Entertaining in the comfort of one’s home has become more popular since the economic downturn. Libbey, the self-proclaimed leading glassware manufacturer in the western hemisphere, offers its customers the latest in drinkware, tabletop items and home décor to set the perfect table for home entertaining, Vice President of Consumer Sales and Marketing Jeff Joyce says. “The economy has been challenging and many consumers have had to change their spending habits,” he adds. “Many consumers now want to create an entertainment experience at home. We try to understand what is happening in the market and put a huge emphasis on product development to meet emerging trends. Newness is very important to the consumer.”

The Toledo, Ohio–based company works to stay ahead of the latest trends by attending international trade shows and working collaboratively with its foodservice and retail customers. “There is a lot of sharing and idea generation between Libbey’s global designers to identify what trends are occurring,” Joyce explains. “Therefore, we have to be able to respond to changes that are in the consumers’ interest on a regional and global basis.” 

Creative Director Robert Zollweg says the home entertaining trend began years ago with cooking shows and escalated even more through social media. “People can easily teach themselves to become a bartender,” he explains. “It’s very accessible to learn techniques and trends, find recipes and make cool drinks. It has become more common to host fun, exciting parties that recreate a restaurant experience. Consumers today are entertaining at home more, they are increasing their knowledge and like to experiment to make their party unique.” 

Capturing Trends

Libbey is targeting several new trends that have resulted in new product developments for consumers planning to throw a dinner party or socialize with a few cocktails. “The pace of consumer change and the base of consumer knowledge is greater than it has ever been,” Joyce explains. “Our challenge is to ensure we are ahead of the curve from an innovation standpoint.” 

An emerging trend is the farm-to-table concept. “Consumers have a renewed sense of finding produce and other foods from local markets,” Joyce explains. “The freshness of those foods brings people back to the simpler times of cooking at home and sitting around the table with family. It’s really about an experience for the consumer.” 

Libbey is capturing this concept by supplying 16-ounce drinking jars, which are designed for iced teas, lemonade and infused beverages that can be paired with fresh fruit. “A hot trend we have seen has been the popularity of infusion,” Zollweg says. “Infusing a glass of water with a slice of lemon or lime has been around for years, but adding a simple slice of cucumber, along with a sprig of tarragon and basil makes a wonderful garden-to-glass cocktail.” In a recent survey, 13,000 bartenders stated that infusion was the No. 1 trend in cocktails for 2014, he adds. The company has also created a dinnerware line called Farmhouse for the foodservice industry, which is organically shaped and inspired by old world craftsmanship. 

Thirst-Quenching Growth

Craft brews have invigorated the beer industry and provided a plethora of options to beer enthusiasts. Because each style of beer has unique flavor characteristics, it is poured into a specific glass designed to accentuate those characteristics and improve the overall drinking experience. Libbey created a wide variety of beer glasses designed for beer connoisseurs to enjoy the varying colors, flavors and carbonation levels of their favorite brews. “The craft brew craze has been an important trend and we have been able to capitalize with exciting and relevant glassware,” Joyce adds. The most popular styles are the tall pilsner glasses, wide mouth pub-style glasses and the traditional heavy handled beer steins. 

Whiskey is another libation with rapid growth. To address this trend, Libbey launched its “Perfect Collection,” which includes glassware to enhance the taste and experience of various whiskeys. Unsure which glass is best for which whiskey? Libbey can help. “One thing we found is there is a need from the retailers for suppliers to provide packaging and merchandising that educates the customer on the product’s unique features and benefits,” Joyce says. “The end-user is literally thirsting for information.”

The Perfect Whiskey Collection packaging has a quick-response barcode, which consumers scan with their mobile device to view a quick tutorial on whiskey and glassware selection. Libbey also publishes a whiskey guide book to educate the consumer on whiskey, the appropriate glassware for whiskey and includes numerous food and drink recipes that can be made using various whiskeys. 

“We like to focus on understanding customer insights and wants,” Joyce says. “We focus our marketing and new product development to be on the front-end of trends and the first-to-market with those trends. It’s our responsibility to understand them and retailers rely on us to be the driver.” 

Centuries in the Making

Libbey began in 1818 in East Cambridge, Mass., as the New England Glass Company. William L. Libbey took over the company in 1878 and renamed it New England Glass Works, Wm. L. Libbey & Sons Props. Edward Libbey took ownership when he was 29 years old after his father died, and in 1888, he moved the company to Toledo for cheaper energy and labor costs. In 1892, the company name was changed to The Libbey Glass Company. 

In the 1800s, glass making was done slowly by hand and it took years of practice to develop the skill. After World War II, Libbey revolutionized the industry by utilizing an automated glass-making machine. Automation changed the industry and company forever because glass products could now be made on a mass scale. 

“We are proud of the rich heritage and legacy that Libbey has in the United States,” Joyce says. “We have been manufacturing glass products for almost 200 years and the spirit of Libbey has always encompassed innovation, design and new technology.” 

Today, Libbey has manufacturing plants in Toledo; Shreveport, La.; Mexico; China and Europe. The company creates a range of stemware, tumblers, specialty drink glasses, vases, candle items, serving dishes and baking items. 

“The hallmarks of Edward Libbey were innovation, leadership, marketing and the special way he treated employees and valued his customers,” Joyce adds. “Those hallmarks continue with the company today. Libbey is a reliable and trusted resource to the foodservice industry and retail market.”