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Takealong Containers

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A New Style For Picnics

by Micah Cheek

We’re finally approaching spring, and consumers are getting outside and shaking the cold off. Picnics are an affordable and fun entertainment option for the season, and developers are moving to serve the growing market of Millenials headed outdoors.

Igloo made a splash with the Daytripper line the company introduced at last year’s International Housewares Show, and the response was strong enough the product was actually released early. “The Daytripper sparked out of a design language meeting we had a year and a half ago, when we started to look at who our consumer is and how they live,” says Lisa Hayashi, Director of Brands, Igloo. “We have a customer segment called the ‘Downtowners.’ Female-centric, fun-loving, she buys for her or them, she likes to entertain, and her primary focus is urban exploration.” Igloo started developing designs that would accommodate these young professionals.

DayTripper for webThe growing interest in urban exploration is in part due to these Downtowners looking for events or gathering places that are more active and less expensive. “Even if you’re going to go out and find something that’s less expensive, there’s still ways to pack up nice food and have a great experience,” says Hayashi. “We’re not going out to fancy dinners all the time, but maybe we’re finding ways to gather outside while creating memories.” This sentiment was reflected in product testing. The line resonated with customers who were looking to try something new. “We did some fun events with REI-sponsored Outessa this summer, and this event was designed to get women out there and try guided experiences. We tought women how to pack out the Daytripper with nicely curated food and drinks,” says Hayashi. “Every class was packed. It was exciting to be with like-minded women who love great food, drinks and the outdoors.”

During research, Hayashi was able to identify some changes in direction they needed to take. More traditional picnic and travel sets were often large and cumbersome. Their functionality was often compromised by being overloaded with added tools and accessories. For the Daytripper, Igloo tried to bring it back to basics. “Our pack-ins were very conscious. We selected for quality. We did research to take out pack-ins that people wouldn’t necessarily find helpful,” says Hayashi. “When you turn the backpack around, there’s spaces for carabiners, a bottle opener and there’s support for lumbar support when you’re carrying around your goods. I am a pretty small person, and I have zero trouble using this bag.”

The Daytripper Tote is designed to hold snacks for two to four people, and comes with a cutting board, cheese knives, corkscrew and fold-out tray. The larger Backpack has more storage space along with the cutting board, cheese knives and corkscrew. Both are made in charcoal grey with orange accents.

French Bull Unveils Holiday Collection

French Bull has debuted its first holiday collection, a natural extension of the celebratory lifestyle brand’s LIVE VIVID® attitude. The collection FrenchBullcomes packaged with dangling ornaments and gift tags, ready for gifting. The festive mix includes a Cookie Platter for Santa, a four piece dessert plate set in the brand’s cheery Dotty Tree pattern, four neatly wrapped spreaders in a candy-cane pattern and a set of two nesting storage containers in a merry ornament-inspired pattern for treats and left overs.

Jackie Shapiro says, “My favorites are the candy cane spreaders because of the sparkling dangling ornament around the set of four. Since nobody remembers who brought the wine, I think our customers will make a lasting impression with whomever they celebrate the season, and they will make fantastic stocking stuffers.”

Charleston Basket from Picnic Time

300-92-187-000-0_h1The Charleston Basket from Picnic Time is the essential picnic basket. It includes everything AND the kitchen sink. For service for four, the basket has beautiful porcelain plates and stemless glasses. The set also includes a full-sized wooden serving tray, as well as a blanket to sit on. Included is our Made-in America festival blanket that features a wide array of colorful patters for style and comfort. Also included are an insulated wine tote and food cooler to keep food and drinks at the perfect temperature. With its premium 18/10 stainless steel flatware and paddle cheese board and cheese knife, this is a truly functional basket. You’ll be having the perfect picnic for years to come.

For more information, call Picnic Time at 805.529.7400.

Product Review: Trudeau’s FUEL Collection

By Micah Cheek

In the spirit of avoiding a sad desk lunch, I packed a lunch using some items from the FUEL Collection, a lunch carrier set from Trudeau.

FuelI prepared a red pepper salad for lunch, along with pecans and chips, the most fragile snack I could think of. The red pepper salad went in the egg-shaped Stainless Steel Food Jar, which proved to be very leak resistant and kept my salad cold. The rounded edges make it attention grabbing, especially at a desk during lunch. The steel interior made cleanup easy. Additionally, the bare metal you see when you open the bowl matches nicely with the set’s color scheme. The Stainless Steel Food Jar has a suggested retail price of $24.99.

My chips went into an included Snack Pocket made of the same material as the main lunch bag. The Pockets have a suggested retail price of $12.99 for a two pocket set. The bag looks flat, but against all odds, my chips remained intact.

