry who have really carved out their own space in terms of product niches and brand identity. It’s your job as a newcomer to convince the marketplace that your product warrants a look, that your B2B partners (and consumers at large) should take a risk with your product. And so, new companies often have the very unenviable responsibility of straddling the line between investing in innovation versus investing in multi-platform marketing.”

Eyes on the Prize

While these up-and-coming brands may be viewed as industry newbies, the new generation of pleasure product startups is savvier than ever when it comes to appealing to today’s modern consumers. They’ve watched the marketplace evolve and now they’re ready to usher in the new decade by sparking all-new trends with innovative new products.

The rapid evolution towards pleasure products that are designed as discreet, creative shapes in refreshing new colors is not even close to slowing down. Today’s up-and-comers are taking this trend even further with new products that not just look like works of art, but are also exceptionally functional for pleasure and sexual wellness.

“I think the trend towards more beautiful design will continue,” Pack said. “As Gwyneth Paltrow said ‘beautiful works of art.’ The shape, curves and look of a product are becoming increasingly important and we are thrilled to be able to bring products to the market that align with this.”

With more attention being paid to sexual wellness in mainstream, we’ve seen a lot of products cross over with the help of celebrities such as Paltrow, as well as other high-profile reality TV stars and social media influencers.

“Sexual health is all the rage these days,” Sauer said. “It’s been exciting to watch so many stores carve out such a prominent space for sex education as well. Hopefully, sexual wellness will continue to become more talked about and mainstream, which will ultimately de-stigmatize sex shops. The more human and honest we can make sex, the less taboo it becomes, therefore creating a massive market for new audiences to buy healthy sex products.”

According to Jay, Odile is debuting its gentle butt plug dilator just in time, as interest in anal play is at an all-time high.

“I do think that interest in anal sex toys is growing and therefore this category will probably be one of the most popular in 2020,” he said. “A lot of players in the sex toy industry work hard to bring good education to people regarding anal sex and I am always happily surprised to see how many popular anal sex education videos, podcasts and articles there are.”

Huang also says that he’s witnessed social attitudes towards anal play shift and now the market must catch up with more user-friendly products and education.

“As consumers become more comfortable, and this ‘taboo’ slowly breaks down, we should see a significant rise in interest in this market,” Huang says. “I fundamentally believe that this is one area where the industry can do a better job of ‘educating’ the consumer base in terms of sexual wellness, usage/play tips, and general knowledge. Look for Le Stelle to pivot more into this market as we advance through 2020.”

Toys that mimic oral pleasure for women through suction have taken over the market in a very short time thanks to their unique ability to induce orgasms, as well as the aggressive marketing efforts of brands such as Satisfyer. While a number of new suction toys have hit the market, Trachtenberg predicts that their popularity will continue.

“I’m expecting to see more spin-offs and variations of the ‘oral sex simulator’ devices as brands are eager to capitalize on the success of these types of items and offer a new way to deliver a similar experience,” she said. “The trend we are most focused on, of course, is the growing opportunity to meet the underserved needs of the female consumer. Her buying power is stronger than ever. We will continue to make sure we are covering her needs, and at her convenience.”

Couples-focused products also tend to never go out of style. The latest generation of couples-friendly intimacy items is embracing innovation in technology, design and formulation.

“Amor Oral will continue to grow in flavored lube, driving the trend in ‘partnered’ pleasure products,” Johnson said. “Partnered products will continue to grow in 2020 and over the next five years with new technologies and health-focused consumers. For other product categories, technology and IoT (Internet of Things) will continue to grow with products like app-controlled vibrators and his/her integrated toys. We are keeping our eyes open to opportunities for partnerships in this area as well.

“In 2019, consumers were seeking new ways to spice up their sexual adventures via technology and finding new ways to experience things that they already enjoyed. Amor Oral is staying true to our name and researching new and fun ways to enhance the oral experience. We are going to continue to increase our library of flavors and find new ways to entice and enhance the act of oral sex.”

As these up-and-coming brands gear up for 2020, they also are keeping a close watch on burgeoning adult retail trends. Among their predictions is that online shopping will continue to thrive as more sophisticated online adult shops continue to sprout up.

