IRI has released its 2019 New Product Pacesetters, the 25th annual report highlighting the most successful new product launches across food and beverage, nonfood and convenience store sectors. Both large and small companies were successful in 2019, however, the big story of the year was the return of the blockbuster product launch.
Six food and beverage New Product Pacesetters earned more than $100 million in multi-outlet channels, as did four in the nonfood and beverage category. The last time the food and beverage category had at least six products break the $100 million mark was in 2012.
“It’s not just that these products eclipsed the monumental $100 million plateau, but this year’s 10 $100 million-plus launches account for 33 percent of all Pacesetter dollars, accentuating that big is back,” said Joan Driggs, VP of content and thought leadership for IRI.
Both large and small companies found success
In 2019, 53 percent of New Product Pacesetters came from small companies (less than $1 billion in sales). Small companies are typically able to innovate quickly, demonstrate flexibility and act faster than their larger counterparts. The challenge for smaller companies is typically distribution power, but thanks to the “Shark Tank” effect, products like Kodiak Cakes Power Waffles, chickpea-based Banza noodles and biodegradable, flushable Dude Wipes were able to get noticed and distributed.
Big companies also made a splash in 2019, accounting for 24 pecent of New Product Pacesetter products and half of Pacesetter dollars. While smaller brands have smaller budgets and typically rely on nontraditional media outlets, big brands dedicated 25-30 percent of sales dollars to advertising. For example, Gatorade G Zero saw $154 million in multioutlet sales in 2019 and spent $39.5 million on advertising, according to Kantar Media reports. In contrast, the No. 1 food and beverage New Product Pacesetter, Bang Energy drinks, spent $2,200 on traditional media but generated almost $300 million in multioutlet sales.
“If only one thing is true about New Product Pacesetters year in and year out, it’s that the formula for a winning product, no matter the size of the company, is having the right product in the right place at the right time for the right consumer,” said Driggs. “This year’s New Product Pacesetters stand true to that testament, with both small and large brands achieving success thanks to smart distribution strategies and personalized targeted marketing initiatives.”
Food and beverage leaders highlight better-for-you attributes
While 2018 New Product Pacesetters’ top 10 primarily featured sweet and indulgent foods and beverages, 2019’s top 10 shifted toward natural, pure and non-GMO ingredients. In 2019, three of the top 10 and 25 of the top 100 food and beverage New Product Pacesetters offered non-GMO benefits, with products including SlimFast Keto, Perdue Simply Smart Organics and Arnold, Brownberry and Oroweat Sandwich Thins.
A brand that exemplifies innovation and better-for-you attributes is No. 2 on the food and beverage New Product Pacesetters list, Enfamil NeuroPro, a baby formula that features milk fat globule membrane, which is found in breast milk and supports cognitive development in brain structure and function. This one-of-a-kind baby formula is the first major scientific enhancement in the baby formula market since DHA fortification became FDA approved more than two decades ago.
|2019 New Product Pacesetters: Top 10 Food and Beverage Brands
|2. Enfamil® NeuroPro™||$230.5|
|3. G® Zero™||$154.4|
|5. Arnold®/Brownberry®/Oroweat® Sandwich Thins™||$103.2|
|6. Corona® Premier||$101.8|
|7. Cheez-It® Snap’d™||$88.7|
|8. SlimFast® Keto||$76.2|
|9. Perdue® Simply Smart® Organics||$70.7|
|10. Pop-Tarts® Bites||$68.3|
Source: IRI Market Advantage™
Nonfood leaders deliver niche products
A trend among this year’s nonfood New Product Pacesetters is the niche brand’s ability to maintain a unique and targeted appeal while transforming to mass-market outlets. For example, No. 1 on this year’s list, Blue Buffalo, generated more than $313 million by providing consumers with a high-end pet-friendly product while maintaining its small-company roots, despite being acquired by General Mills.
A trend that carried over from food and beverage is better-for-you attributes despite the often higher price points of these products. Two of the top 10 and 25 of the top 100 in nonfood tout natural/simple ingredients, with products including Johnson’s CottonTouch bath products, Downy Nature Blends, Blue Buffalo pet food and Pampers Pure Collection of diapers and wipes.
|2019 New Product Pacesetters: Top 10 Nonfood Brands
(Total Year-One Dollar Sales, Multioutlet)
|1. Blue Buffalo®||$313.3|
|2. Colgate® Total SF™||$243.1|
|3. Scott® ComfortPlus™||$241.6|
|5. Pampers® Pure Collection||$72.4|
|6. Crest® Gum Collection||$62.1|
|7. Keurig® K-Select™||$55.0|
|8. Fresh Step® Clean Paws®||$48.8|
|10. Theraworx® Relief||$47.1|
Source: IRI Market Advantage
Convenience captures broad appeal with niche innovations
Similar to previous years, consumers turn to c-stores for their convenient, on-the-go options, with e-cigarettes, tobacco and energy drinks filling out the top 10. Eight of the top 10 c-store products broke the $100 million threshold, with Juul taking the No. 1 spot after achieving more than $2.4 billion in sales. Juul’s success can be tied to its wide variety of flavor options, as well as consumers’ perception of e-cigs as being healthier than traditional offerings.
Consumers rely on the convenience channel for its accessibility and broad distribution. C-stores also typically provide the niche products consumers may not be able to find elsewhere, such as tobacco and smokeless products, as other channels have reduced availability of these offerings or in some cases have stopped supplying them altogether.
|2019 New Product Pacesetters: Top 10 Convenience Store Brands
(Total Year-One Dollar Sales, Convenience Store Channel)
|3. White Claw®||$344.8|
|4. Vuse® Alto®||$225.6|
|5. Malboro® Ice||$189.0|
|6. Red Bull® Coconut||$141.3|
|7. Vuse® Ciro®||$136.7|
|8. G® Zero™||$136.5|
|10. Mtn Dew® Amp® Game Fuel®||$86.3|
Source: IRI Market Advantage
Innovation before the ‘new normal’
“Only time will tell how consumers’ behaviors will change from the pre-COVID-19 world to the one we are living in today, but brands that want to thrive will need to adjust their strategies, sometimes dramatically, to reflect the new normal,” said Larry Levin, EVP of market and shopper intelligence and thought leadership for IRI. “When we look at how new products were developed and distributed during a similar economic period, the Great Recession, we see ample opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to adjust their innovation strategies in order to keep winning.”
The findings of this report were compiled based on insights from IRI’s New Product Innovation Practice’s suite of analytical and decision-making tools, as well as the 2020 IRI New Product Survey.
IRI will be hosting a New Product Pacesetter webinar at 1 p.m. CT on June 11. To register for this free webinar, visit