Fuel1The Condiment Set features little condiment jars made to look like miniatures of the Stainless Steel Food Jar. I used one to hold vinaigrette for my salad. It performed admirably, not letting any oil seep into my lunch bag during transit. While it holds runny liquids like vinaigrette well, the Condiment Set is also sized to hold a sandwich-perfect portion of mustard or mayonnaise. You wouldn’t guess just by looking, but the FUEL Collection cutlery fits perfectly into the condiment jars, making products like jam and hummus an easy option. The Condiment Set comes in sets of three jars, and has a suggested retail price of $5.99.

A water bottle is also available for the collection. It only holds 15 ounces of fluid, but it is sturdily built and easily cleaned. The spout is wide enough that it could be effectively used for smoothies or unfiltered juices. The spout is also in a straw setup, with a flexible tip that won’t hurt your teeth if you bite it. Called the Splash Bottle, this bottle retails for $9.99.

Fuel4All the separate parts of the collection fit snugly into the Classic Bag, which has a papery plastic outside reminiscent of a brown paper bag, and a thermally insulated plastic layer inside. The bag follows a muted color pattern, centered around sage green, eggshell white and charcoal gray.

For someone who frequents the convenience store hot dog bar as often as I do, eating a real meal with color-coordinated containers is a refreshing experience. I think I enjoyed my meal more than I would have if I had packed it in a disposable plastic bag. The only thing I didn’t like about the aesthetic was the Snap Cutlery Set. While it worked perfectly well and was color coordinated, the proportions of the fork and spoon make them look like the entry-level silverware for toddlers. That said, their small size allowed them to fit into the bag efficiently with everything else. The Snap Cutlery Set retails for $5.99.

The use of Velcro strips to hold the Classic Bag and Snack Pocket closed was an interesting move away from the usual zipper sealing closures. My main concern with it was in washing out the bag, with the possibility of water getting trapped in the strip’s fibers. With hand washing, the bags cleaned up easily, and pressing a cloth into the Velcro fibers is effective at drying them out. The bags can be turned inside out, but I found it unnecessary for cleaning up dry snack residue. Unlike more traditional bags, the Classic Bag does not seal horizontally along the top. Two long strips of Velcro are laid out vertically along opposing sides of the bag. To seal, I rolled the top down so that one strip of Velcro comes in contact with the other, closing up just like an old-fashioned brown paper bag. It’s a system I haven’t seen in other lunch containers and is surprisingly effective. Even though most of the bag’s mouth isn’t held together, the rolling action that seals it is surprisingly strong, which allowed me to turn the full bag upside down and shake it without the Velcro coming loose.

Price may be a concern for some consumers. The full retail value of this entire lunch set is about $60, although the pieces are sold separately. However, the set looks composed yet casual, seals very well and is sturdy. All FUEL products are BPA-free as well and include a lifetime warranty. Many are available in Kiwi and Raspberry colors. This set is perfect for the customer who is willing to spend a little extra to have a lunch tote that will impress daily and last a long time or who’s picking and choosing specific containers to meet individual needs rather than splurging on the entire set at once.  

Product Review: Not Just for Sack Lunches – U-Konserve To-Go Containers

By Lorrie Baumann

The camping trip I took to Grand Canyon in March didn’t exactly go as planned. Between the trip to the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago followed immediately by three days in Anaheim, California for Natural Products Expo West and then coming back to the office to send the April issue of Kitchenware News & Housewares Review to print, I didn’t have a whole lot of time for last-minute packing, so when the Saturday morning that started my vacation week came along, I more or less threw my tent and sleeping bag, my campstove and cook pots and my new Lodge dutch oven and a lawn chair into the trunk of my car, and then I packed into my insulated picnic bag a week’s worth of frozen chicken thighs and some foil-wrapped turkey burgers and headed north.

By the time I got to Phoenix, I remembered that although I had the dutch oven, the charcoal and the fire starters and the foil-wrapped food to put in the dutch oven, I’d forgotten my tongs for arranging the coals around the oven. Fortunately, Phoenix has hardware stores, and I found one. Between Phoenix and Flagstaff, I remembered that I was also going to need an oven mitt because the dutch oven was going to be hot coming out of the fire pit.

It wasn’t until I had checked into my campsite at Mather Campground that I reconsidered my ill-advised choice to leave my hard-sided cooler behind once I’d seen how much food actually fit into the insulated picnic bag. Mather Campground is, well, infested is a harsh word, but it fits, so let’s use it. Mather Campground is infested with ravens who seem to enjoy nothing more than vandalizing the campsites of novices who are so foolish as to hang trash bags from the trees or leave their food supply outside in soft picnic coolers. I left my picnic bag in my car for a quick trip to the Canyon Village Market and General Store, where I bought a hard-sided cooler I could leave under my picnic table. And a bag of ice.