“One of the more interesting shopping trends this year — at least to me — is the rise of curated shopping sites for luxury brands,” Huang said. “Increasing numbers of consumers are opting for a more ‘streamlined’ shopping experience. In the age of information (and choice) overload, we’re seeing the rise of dedicated ecommerce sites that offer consumers confidence, style and ease of experience by narrowing down choices and selling narrative over product. Sites like Touch of Modern (for tech accessories) and Mr. Porter, 24s or Matches Fashion (for luxury apparel) are gaining in popularity and we have to take notice.”

While private labeling has long been in existence, O’Bryan says that retailers can benefit from it the most now, to stay competitive against mainstream retailers.

“If you’ve browsed online shops, social media or have been to a brick-and-mortar store, one thing you’ll notice is private label brands,” she said. “Then there’s Amazon, which is littered with private label brands and now has its own exclusive and private-label adult product lines. Adult products are breaking out of their niche and claiming a growing share of the mainstream market. With increased visibility, acceptance of the products and the volume of data that retailers have on customer purchases, they know enough about consumers to give them what they want. As a result, we’ll see the growth of private label brands and retailers increasingly using their own brands to stand out from the competition.”

Although online may be the most popular (and private) avenue for shopping for sex toys, the value of a real-life person’s customer support is hard to top. Retailers often make themselves stand out even more with special in-store, hosted events.

“I think that the retail shops that will grow in 2020 are the ones that propose more than just only showing sex toys on shelves,” Jay said. “Retailers that bring special ambiances, propose sex education classes, organize erotic and burlesque shows, etc., will grow; and the other ones … I am not sure.”

Trachtenberg agrees that stores that aren’t modernizing will likely get left in the dust in 2020.

“I expect that adult retail stores may see that it’s time for a bit of a make-over, in an effort to make the shopping experience more approachable and perhaps expand to even a more mainstream lifestyle destination,” she said.

New Year, New Ambitions

As we usher in a new decade, the new school of pleasure products brands are making big plans for their future. From unveiling new creations to fine-tuning their business strategies, 2020 is gearing up to be another year of exciting new developments for the adult retail marketplace.

“The upcoming year will be a year that we will fully focus on the retailers and the distributors,” Jacobs said. “We will make sure that they will receive everything necessary to sell Ylva & Dite. We want to see our products on all shelves.

“As stated before, we are working on products that are easy to sell for retailers and distributors,” he continued. “This means that we will create products that look great, have unique packaging and the right appearance online and offline. Next to this, we will extend our product range with dragon dildos, vibrating dildos and butt plugs.”

Orgie Company also is focusing on expanding its adult retail clientele by attending numerous international trade shows, offering promos and sales rep tours.

“We currently have a mailing list of about 150 new potential customers to whom we are about to send an Orgie presentation set with an intro letter and samples sachets, new customers that reach us through our website and advertisements in B2B magazines,” Shaw said.

To reach new consumers, Shaw says Orgie has partnered with Alexander Institute to give new customers a gift card for the unlimited viewing of a “Loving Sex” series episode.

“We are enthusiastic and it will all start right in January with the launch of new Orgie and Orgie Bio products,” Shaw said. “Our main goal in 2020 is to reach the U.S. market and we are pleased to break the news here that we have just signed a contract with a U.S. distributor who will officially launch Orgie and Orgie Bio during the XBIZ Retreat.”

On top of partnering with more retailers in 2020, FemTech also is ramping up on its charitable efforts.

“We're excited to implement our 'Buy one; Give one' program,” Dahl said. “Every purchase of My V. puff will provide menstrual products for indigent women and girls living in the U.S. We are also in the process of creating a non-profit foundation for survivors of sexual assault. Our goal is to develop training programs and a standard protocol for police, first responders, hospital staff and press.”

In the New Year, Ohnut is setting out to inspire more conversations about overcoming painful sex.

“Without any ability to advertise, we’re sold in 40 countries,” Sauer said. “Ohnut has been smuggled (so we’ve been told) into countries that don’t allow sex products, and we constantly receive orders where people pay as much for ‘overnight shipping’ as they do for the product. People even bring Ohnut into their doctor’s office to spark conversation about painful sex. From day one, we’ve put a tremendous amount of energy into building a brand that feels like a friend who you can trust.

Our goal is to bring conversations about sexual wellness into spaces where people want to talk about sex, but might be too ashamed to do so.”

