Mutual funds come in every shape, size and color imaginable. How else are newcomers and smaller fund firms supposed to contend against 8,500 of their peers, already extant?

Entrenched equity and bond fund shops such as PIMCO, Vanguard and Franklin Templeton are now seeing some of their assets flow into alternative mutual funds that can go long, short, or into the future. This follows in the footsteps of the managed futures mutual funds recently launched by Forward Management and Altegris. Don't forget about those 130/30 funds, which gave investors 130% exposure to long portfolios and 30% exposure to short portfolios, that have gone quiet since their debut in 2006-2007.

Beyond this, a contingent of index-based and active exchange-traded funds are being launched by the likes of PIMCO, via its Total Return ETF, an ETF version of its Total Return Fund, and BlackRock, via its iShares Sovereign Screened Global Bond Fund, which will bet on developed and emerging markets bonds to stem the tide of outflows from their more traditional offerings.

Speaking of ETFs, little-known Teucrium last week launched a fund of commodities funds. The fund is dubbed the Teucrium Agricultural Fund and is being touted as the first fund to offer exposure to agricultural commodities in a single group of exchange-traded funds. The uber fund bets on four single-product agricultural funds. Now advisors and mutual funds can ramp up their exposure to commodities futures bets with this offering, according to co-founder Sal Gilbertie.

Then there is a subsector of mutual funds catering to the more socially-minded advisor such as Calvert Investments, Pax World and Ariel Investments. These funds make it a point to bet on companies with a gender equality agenda and avoid companies whose primary source of revenue is derived from tobacco products, handguns, and/or nuclear energy.

So what's the next latest greatest innovation to hit the mutual fund market?

In the past six years, two hedge fund shops, Primores Investment Management and DynamiteF3 have rolled out fund of fund of hedge funds, or F3s, to give investors who weren't already saturated with hedge fund investments even more exposure to those funds.

How well they will perform, over the long haul, however, remains to be determined.

Subscribe Now

Access to premium content including in-depth coverage of mutual funds, hedge funds, 401(K)s, 529 plans, and more.

3-Week Free Trial

Insight and analysis into the management, marketing, operations and technology of the asset management industry.