BURBANK, Calif. — Pleasure product creators came out of holiday hibernation to kick-start the new year at the January 2017 Adult Novelty Manufacturer's Expo.
The winter show had just the right mix of familiar favorites and novel creations. A sunny So-Cal Saturday opened the doors for sales staff and buyers to shake off the winter vacation blues. “The January show is a great way to get back into the work groove,” says May Chan, sales executive at Maia Toys. “We love returning to ANME to get back into the swing of things with our industry friends.”
The smell of cannabis was in the air for lotion and lubricant companies. If the recent election got anything right, it was the legalization of recreational marijuana sales in California and a few other fellow states. Earthly Body, Sensuva, and Body Action Products capitalized on the popularity of pot and added CBD, cannabis sativa seed, and hemp oils into their latest offerings. “The government is trying to make CBD illegal, but it's never going to pass,” says Body Action Products' account executive Mike Danko.
As Big Pharma standards like benzocaine become less popular with educated consumers, natural extracts from the hemp family are turning up in body products to relax the muscles. CBD and hemp-infused anal relaxer and climax creams promising better orgasms and more comfortable sex were Danko's stand-out offerings. Earlthy Body showcased an entire catalog of hemp seed shave creams, oils and body products. Sales manager Georgene Smith Goodin's meeting table was lit up and perfumed with their Summer 2017 Candle Collection, a trio of massage oil candles choked full of moisturizing hemp seed.
Even the typically pink-outfitted Sensuva booth cast shades of green this winter. The popular ON brand added a hemp oil arousal cream, and a new line, Provacatife, touted hemp oil and pheromones in body butter, shave creams and lotions.
Eye-catching spring pastels dotted toy company booths. BMS Factory, Clone-A-Willy, and We-Vibe showcased light-hued new additions in body-safe silicone. We-Vibe account executive Jennifer Brice demonstrated a soft, stone-shaped vibrator, outfitted in a sky blue exterior. The vibe's squishy texture rumbled with double motors and responded to a strong squeeze by changing from a localized buzz to a more broad sensation. “There are two Tango motors inside of our new Wish vibrator,” says Brice. “The deep, powerful vibrations come from the Tungsten metal lining the inner core.”
BMS Factory rolled out traditional baby blues and pinks accented with crystal power buttons for their distinctly feminine Pillow Talk line. BMS's colorful headliner, Commotion, added a unique touch to rabbit-style toys: individual beads that bounce up and down the vibrator's shaft, giving users the kind of solo experience that only a sex toy can provide.
Adding a touch of realism to today's techy sex toys, Clone-A-Willy returned with a modern look and funky color options for their ever-popular penis vibrator molding kit. If beige skin colors aren't your bag, the Clone-A-Willy and new Clone-A-Pussy come in neon shades of pink, blue, and purple. “I can remember buying an old Clone-A-Willy kit from a second-hand shop, and I actually thought it was an antique,” says Marketing Manager Victoria Ashley. “We've since updated our packaging and colors to reflect a more fun, approachable take on our toy-making kits.”
Shots Media's booth held the answer to toy industry staples, breathing new life into common designs and fixing nagging consumer issues with old favorites. Shots is quickly becoming a top industry name with a fairly new combination to the business: luxury quality, inside and out, at moderate prices. Shots has already patented its Advanced Silicone Flex Technology, which replaces hard, breakable ABS plastic interiors with silicone-encased motors and wires. Their Jil line flexes more than a Stretch Armstrong figure, meaning no more awkward angles for different body types or broken toys from vigorous play.
“We are always looking for innovation in the way products are made and designed,” says Shots CEO Ruben Deitz. “We take aspects of the medical side and apply it to the adult side. We like to break the mold and test different technologies.” For Deitz, it's all about a better experience at every level of the sales process. “Our patented technology means less defects and less returns,” he said.
Classic favorites held a strong presence and emerged into new markets with support from diverse sources. Innovation and new tech might be the latest buzzing topics in toys, but some companies know it's best not to fix what isn't broken. Uberlube has showcased a singular product year after year, and they see no need to overshadow their acclaimed silicone lubricant just to fill shelves.
The company is gaining popularity with medical professionals as wellness educators and MDs sing the praises of Uberlube's little clear bottle of healthy moisture. “You can even use it to smooth your hair, and athletes often use it to prevent chaffing and irritation,” says Uberlube account executive John Epler.
On the kinkier side, CB-X and L.A. Pump returned with their signature plastics and a refreshing attitude to niche fetishes. “A lot of consumers get really freaked out by male chastity devices,” says CB-X co-owner Nikki Yates. “Once we started adding point-of-sale displays with a beginner's guide to getting started in chastity play, our sales skyrocketed and couples of all kinds saw that chastity isn't painful or scary.”
CB-X's traditional designs are accented with specialty finishes, like camouflage and wood grain, and the company offers add-on products to custom fit all male members. L.A. Pump brought back their best-selling, sturdy enlargement devices, and General Manager Chris Kalev believes there's a pump for every body. “We have smaller cylinders for our pumps that are sized to fit transgender men,” says Kalev. “We created this specific size because we wanted trans men to have a pump that would allow them to feel confident and masculine, just like any other man using a pump.”
The recent election cast a unique tension over the trade show floor. Talk of the future of sexuality was a popular topic as news of Republican backlash against the pleasure industry was pondered. “We all need to stick together and fight together,” says Spartacus Leathers sales executive Albert Koftikian. “In the beginning, all of the companies stuck together to fight against lawsuits and bans. We can't win if we don't come together again.” Organizations like the Woodhull Freedom Foundation are going to bat for human sexual rights with the aid of sex educators like Nina Hartley and forward-focused manufacturers like b-Vibe and Tantus. Julie Gillis, Woodhull's Sexual Freedom Evangelist, believes we're in a time when supporting open sexuality is critical. “Our bodies all matter, and when we don't take care of our rights to our own bodies, we miss out” says Gillis. “Everyone has a story about searching and having desires and wanting connection. It's a core part of being human.”
Whatever political route the new year may take, the pleasure industry is determined to continue breaking new ground for those that need it most. Educator and LGBTQ activist Buck Angel was often spotted at the Woodhull booth in-between promoting his new sex toy, the Buck-Off, an original sex toy created for transgender men through the team at Perfect Fit Brand. “When I was first pitching this toy, no one thought there would be a market for it,” says Angel. “But now it's a huge hit for Steve at Perfect Fit, and it's giving trans men the visibility and sexual recognition they deserve.”
As another ANME comes to a close, the theme of the weekend appears to be all about more options for all: more love, more inclusion, more acceptance, and more toys for under the bed.