Regarding new products, Sauer noted, “Ohnut was designed to be modular for a reason. Keep an eye out for add-ons.”

Much like in 2019, pleasure product companies are devising plans to overcome the challenges of social media.

“Our plan is to promote our company through specialized magazines, podcasts, blogs and via influencers — basically, everywhere we can,” Jay said. “2020 is, for us, ‘the’ year! Our main goal is to have a successful crowd-funding campaign, which starts in February on”

After a year of listening to customers’ and retailers’ feedback, Elixir Play has created a line that takes it all into consideration.

“We learned a lot from our first product and are super excited about launching this range,” Pack said. “Our goals are to reach 20,000 women around the world and to cement our relationships with our distributors and retailers. XBIZ Retreat will give us the opportunity to meet with customers that we haven’t engaged with and we are so excited about this new opportunity to partner.

“We are going to work closely with our distributors and retailers to ensure they are equipped with materials and information to sell direct to consumers,” Pack added. “We are re-launching our social campaign and looking at new influencers outside the industry to help reach new customers. Our ability to work with healthcare professionals also provides another channel, which we are going to continue to develop.”

To sidestep the obstacles of social media advertising, Amor Oral says it is hitting the pavement and making appearances to meet with customers face-to-face. In the New Year, Amor Oral also is setting its sights on the global market.

“There are a few smart plans that we have laid out to meet our goals in 2020, both in the U.S. and abroad,” Johnson said. “Since we are still a young brand, we did not have distribution internationally last year, and so we had to decline business from retailers abroad. This is something that we are correcting for 2020. So we are actively seeking brokers and distributors in Europe and Australia for our large portfolio of flavored lubes — 66 flavors and counting.”

In 2019, plusOne established itself with rapidly expanding distribution, and in the New Year, Trachtenberg says that the company will continue to invest heavily in digital marketing through brand and media partnerships, as well as influencers.

“This first year we laid the foundation, and the base of this foundation grows stronger as we expand our distribution,” she said. “In 2020, we expect to see strong sales growth.”

HighOnLove aims to continue to redefine the intimate cosmetics category with luxurious products that empower women to embrace their sensual side. According to Mustone, the company will be expanding its offerings in 2020.

“We would like to see the growth of our brand with more collaboration and product launches to offer to consumers, which would help increase our brand identity in the CBD sexual wellness industry,” she said, while also noting a personal goal of hers: “I would also like to be positioned as a notable leader, empowering women to explore their sensuality and break barriers tied to love and troubles in the bedroom.”

O’Bryan stepped out as the founder of her new private labeling company last year and focused on establishing and defining the company.

“In 2020, my goal is visibility and growth,” O’Bryan said. “I want to be the individual/company that businesses contact when they are considering private label, and for those who have been burnt in the past but realize that having their own brand is the future. The goal is to build long-term and meaningful partnerships by focusing on the customer experience, streamlining and educating businesses on the private-label process and achieving joint success.”

Although we’re just learning about these up-and-coming pleasure products brands, the fact that they made it onto the radars of retailers and consumers is a major accomplishment in and of itself.

“I think taking a concept from start to finish — from drawings, design, manufacturing, retail etc. — has been so incredibly rewarding,”

Pack said. “I really believe in what my company stands for and am excited to share this with more women around the world.”

As with many industry newcomers, Johnson says that the welcoming and open community within the pleasure products industry blew him away. The immediately warm reception was made official with industry recognition.

“The fact that [Amor Oral] has been nominated for two awards from XBIZ is amazing,” Johnson said. “Beyond that, as a disabled veteran-owned start-up, we won the 2019 Veteran Business Battle in April, proving that people are open to accepting businesses, products and industries that were once too taboo for mainstream. But, I think the greatest accomplishment for us has been the amount of repeat consumers that have come back to buy from Amor Oral so often!”

Although the ultimate goal of any new pleasure company startup is retail success, there’s no denying the satisfaction of seeing one’s own unique concepts come to life.

“There’s a lot we can be proud of in the short time that we’ve been around, but if I had to pick one thing, I would say that our greatest accomplishment is getting to do things our way,” Huang said. “Each and every product we’ve put out in the market is the result of our collective dedication and effort. And I can honestly say that I’m very satisfied with our design, our quality, and our innovation.”

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