How do you cover more than 300,000 square feet of exhibit hall space to find the latest and greatest in product innovations? Divide and conquer, of course. 

The PPB editorial team set out to find the coolest products on the show floor. From new twists on classic goods to tech products that we never saw coming, the following promotional products caught our attention. One of them could just be the next big thing.


For individual products, please visit our flipbook.


Forced To Choose, Here Are The Personal Faves Of The PPB Editorial Team

Tina's Pick

I’ve long been a fan of tromp l’oeil, a painting technique that tricks the eye into perceiving a three-dimensional object, so this unique product caught my eye. Unlike a wrap or a decal, custom printing on doors takes customization to the next level. The market for this product is unlimited—a young attorney with a basement office can make his door look like he has a view from the penthouse; the kitchen door of a restaurant can be made to look like the servers are walking right into a Venice cafe. The ink is flexible to avoid cracking and allow for shrinking or expanding due to weather conditions.
Ad-A-Day / PPAI 111105 /

Jen's Pick

Timbuk2 Bags have real urban street cred. Founded by a San Francisco bike messenger who created the iconic messenger bag, Timbuk2 designs its products for city use, manufactures them locally and guarantees them for life. This roll-top bag offers a new twist on the traditional backpack, and the combination of textures and colors is fresh. Best of all, Timbuk2 offers online customization, so you can have them make a one-of-a-kind piece that reflects your clients’ taste. Timbuktu   /   Timbuk2 / PPAI 354229 /

Terry's Pick

Since the first 10 minutes of my workout inevitably involve untangling my headphones, I was pretty excited about a new product called Wraps. Seamlessly combining tech and fashion, this Expo standout is a pair of headphones that are worn like a bracelet. With 24 colors and several different styles, including beads, leather and in a houndstooth print, they’re a unique, edgy accessory for just about any outfit—and they sound great, too.
Greenline /

James's Pick

I was drawn to the HEX exhibit, which displayed its original line of bags, phone cases and computer/tablet sleeves in, on and around a vintage VW bus. The products are made from hand-selected materials, and the artwork is striking. Artist Aaron De La Cruz collaborated with HEX on its x line of products, which features designs inspired by sculptural and public art.
Hex Brands / PPAI 709117 /


Gemline Thinks Outside the Box—Or The Bag— To Expand Into A New Product Category At Expo

In January, supplier Gemline (PPAI 113948) announced its expansion into the specialty food category under the brand name Gourmet Expressions. The initiative will result in a broad range of gourmet gifts, some of which will be bundled with Gemline’s most popular totes, coolers and drinkware.

Gourmet Expressions made its debut at this year’s PPAI Expo, with the introductory line of products shipping this month. Sheila Shechtman, vice president of specialty foods at Gemline, explains why the decision to expand into food was a piece of cake.

PPB: What sparked the idea to expand Gemline’s product offerings to specialty foods?

Shechtman: I have been in the gourmet food and gifting industry for over 37 years, most recently as founder and CEO of supplier company Gifted Expressions, which specialized in food gifts. I sold the company two years ago and decided to expand my horizons to a larger organization that could scale very rapidly. I knew that food gifting was potent as an enhancement to promotional products as well as a stand-alone venture. 

I talked to a number of large suppliers, and Gemline came to the top of my list, offering the synergies of its product lines with a food category. It was a perfect fit.

I am a food merchant who is passionate about finding the finest products that taste delicious, are produced in safety-certified factories and offer great value. Foods can look good or have nice packaging, but that is not what food merchandising is all about. Gemline understands that very important perspective.

PPB: How will this new offering affect Gemline’s overall strategy?

Shechtman: The overall strategy is the same–providing products that are best in quality and value with superior customer service, innovation and exclusivity. Offering a differentiated line of foods with unique and “keepsake” gift packaging enhances the existing product lines and offers one-stop shopping for distributors. Great tasting foods compliment any gift or marketing initiative, since they invite sharing, emit emotion and create impact—long after the food is consumed. We want to make satisfying the needs of distributors as easy as possible and present solutions that are not available in the current marketplace.

PPB: What are your product development goals?

Shechtman: There are two distinct opportunities provided by Gourmet Expressions by Gemline:

1. A line of superior quality sweet and savory treats, from cookies to chocolates and other confections, to nuts and snacks. Our foods require no refrigeration, are intended for “shared consumption” and offer a long shelf life.

2. A line of bundled logo food gifts that utilize Gemline’s high-quality coolers, totes, journals and bags as the container or brand enhancement. 

PPB: What advice would you give to other businesses that are considering expansion into a different but complimentary product category?

Shechtman: Do your research and make sure the necessary resources and infrastructure can be put in place. For example, Gemline has built out a factory within their 175,000-square-foot plant for the food confecting division, which is currently undergoing HACCP certification that ensures safety, cleanliness and traceability for all products. Most importantly, it is critical that you share a similar mission with whomever you partner with.

PPB: What were your expectations for the debut of Gourmet Expressions at this year’s Expo?

Shechtman: By launching at Expo, the idea was to host a “soft opening” to generate industry excitement with a modest line of both food gifts and bundled logo solutions. Our robust launch will take place in September, with additional selections in both categories, delicious and fun bakery SKUs and artisan chocolates.


Terry Ramsay is associate editor of PPB.