A surging interest in outdoor activities has sparked one brand to venture beyond the general consumer marketplace and target a more niche audience—one that would rather cook at a campsite than in a kitchen.
OXO, known for a variety of kitchen utensils, office supplies, and housewares sold in stores like Target and Walmart, on Tuesday announced the launch of OXO Outdoor. The brand will feature 10 curated outdoor cooking and cleaning products, all sold exclusively at REI Co-op beginning this month and for the next two years. Once that two-year agreement has ended, OXO said there is “potential to expand to additional retail partnerships in the future.”
OXO is part of the Housewares division of Helen of Troy Ltd., the publicly traded company that also owns insulated bottle brand Hydro Flask.
Launching another outdoor product line makes sense given Helen of Troy’s recent quarterly performance. The company reported sales for its Housewares segment grew 12.1 percent to $162.5 million in the fiscal fourth quarter, adding that Hydro Flask is expected to “benefit further as the post-pandemic landscape takes shape.”
Now OXO hopes to find similar success in that landscape alongside its portfolio mate. OXO Outdoor is launching with a utensil set, grilling set, can and bottle opener, squeeze bottle set, cutting board, and cleaning brushes. Products coming soon include a French press, chef’s knife, and griddle turner.
“At OXO, we’re always searching for ways to make consumers’ lives better,” said Larry Witt, president of Helen of Troy Housewares. “Our research showed that outdoor-focused consumers were not provided access to high-quality, functional cooking tools designed for the outdoors, and as a result, many used worn or retired tools from their homes. OXO is creating better gear for better outdoor cooking and cleaning experiences, uniquely framed for campers and their needs. The creation of the new OXO Outdoor line has broad and exciting implications for our brand—new challenges to tackle, new experiences to improve—another proof point of OXO making every day better.”
OXO: “The best of the indoors, outside”
The camp kitchen category is a crowded one, and OXO is joining such outdoor stalwarts as GSI Outdoors, MSR, Sea to Summit, Snow Peak, and others. But REI sees room on the shelf for the newcomer as demand for outdoor kitchen products continues to spike alongside demand for camping, backpacking, and RVing goods.
“As more people turn to the outdoors to reconnect and unwind with friends and family, we recognize the importance of offering products to help them elevate their experience,” said Melissa Paul, REI senior merchandising category manager. “We’re thrilled to offer the OXO Outdoor collection to our customers first, and we are excited for what’s next as we work together to solve a unique challenge in the camp space. It makes a lot of sense for us to partner with brands like OXO, already known for designing great kitchen tools, to help us bring the best of the indoors outside.”
Being a sister brand to Hydro Flask and launching a camp kitchen line aren’t OXO’s only connections to the outdoors. The brand said it “began to prioritize the outdoors in March 2020” when it joined 1% for the Planet. Through the nonprofit, OXO pledged to donate 1 percent of annual sales to a variety of environmental causes.
Courtney Gearhart, an REI spokesperson, told Outside Business Journal that OXO’s partnership with 1% for the Planet wasn’t a factor in bringing aboard the new brand. Instead, she said the Co-op is eager to bring a curated collection of kitchen tools to a new audience while gaining insights into how these consumers use the products on adventures ranging from overnight car camping trips to extended backpacking treks.
According to a press release, “REI and OXO will continue to share insights on customer needs to improve the outdoor kitchen experience and intend to develop and roll out a thoughtful assortment of new, innovative tools for year two and beyond. Product development insights gleaned from REI’s co-op community of camping enthusiasts help to identify opportunities for better outdoor cooking tools and experiences through focus groups and rounds of hands-on testing at campsites.”
Added Gearhart, “We are most excited about where this collaboration can go and being able to blend our activity knowledge and access to customer insights with their problem-solving and design approach.”