Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the four new product ideas for use of coarse New Zealand wool that Fahrenheit 212 has come up with is that, as such, the core ideas aren’t new.
F212 (see earlier blog here about the company’s success fee based model) have, however, reworked 14 coarse wool products (neps, noils, batts being some of them) sent to the New York headquartered, Kiwi headed product innovation company.
F212 has outlined, and demonstrated, four mostly coarse wool based materials, that reconfigure some of those 14 wool products in a baby, an apparel, a bedding and a cosmetic application. All participants in the ‘show and tell’ held in both Christchurch and Auckland have signed a non-disclosure-agreement, so that’s as much detail as can be divulged at this stage.
For F212 it has been a case of firstly understanding the drivers and motivations of buyers in these different market segments. For example, driven strongly through blogging, American mum’s almost overnight became totally put off EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam in their babies mattresses because it has formaldehyde in it. The association of synthetic fleece with oil is another reason F212 perceives that wool can easily be the best possible material for contact with babies.
The apparel proposition is a way to provide a layering (and hence warmth) effect without layers, while the sleep-oriented wool product is to provide what F212 calls body responsive bedding that enables users to have a more restorative and deeper stage of slumber. In the USA alone, consumers spend US$23 billion a year on functional solutions for a better night’s sleep – so there is obviously a demand for what ails many people.
The cosmetics use for wool is perhaps the most intriguing and left field. To say anything more would be to give away too much information on a promising value proposition – to say the very least if the idea comes off.
But first, F212 must pull together what will probably need to be a number of industry participants to manufacture the four new products.
F212’s managing director, Timaru-raised Geoff Vuleta envisages that the four licenced wool-products will be bulk-manufactured, and other manufacturers would use the products to sell to consumers. There were a number of value propositions already inherent in these products that should command a market premium Vuleta says – much like Goretex, used by many manufacturers under licence.
The products’ manufacture could, ideally, take place in New Zealand. But, scaling up and taking to market new uses for wool is even more important. By retaining the ownership of the idea’s intellectual property, NZ coarse wool would have a new strategy that’s completely unrelated to its current main use of carpets.
Vuleta described the four new ideas as being a re-purposing of the values inherenet in wool as a natural resource. He’s going to have to hold a fair-few hands to get any, and hopefully all, of the four branded materials off the ground as consumer products.
When he and the industry do make these concepts commercially concrete (lets be optimists here), coarse wool will join its sexier merino cousin in moving beyond a commodity. Instead, it will become a sought after natural resource, and in doing so, command a greater price and premium. Which will be a great outcome for a wool consortium that’s taken a different, brave, tack to looking at ways to use at least 10% of the coarse wool clip in new, value adding ways.
Can’t happen soon enough really.