After these initial missteps, I had a wonderful week in Grand Canyon National Park, but now everybody I know has seen all the pictures they can stand of the scenery, the elk, the ravens and the squirrels, so I am going back to Grand Canyon later this month to get some new shots. This time, I am going to the North Rim, which is rather less developed than the South Rim, and I am determined to be rather less casual about the preparations.

This is why last weekend I bought four U-Konserve Medium To-Go Containers and two U-Konserve Large To-Go Containers. This time around, I plan once again to apply my preferred strategy of preparing and freezing my dinner choices ahead of time and then loading them into an ice chest to thaw slowly but stay chilled until time to cook them. Last time, I packaged everything up in double layers of aluminum foil, but as I was making those daily walks up to the trash receptacle to keep that foil out of the beaks of the pesky ravens, I was rather appalled at how much of it there was. I wanted a better solution – a way to freeze food and then cook it either over the campstove or in the dutch oven in the same container, but without wasting all that foil.

I want to be able to cook and eat out of the same container because Grand Canyon is, after all, in the midst of a desert, and water must be conserved. Every drop of water used by 5 million visitors to the South Rim each year comes from Roaring Springs, across the Colorado River on the north side of the canyon. It is transported through the Trans-Canyon Pipeline, which travels for 16 miles along the North Rim, across the Colorado River and then up the South Rim. Completed in 1970, the aluminum pipeline is well beyond its 30-year life expectancy, and the estimated cost to replace it is around $150 million. The water is precious, and my share of it will have to be hauled from a communal spigot to my campsite in whatever container I buy to replace the one the ravens pecked the hole in during my March trip. (I’m pretty sure that was just sheer petty revenge because I didn’t leave all that foil lying around for them to shred all over the campsite.) All of those considerations made stainless steel food containers an obvious choice.

DSC_3402Of the available options, the U-Konserve containers looked like the best sizes for what I had in mind. Sticking to my goal of being better prepared this time, I tested the containers at home in my back yard before committing to taking them to Grand Canyon with me. I had a few questions to answer: Would these containers actually work as pots on my butane camp stove? These containers claim to be leakproof, but are they really? And will the medium container hold enough for a full meal, or will I need to invest in more of the larger size? How will these containers fit into my dutch oven? And finally, are these containers worth the price, because stainless steel is not cheap?

To answer the first three questions, I went the easy route and just opened a can of Campbell’s soup and dumped it into one of the Medium To-Go Containers and sealed it with the plastic lid. The lids are heavy BPA-free plastic that snap down firmly but without particular difficulty and open easily too. I picked up the container and sloshed it around a bit, then held it upside down and shook it a few times, then did it all again. When I set it back down, I could see that the soup seemed to have crept up into the seal on the inside of the container, but none of it had leaked out. I put the soup-filled container into the freezer and froze it solid. When I took it back out of the freezer, the lid needed only a few seconds to warm before it was willing to flex enough to come off the container – or maybe that was my hands were cold from handling the frozen steel – but then it peeled off easily without showing any signs of brittleness. If I should lose a lid somewhere, I can replace it by ordering it directly from U-Konserve through the company’s website.

It was then that it occurred to me that it had been totally unnecessary to freeze the actual soup I was then planning to eat – I could have done the exact same test by freezing a block of water, which I could have made good use of by emptying it out of the container onto my garden, so in the interests of having dinner on the same day, I decided to put that container of soup back in the refrigerator to thaw for another day, and I opened another can of soup and dumped it into another of the containers for the second phase of the experiment, which was the cooking test over the butane camp stove. Here, once again, the container performed flawlessly. About all you can ask for from stainless steel is efficient and even heat conduction, and what you want from a camping pot is that it sits stable on your stove, holds a reasonable amount of food and doesn’t make you feel like too much of a dork when you’re eating from it. All good here.

DSC_3401Then for the final phase of the experiment, I lit some charcoal and fetched out the dutch oven for a dump cake trial. This actually took me two tries, with one attempt with the container set directly onto the floor of the dutch oven and then a second attempt with the container set on a rack inside the dutch oven. Both times, I made the dump cake with half a can of apple pie filling, a quarter of a chocolate cake mix and half a stick of butter. On the first attempt, the cake mix on top hadn’t cooked thoroughly before the pie filling on the bottom had caramelized and began sticking to the pan. For the second try on the rack, I baked it an extra five minutes or so, and it came out perfectly. For the record, that’s 40 minutes with 13 coals underneath and nine coals on top of the dutch oven.

So, all things considered, my only question now is whether I really have enough of these extremely useful containers. They were easy to label with a Crayola washable marker on the side, and they’re versatile and sturdy enough to justify the price tag. I feel more prepared for Grand Canyon now.

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