Yes, there are still things to be invented. How about square watermelons and glass floor mats?
Japanese urban dwellers live in notoriously small houses and apartments which in turn have tiny refrigerators. Watermelons are considered a delicacy in large part because of their size and storage issues. Because of this storage issue, watermelon is a favorite at Japanese restaurants, but they are seldom served on the kitchen table.
A farmer from Zentsuji in the Kagawa prefecture has solved the problem by growing the round fruit while still on the vine in a square “Plexiglas” box. When full grown, the square melon is removed the box and harvested. Note that all the melons are the same uniform size.
These easily stored watermelons are sold in upscale markets for three times the price of conventional round melons. By North American standards, the watermelons are small (10inches square). But for many, the price premium is worth it since otherwise they probably would not buy the larger round variety.
What I love about this story is the new twist on an old idea. Here is another new look at an old idea.
I have a friend named Ken who has created a start up company, which makes chair mats out of tempered glass. Similar to the round watermelons, conventional chair mats are pervasive but problematic for many people (see KBJ Enterprises LLC at http://cihop.com/)
The traditional plastic chair mat ages quickly, develops ruts, and becomes difficult for the chair to move. Because of this wear and tear they need to be replaced every few years. Frankly, as a person who sits at his desk all day long, I hate plastic chair mats.
Ken’s floor mats are made of tempered glass providing an ageless surface which allows your chair to move easily. No ruts. And no replacement needed. I suppose you could say that they are beautiful when compared to plastic floor mats after a couple of years of use. Like the square melon, the glass floor mats sell at a premium but from my perspective they are well worth it.
Both the square watermelon and glass floor mats are perfect examples of niche marketing—they both target a customer who was overlooked or underserved by the bigger players. The happy customer gladly pays the price premium to get what they want.
John Bradley Jackson
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