IRI’s 2019 New Product Pacesetters Highlights Breakout Year for Food and Beverage Launches

Both large and small companies were successful in 2019, thanks to consumers’ willingness to embrace an expanded range of product types and attributes.

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IRI released its 2019 New Product Pacesetters, the 25th annual report highlighting the most successful new product launches across food and beverage, non-food and convenience store sectors.

Both large and small companies were successful in 2019, thanks to consumers’ willingness to embrace an expanded range of product types and attributes. However, the big story of 2019 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 non-food 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% of all Pacesetter dollars, accentuating that big is back,” says Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership for IRI.

Both large and small companies found success in their own ways

In 2019, 53% 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, other products were able to get noticed and distributed.

Big companies also made a splash in 2019, accounting for 24% of New Product Pacesetter products and half of Pacesetter dollars. While smaller brands have smaller budgets and typically rely on non-traditional media outlets, big brands dedicated 25-30% of sales dollars to advertising.

“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,” says 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.

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.

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,” says Larry Levin, executive vice president, market and shopper intelligence and thought leadership, 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.”