The selection of materials in product development impacts consumer comfort and safety, manufacturing processes and measurable sustainability goals, experts from Material ConneXion (MCX) advised during a session of IHA’s Connect SPRING.
MCX is a global agency that advises manufacturers, brands and retailers on materials selections for specific applications, discussed how innovative materials can inspire new directions for housewares suppliers.
Tom Mirabile, founder of Springboard Futures and consumer trend analyst for IHA and, Allison Zisko, HFN editor-in-chief led the Connect SPRING discussion with Material ConneXion (MCX) executives Dr. Andrew Dent, executive vice president of research, and Dr. Gayatri Keskar, vice president of research. The group also announced a micro-series to debut soon — a collaboration of IHA, MCX and HFN that will provide information and inspiration on material innovation to the housewares industry.
Dent explained that MCX works with clients in all industries and product categories to help brands solve problems with their existing products and guide them in exploring possibilities for new products. “As a resource partner to brands in fashion, architecture, furnishings, automotive, electronics and consumer products, we educate our clients with our library of 10,000 materials in physical samples and our online database,” he said.
The MCX global team of researchers identifies providers of materials to submit 20 to 40 new items from several industries each month for evaluation and selection based on such factors as quality, innovation, multiple applications and sustainability.
“Our 20 years of experience has shown that cross-pollination of ideas among industries delivers benefits and exciting new possibilities,” Dent continued. “We can show you unfamiliar materials used in other areas that could work for your needs.”
Mirabile asked why companies come to MCX. “They may need a material that can sustain a certain temperature range, can be used in a dishwasher or microwave, injection molds well or is transparent,” Dent replied. “Or perhaps they want to investigate new trends in sustainability.”
Keskar added, “Other clients are doing their due diligence and need to verify that their in-house research has no gaps. Since we are industry-agnostic, we can expand their conventional research model to look outside their usual supply chain; we can provide a more comprehensive overview of their space.”
Mirabile asked how materials could be a point of differentiation in the housewares market. Keskar replied, “Since our library includes materials that range from in-development, ready-to-deploy and commercially available, an early adopter can access technology to work with the manufacturers to optimize the material to their own needs and be first to market.”
What kind of consumer problems are being solved now? Sustainability has moved front and center alongside price, performance and appearance as the main drivers, Dent said.
“Sustainability has become a total viewpoint on how to make an item more efficient and more enjoyable, he said. “Now it’s the general perception of a product, its performance and how you feel about the product, use it and dispose of it.”
“We focus on quantifiable (sustainability) attributes: low carbon footprint, 100% recyclable or recycled materials, every drop of water in your manufacturing process is clean inbound and outbound,” Dent continued. “Such terms are marketable competitive advantages. Consumers must be well-informed on the benefits and overall footprint of the product.”
While circularity has become a very popular word in the sustainability discussion, Dent reminded that there is no product or process that is fully circular, and there is always some impact and waste.
Zisko asked if MCX helps companies prioritize sustainability goals. If a housewares company can consider one thing, she asked, what would it be?
“Determine the one thing you do that has the largest impact— water or energy use or waste produced. Concentrate on that. Chipping away at many things can’t achieve much. Solve one large impact first,” Dent advised.
The MCX executives introduced several new materials in several of the following five trends:
- Experiential materials
- Plant forward solutions
- Waste is the new black
- Manufacturing of Tomorrow.