Nick Mowbray, CEO of ZURU, discusses innovation, growing market share in the blaster category, sustainability, and more in this extended edition of The Toy Book’s 2023 State of the Industry Q&A roundtable. Want more insight from the all-stars of the toy industry? Click here to explore this year’s lineup!

5 Surprise Disney Store Mini Brands Series 2 | Source: ZURU

The Toy Book: Mini Brands continues to be popular with kids and collectors. How does ZURU plan to keep that momentum going this year?

Nick Mowbray: Mini Brands had another record year in 2022 and we expect the momentum to continue going into 2023. Bringing newness within our collections is super important, as is upping the level of detail we are bringing with each mini. We have more than 400 new minis launching across 2023. Alongside this, TikTok has been critical in helping engage our fanbase with relevant and trending content, overlaid with the right “hooks.” The platform has now generated close to 6 billion views of Mini Brands content and we expect that to continue.

The X-Shot Skins Griefer blaster comes in 6 unique skins. | Source: ZURU

TB: The blaster category has become increasingly competitive. How is ZURU innovating in that space to grow the X-Shot brand?

NM: X-Shot continues to deliver on its promise of exceptional performance and great value. Last year, we refreshed our core Excel range and launched X-Shot Skins, which was a first in the blaster category and drove share gains across every market X-Shot is currently in. This performance is being recognized by consumers and buyers and in some accounts, X-Shot is now the only blaster brand being carried. In 2023, we will have a record amount of newness coming to market and the team is really upping the game in terms of new innovation and features for this category.

Related: The 2023 Edition of The BIG Toy Book is Here!

TB: Sustainability is a big part of ZURU’s mission. How will those efforts continue in 2023?

NM: Moving our Bunch O Balloons stems sourcing to traceable recycled plastic has seen savings of more than 2,000 tons of virgin plastic from entering the environment every year. We are now rolling this into our biggest brand, 5 Surprise, where all capsules are moving to traceable recycled plastic. This change will also save more than 2,000 tons of virgin plastic from entering the environment. Sustainability is a core pillar of our new product development process and we have more initiatives planned across products, sourcing, and packaging, which will be rolling out in our upcoming ranges.

Puppycorns Bow Surprise | Source: ZURU

TB: Access to hot products at a fair price has been a hot-button issue for independent retailers that lack the buying power of the big boxes. How is ZURU connecting with and supporting those stores?

NM: ZURU will always stand for great innovation and great value for retailers and consumers. This is unlocked through our back-end manufacturing teams and processes that are built out of China, where we have more than 6,000 team members and seven factories there now producing more than 500,000 products every day! We work with many retailers directly, but also offer our ranges through distributors across markets to ensure all retailers get access to our products.

X-Shot Water Fast-Fill Skins Pump Action Blasters | Source: ZURU

TB: How does Toy Fair moving from February to September impact your business, and what’s your take on the trade show shift?

NM: We will be previewing in April and August, so the change to the timing of Toy Fair won’t impact previews for ZURU and our retail partners.

TB: How do you view the state of the industry this year?

NM: 2023 will be a challenging year for many. In such a climate, there is a tendency to pull back on newness and marketing. ZURU’s focus continues to be on bringing new innovations, features, and price points to market across all of our brands.

A version of this Q&A was originally published in the 2023 edition of The BIG Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue! Want to receive The Toy Book in print? Click here for subscription options!

About the author

James Zahn

James Zahn

James Zahn, AKA The Rock Father, is Editor-in-Chief of The Toy Book, a Senior Editor at The Toy Insider and The Pop Insider, and Editor of The Toy Report, The Toy Book‘s weekly industry newsletter. As a pop culture and toy industry expert, Zahn has appeared as a panelist and guest at events including Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC) Wizard World Chicago, and the ASTRA Marketplace & Academy. Zahn has more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment, retail, and publishing industries, and is frequently called upon to offer expert commentary for publications such as Forbes, Marketwatch, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, the Washington Post, and more. James has appeared on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, was interviewed by Larry King and Anderson Cooper, and has been seen on Yahoo! Finance, CNN, CNBC, FOX Business, NBC, ABC, CBS, WGN, The CW, and more. Zahn joined the Adventure Media & Events family in 2016, initially serving as a member of the Parent Advisory Board after penning articles for the Netflix Stream Team, Fandango Family, PBS KIDS, Sprout Parents (now Universal Kids), PopSugar, and Chicago Parent. He eventually joined the company full time as a Senior Editor and moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor and Editor-in-Chief.