Soft sell Soft sell

Squishmallows’ meteoric rise to the top of the $100 billion global toy market is one for the ages.

Toys mean the world to Herb Mitschele. A father of four young daughters and a toy industry expert who has worked for iconic companies like Mattel and Playmates Toys, he’s spent the past two decades helping make and market objects that delight, educate and entertain kids and adults of all ages.

As executive vice president with Jazwares, the Florida, US-based company that makes Squishmallows (the squishy, marshmallow-like plush toys that are taking the toy world by storm), Mitschele now leads a team that is tasked with expanding the global reach of the world’s bestselling toy. “I’ve never been involved with anything like this; it’s a once-in-a-career thing,” he says. “Toy brands come and go. But Squishmallows are here to stay.”

Toys with personality

Launched in 2017, Squishmallows are plush toys made with super-soft fabrics and stuffed with squishy proprietary materials. There are now more than 2,000 styles, each with a unique personality and design. More than 100 million Squishmallows have been sold in more than 55 countries, earning the plush toy a variety of international industry awards, including Top Selling Toy of the Year. “The next stage is 200 million – and we will cross that mark very soon,” says Mitschele, who leads Jazwares’ global sales and planning division. “And we still have lots of opportunity to grow and expand in existing and new markets.”

He credits the brand’s lovable styles and personalities – each of them designed and created in collaboration with illustrators, designers, and production and brand team members working both remotely and at 20 offices worldwide, including Jazwares’ headquarters the US – for driving its popularity as a toy and collectible item across all age groups.

“It’s rare to see a toy with such multigenerational appeal,” says Mitschele. “Finding, buying and sharing Squishmallows has become a way for friends and family members to connect. It’s a huge social phenomenon.”

Squishmallows mania

If their squishy softness and cute personalities have helped make Squishmallows a runaway success, social media has helped to fuel its rocket ride to the top of the toy world.

According to Mitschele, Squishmallows videos have been viewed more than 11 billion times on TikTok and fans have posted and shared more than 1 million times on Instagram.

In addition to announcing new character releases and special-edition collaborations, the company uses that online reach to promote live Squishmallows events, building the sense of community and connection amongst keen collectors.

“We have many rabid fans who absolutely love the brand,” says Mitschele. “It’s amazing to see people’s reactions online and at events.” The brand received a huge boost on social media in the midst of the COVID- 19 pandemic, when celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian published messages and photos of their Squishmallows collections that went viral on TikTok.

With such famous fans, it’s easy to see why toy industry analyst and consultant Chris Byrne – aka The Toy Guy – says the Squishmallows craze has taken the normally staid plush or stuffed toy category by storm.


“It’s ideal for growing vegetables, herbs, flowers and plants”




“They have been the hottest thing in the industry for the past couple of years,” says Byrne, who compares ‘Squish’ mania to the frenzy over Care Bears and Beanie Babies. “Like them, Squishmallows are affordable and their selling point is sweetness. They’re very tactile and comforting for both kids and adults.”

Unlike faddy toys that come and go, Byrne thinks Squishmallows has legs. “They’re very trendy now and that cycle will pass,” he says. “But like Care Bears or even Barbie, I think they’ll remain a classic toy that will renew each year thanks to the [styles].”

Mitschele says Jazwares’ roughly 1400 employees – who playfully refer to themselves as “Jazmanians” – are working hard to keep Squishmallows on top. “Our team has done a fantastic job laying out licensed partnerships and creating collaborative consumer programs with more than 60 best-in-class partners around the world,” he says.


Originally published in The Costco Connection, May/Jun 2024. Pick up the latest copy at your local warehouse or read it online.