A Toast to the New Product Pacesetters

IRI’s annual report spotlights beverage innovations and confirms consumer interest in health, wellness and sanitation
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
Lynn Petrak profile picture
AHA Sparkling Water
Eight of IRI's top 10 New Product Pacesetters for 2021 are beverages, including Aha sparkling waters.

Just how big are beverages right now? A look at the recently-announced 2021 New Product Pacesetters from Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) confirms a spate of innovations across drink categories.

Of the top 10 New Product Pacesetters for 2021, eight are beverages and six are bubble drinks. The notable beverages span both non-alcohol and alcohol segments and include convenience-oriented pre-mixed cocktails, variety packs and coffee and tea products appealing to consumers balancing between at-home and away-from home lifestyles.

IRI’s list of top 10 food and beverages, in order, includes the following novel items:

  • Dr Pepper & Cream Soda
  • AHA Sparkling Water
  • CoronaHard Seltzer
  • High Noon Sun Sips
  • Oatly
  • Truly Iced Tea
  • Michelob ULTRA Organic Seltzer
  • Impossible Burger
  • Life Cuisine
  • Minute Maid Zero Sugar

In its 27th annual New Product Pacesetters report, IRI also underscored the inventiveness of CPGs striving to meet consumer demands and tastes – including liquid refreshments – during another unconventional year that saw COVID-related disruptions in R&D and merchandising. "This year's New Product Pacesetters successfully ran the gauntlet of powering through a pandemic that first caused people to hunker down at home, and then start socializing in public again, only to hunker down again late in the year," said Joan Driggs, VP, content and thought leadership for IRI.

Driggs pointed to other key findings from the data around new product launches. "COVID-19 generated trends that both helped and hindered growth trajectories. In-home stock-ups eased from 2020 levels, while concurrently, interest in new products representing beverages, frozen convenience foods, household goods and self-care resulted in healthy growth," she explained.

If beverages are resonating in the food and beverage sector, items for a clean home and healthy body dominated nonfood categories in 2021. IRI’s top nonfood New Product Pacesetters include Microban 24 sanitizing spray, Voltaren arthritis and pain relief gel, Dawn Platinum Powerwash and Tide Hygienic Clean, among other products geared toward nutrition and cleanliness. According to IRI, several items represent line extensions from established brands, like Suave and Clorox.

Collectively, IRI’s latest batch of New Product Pacesetters aren’t just innovative but impactful. The company reports that the Pacesetters accounted for 44% of total store growth in 2021; additionally, these items typically comprise just 1% of total CPG dollar sales but account for one-third of growth on a year-over-year basis.

Finally, across both food and nonfood, IRI’s data shows that sustainability is gaining a foothold as a new product attribute. The top 10 lists are a testament to that, with Oatly and the Impossible Burger in food and Hello Baby, The Honey Pot Co. and Huggies Pull-Ups New Leaf coming in strong in nonfood arena.

The report concludes: “Sustainability has grown to include a wider range of attributes, such as carbon footprint and water conservation. It has also grown as an increasingly important decision factor among consumers. Innovators should recognize the value of sustainability and how it contributes to a consumer’s overall impression of a product, brand and manufacturer.”

The full 2021 New Product Pacesetters report is available online.

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