There were also goofy Crustache creations by Fred & Friends, which, in an odd echo of the fake-mustache fad, make it possible to create food resembling facial hair. And Holstein Housewares unveiled a line of pastel-colored machines that produce miniature versions of whoopie pies, brownies and waffles.
Jake tried them all and then promptly ran a frosting-fueled 100-yard dash. (His foot was apparently healed by a sugar rush.)
Zoku, a Hoboken, N.J., company, offered a line of sleek, colorful ice-pop makers that can produce a Popsicle-like treat in less than 10 minutes, an advance the company’s co-founder Yos Kumthampinij described in historic terms.
“We saw the ice pop, and saw it hadn’t changed in hundreds of years,” he said. “And we were, like, how can we make it cool? And how can we make it fast?”
Kumthampinij and his business partner, Ken Zorovich, were just a couple of the many young inventors at the show. Another was Daniel Russo, who had combined a variety of shopping requirements — list, pen, coupon clip — into a single magnetized bag that sticks to the fridge. (Just take the groceries out first.)
Rita Floyd-Vester was responsible for the Solvetta neoprene lunchboxes, which won an innovation award at the show. Floyd-Vester, a teacher, said she hit upon the idea for the pyramid-shaped container after watching the madness that is your average school cafeteria. Her solution was a floppy zipped bag that folds out into a place mat, minimizing the spread of germy detritus.
I would have bought it for Jake on the spot (he liked the camouflage version), but it is still in production.
Along similar lines, a company called 3 Green Moms, founded by, you guessed it, three mothers, was looking for child-related solutions when it hit on the idea for Lunchskins: reusable sandwich bags that any budding environmentalist would appreciate. For artsier parents, there were compact and colorful bento boxes, complete with silverware and sauce containers, from Monbento, a French company.
It was far from the only international group trying to make a move in Chicago, something I decided to use as a teachable geography moment.
We found cool globes from Tecnodidattica, an Italian company; sleek salad bowls from Koziol, from Germany; and a variety of beverage appurtenances from Koala, a Spanish startup.
The lesson extended outside Europe when we met Dumile Ndlovu and Tigere Chiriga, who grew up together in Zimbabwe before starting a company around their so-called “floating mug,” which Chiriga said was inspired by the sight of a banana holder — and coffee stains on the couch.
“My wife was yelling at me,” he said. His solution? A mug suspended above a reservoir that catches drips.
Jake decided to test the theory with some water, and sure enough, no spillage.
“I get it,” he said, thinking it through. “It goes down the side, but there’s never enough to go over the edge.”
That’s right, kiddo, you nailed it.