New. . . but Not All That Different

Times Staff Writer

It's interesting how people respond to new products. You could bring out an item and sales-talk a person to death with its greatest benefits and features, do tiring demos and still end up with no sale.

In another scenario, present a novelty item--forget the sales pitch, or any bit of explanation--and the product sells itself. Many of these hot sellers are in fact, old concepts put in a different perspective, according to Gabor, owner of Neo-Art Inc. in Northridge.

"What excites people is when they see something in a different form, one that they've been used to seeing for years," Gabor said. The inventor's latest consumer "toy" is the wildest example. Gabor calls it the Junior Personal Cooler ($24.95).

Visualize a bottled water cooler dispenser in a much smaller form (21 inches high) and that's about as simple a description as you need. "It's a baby cooler. It's cute. I want it!" were typical comments from the 20 people who wanted to order it immediately during the first days that we put it in the office for testing.

"The response has been incredible. I've never seen a new product go like this on anything that I've done in the past," said Gabor, (who started a Pop art trend with his stretched Pepsi-Cola bottle in 1967 as well as produced novelty works like the infinity mirror and the small hospital "M.A.S.H" booth for bars). "It's so simple yet it appeals to all sexes and all ages. If I give one to a child, his sister wants one. If I give it to an elderly (person) next to her bed, she wants to get one for her sister."

The Junior Cooler works the same as any other water cooler. The 70-ounce transparent plastic bottle, which is made of FDA-approved materials that doesn't impart any foreign taste, is filled to the top with any beverage. While aiming the neck of the bottle into the funnel-shaped drain, with a quick twist of the wrist, place the bottle on top of the funnel. Dispensing is accomplished by placing the index finger under the spigot's nose and pressing a white rubber button with the thumb. Like its larger counterpart, the Junior is designed with a convenient, removable catch tray for drips. The filled bottle may be cooled in the refrigerator before dispensing.

According to Gabor, the product concept was born when a company, Spencer Gifts, called and needed a product that would dispense alcohol for a bar item. Gabor said, "While I was walking by an office with a water cooler one day, I said to myself, 'Why not make a smaller cooler?' After producing several samples (including one with a glass bottle, which he discarded because it was too heavy and dangerous), out came little Junior."

The little dispenser is more than a mere conversation piece. Gelson's gourmet buyer Marty Love, who had informed us about the Junior Cooler, claimed her customers have been buying it as a Mother's Day or Father's Day gift. "It's a great item for somebody on a diet and wants to be reminded to drink eight glasses of water a day."

Gabor added that for this purpose the water should preferably be drunk at room temperature. "That's what they do in Europe," he said. "However, people who smoke a lot like to drink cold water. They can take the water-filled bottle, remove the cap and freeze it overnight and the next day bring it to work frozen. As it melts, the cold liquid can be dispensed."

Another use for the unit, Gabor said, is as a container for mouthwash.

A great number of manufacturers are not only taking advantage of the current consumer interest in pure drinking water but are also capitalizing on the power of the bubble. Growing at an annual rate of 35%, the expanding seltzer and club soda market has triggered ISI Siphon of America to introduce a home carbonating kit for aficionados of sparkling water.

The ISI Sparkling Seltzer Maker Kit ($40) features the seltzer maker, two plastic ISI seltzer bottles, two reusable airtight plastic caps, two one-way gold carbon dioxide chargers, personalized labels and a recipe booklet. Although wonderfully refreshing when taken plain, the crisp, almost sweet-tasting sparkling seltzer can be combined with juices, syrups, powdered mixes or wine for sodas or spritzers.

The unit is super easy to use: Simply fill the seltzer bottle with water, place it into the bottom section of the larger seltzer maker, insert the chargers into the top section and as soon as the top is twisted, you get the effervescence in the water.

However, for maximum results read instructions carefully; a handy trouble-shooting guide is also provided in the booklet. We discovered for instance, that the reson we got insufficient effervescence when we were doing bottles in succession was that the bubbler wand was too cold from the carbon dioxide. The manufacturer advises warming the wand with warm water for around 30 seconds before preparing the next seltzer bottle.

The Junior Personal Cooler is available at Gelson's and Spencer Gifts.

The ISI Sparkling Seltzer Maker Kit is available at Bullock's. Extra chargers also are available at most hardware and specialty gourmet shops.

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