IRI Names Top New CPG Products During the Pandemic

June 9, 2021
In its annual report, IRI revealed its annual list of New Product Pacesetters, naming the top 10 new food and beverage introductions during 2020.

Despite 2020 being a year of familiar brands, comfort foods and pantry staples, new products still managed to make their mark in a year unlike any other. Infer from this what you will, but the two top-selling new consumer packaged goods (CPG) products of 2020 were alcoholic drinks.

Bud Light Seltzer and Truly Lemonade sit at the top of IRI's annual list of New Product Pacesetters, the best-selling new CPG products launched last year. "While new product plans for 2020 were well underway long before the pandemic turned everything upside down, many new products managed to overcome substantial hurdles, making their way into consumers’ baskets — whether those consumers were masked and in-store shopping … or scrolling, clicking and making purchases online," IRI wrote in its announcement.

Overall demand for CPG products, both food and non-food, was up last year as most consumers hunkered down. Despite their desires for familiarity, "many also looked for innovative products for a change of pace, ultimately driving quite a few new products to big performances."

Top 10 Food & Beverage New Product Pacesetters

  • Bud Light Seltzer $193.7
  • Truly Lemonade $191.3
  • Mtn Dew Zero Sugar $111.2
  • Starbucks Creamers $105.0
  • Rebel Ice Cream $96.7
  • Reign Total Body Fuel $94.4
  • Cheetos Popcorn $79.7
  • Kinder Bueno $61.7
  • Reese's Thins $56.0
  • Beyond Sausage $52.6

After those two lightly alcoholic drinks, the top 10 Pacesetters is a mixture of spinoffs of familiar brands (Mtn Dew Zero Sugar, Starbucks Creamers, Cheetos Popcorn, Reese's Thins), a handful of newcomers (Rebel Ice Cream, Reign Total Body Fuel, Kinder Bueno) and one – surprisingly only one – high-profile meat analogue (Beyond Sausage).

"Some products stepped into the spotlight just before the pandemic," IRI wrote, "but the vast majority launched into a retail atmosphere unmatched in history. Some 51 Pacesetter products, including 27 food and beverage entries, launched in fourth-quarter 2019 or January 2020, indicating that more than a quarter of New Product Pacesetters had disproportionate time in COVID-19 and did really well, regardless.

"These top 10 food and beverage and nonfood New Product Pacesetters carry a unique badge in that they won in circumstances never before seen in Pacesetter history."

Every year, IRI analyzes the top food and nonfood CPG brand launches. To be considered for Pacesetters, products must complete a full year of sales in calendar year 2020. IRI begins tracking year-one sales after a product achieves 30% ACV weighted distribution across multioutlet geography. Sales are measured in multi-outlet supermarkets, drugstores, mass market retailers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains.

As a result, there is a much longer list of Pacesetters beyond the top 10. Based on this bigger pool, IRI made these observations:

  • 10 of the top 25 food & beverage Pacesetters this year are beverages, with No. 1 Bud Light Seltzer, No. 2 Truly Lemonade and No. 3 Mtn Dew Zero Sugar each generating more than $100 million in sales.
  • Beer, wine and spirits new product launches were significant, as combined they generated 44% of Pacesetter beverage dollars compared with 17% last year.
  • Small and extra-small companies represented just less than half of New Product Pacesetter launches but account for less than a quarter of the dollars.
  • Big companies had less than a quarter of Pacesetter launches (22%) but they saw 50% of the dollars. Consistent with historical trends, big companies introduce more new products, and many of those earn New Product Pacesetter status. For example, this year Procter & Gamble has 22 Pacesetter products and Nestlé has 12.

The Top 10 C-store Pacesetters

  • ZYN (smokeless tobacco) $339.2
  • Reign $301.8
  • Bud Light Seltzer $166.7
  • Red Bull Peach Edition $151.1
  • Monster Energy Ultra Paradise $125.5
  • Starbucks Tripleshot Energy $78.5
  • Mtn Dew Zero Sugar $67.9
  • Starbucks Frappuccino with a splash of Cold Brew $66.9
  • Red Bull Pear Edition $55.8
  • Coca-Cola Energy $54.0

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