While consumers retreated to the basics during the pandemic – as improved sales of staples such as flour, bread, and sugar can attest – several new products broke through the panic to assert themselves in a chaotic market, including multiple $100 million product launches. It’s clear that while customers took some solace in tried-and-true products, being stuck at home also drove many of them to look for something new.
IRI, a leading data analytics and market research company based in Chicago, released its 2020 New Product Pacesetters, its 26th annual report unveiling the top new product launches in the food, beverage, and nonfood sectors.
More than a quarter of IRI’s New Product Pacesetters launched in the fourth quarter of 2019, or January 2020, caught fire with consumers and made up 51 of the top 200, with 27 in the food and beverage sector.
“The top New Product Pacesetters of 2020 accomplished a unique feat by achieving success in circumstances never before seen in the history of Pacesetters,” IRI’s VP of Content and Thought Leadership Joan Driggs said in a press release announcing the report. “Many shoppers made the leap to new products because their go-to brand was unavailable, but many also actively sought out innovation for new experiences, measured not just by dollars earned, but also by the ability to reach the intended audience.”
Beverage Products Pour It On
Beverages performed extremely well in 2020, with consumers buying up carbonated beverages, such as sparkling water and hard seltzers, in droves. As a result, beverages landed 10 of the top 25 Pacesetter spots, with Bud Light Seltzer, Truly Lemonade, and Mtn Dew Zero Sugar ranking as the top three, with each new product generating more than $100 million in sales.
Beer, wine, and spirits new product launches also made their mark, producing 44% of the Pacesetter beverage sales. Alcoholic beverages comprised nearly a third of the 27 beverage New Product Pacesetters and pulled in $547 million in revenue, more than doubling 2019’s new alcohol sales of $198 million.
Sustainable Sales Surge
Consumers also continued to pursue more responsible offerings, from better-for-you drinks to more sustainably produced beverages to plant-based proteins. If anything, consumers showed manufacturers that self-care and indulgence don’t have to be competing interests.
Rebel Ice Cream and Talenti Gelato Layers, for example, feature clean ingredient labels but still offer decadent flavors, according to IRI. Rebel Ice Cream came in at No. 5 on the food and beverage New Product Pacesetters list and pulled in $96.7 million in sales, while Talenti Gelato Layers came in at No. 12.
Three dozen of the food and beverage Pacesetters boast plant-based attributes, and 32 food and beverages carry a vegan claim. Notably, Beyond Sausage emerged as the first plant-based product to make it into the top 10 at No. 10.
Demographics Dictate Success
According to IRI’s research, new product adopters share similar traits:
Most are upper-income consumers, earning more than $70,000 annually.
The bulk are families with children.
Hispanics lead the way in new product purchasing.
Millennials and men also favor new food and beverage offerings.
“Understanding consumer demographics and why certain products succeed is imperative for brands, both big and small, as innovation strategists work to respond to the continuously shifting marketplace,” explained Larry Levin, IRI’s Executive Vice President, Market, and Shopper Intelligence and Thought Leadership. “IRI’s 2020 New Product Pacesetters and its consumer attitudes survey about new products tell a story of people staying at home but still seeking out products and brands that offered indulgence and comfort amid the chaos of COVID-19.”
TraceGains Transforms NPD
Too many brands shelved new product development during the pandemic, as they understandably scrambled to meet existing orders because of supply chain breakdowns and labor shortages. Developing new products, for many, wasn’t a priority. But standing pat on new product development allows competitors to gain ground – and market share.
TraceGains Networked Product Development Suite coordinates new product development from concept through production, accelerating research, recipe iteration, claims verification, and change management. TraceGains breaks down internal and external silos and instead offers a networked platform that seamlessly connects teams, automates most business processes, and standardizes and digitizes supply chain and product documentation.
TraceGains networked solutions offers manufacturers a unified view of products, data, and processes across the business and the supply chain, regardless of how scattered it is. Companies also enjoy immediate access to more than two million supplier documents to help fast-track formula and recipe development. Being plugged into the industry's largest network means the bulk of your documentation needs can be instantly met and you can accelerate timelines.
With TraceGains, new product development teams can abandon manual processes and embrace automated results by digitizing and streamlining product development and turning supply chains into data-powered strategic assets and growth engines. As a result, brands can respond quickly to market and supply chain disruptions and innovate faster.
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