IRI New Product Pacesetters: Quick, Easy, But Not Boring, Please

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By John McIndoe - 08/10/2018
John McIndoe, IRI Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer

IRI’s food and beverage New Product Pacesetters™ illustrate that top CPG brands have captured consumers’ hard-earned dollars because they deliver on high expectations.

Consumers want it all! They want quick, easy, convenient food and beverage products that fit into their lifestyles, but they also want indulgent, exciting and enticing products. Responding to these high demands, IRI’s 2017 food and beverage Pacesetters feature many indulgent items with rich flavors and extravagant ingredients, but they also come in convenient packaging with easy-to-consume contents.

Many of the 2017 food and beverage Pacesetters make common household consumables — ice cream, crackers, water, cookies — anything but common. They have healthy profiles yet also indulgent flavors, and they reflect consumers’ desires to take care of themselves without depriving themselves. Across food and beverage, as well as non-food, today’s most successful new products underscore the power of innovation by fusing benefits that simplify and enhance consumers’ lives, while providing something they enjoy eating or using.

More Than Half Provide Indulgence

The top 100 food and beverage Pacesetters made a significant mark, driving huge sales in addition to great consumer and social media buzz. Median year-one sales were $14.5 million, excluding outlier Halo Top ($342.2 million). This is an increase versus last year, when median sales (also excluding an outlier number-one launch) were $11.4 million. The dollar figure was strengthened by the $87-million launch of Nabisco Good Thins, a baked cracker that offers crispy, crunchy satisfaction without artificial colors, flavors, cholesterol, high-fructose corn syrup, or partially hydrogenated oils. It’s a classic cracker, but so much better, with great taste and a clean profile.

The top-two food launches clearly reflect consumer desires for indulgence, but also healthy, clean food. The most powerful launches of 2017 definitely reflect this balance — more than half (53 percent) of food and beverage Pacesetters offer indulgent experiences. Increasingly common across NPP brands are launches that strike a balance between wellness and indulgence. Healthier-for-you indulgences are most prevalent among today’s new food and beverage powerhouses.

Consumers want to eat healthfully, but they have shown they also look for treats and sweets. Candy and gum account for nine percent of food and beverage Pacesetter dollars, in line with trends seen during the past five years. The largest launch in this area is Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch, milk chocolate bars with a shortbread cookie crunch and creamy fillings, providing taste and texture experiences in a hand-held form.

New Brands Making a Bang

As the retail and CPG competitive landscapes continue to evolve, the spate of small companies bringing new and more targeted innovation to the marketplace has changed the nature of innovation overall. Just five years ago, an estimated nine out of every 10 Pacesetters launched were extensions of existing product lines. Brand extensions, of course, benefit from existing brand equities, which generally improve the rate of product trial and confidence in consumer acceptance and adoption. This familiarity and trust from consumers reduces the odds of product failure.

In 2017, 40 percent of food and beverage and 25 percent of non-food Pacesetters were entirely new brands to the CPG marketplace, demonstrating consumers’ willingness to try “unknown” brands. On the food and beverage side, all of the top 10 NPP brands were new market entrants, though several of these — including Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee, Nestlé Splash and Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch — certainly benefit from the equity their manufacturers have in the marketplace.

In a change from trends evidenced during the past several years, none of this year’s top food and beverage launches crossed into CPG aisles from the restaurant arena. Still, several new brands — including Cracker Barrel Macaroni & Cheese, Hillshire Snacking and Halo Top — boast a restaurant-quality look and feel.

Beverages Nab Almost a Third of Top 10

The water segment has picked up steam in recent years, driven by trends around flavoring, fortification and carbonation, creating a healthy beverage with an indulgent feel. Two bottled waters landed in the top 10, including Nestlé Splash and LIFEWTR, as they deliver on the healthy attributes with a touch of indulgent feel.

The coffee and tea sector saw innovation slow, with just three brands and, for the first time in several years, no K-Cup introductions earning NPP status. However, one coffee product grabbed the number-three spot: Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee, earning more than $67 million. This product captures so many attributes important to consumers today.

The top-selling food launches hail from all areas of the store, yet have something very important in common — they resonated with consumers by delivering what they want and how they want it. They are most definitely quick, easy, quality, but not boring. Not boring at all.

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