- Nielsen released its Top 25 Breakthrough Innovation winners for 2019 and this year, and 17 of the brands making the list were in the food and beverage space. The products were: Bang Energy Drinks, Beyond Meat Beyond Burger, Blue Bunny Load’d Sundaes, BodyArmor Lyte, Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Lemonade, Cheez-It Snap’d, Corona Premier, Enfamil NeuroPro, “Game of Thrones” Oreo, Gatorade Zero, Ketel One Botanical, Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, Monster Energy Mango Loco, Mtn Dew Liberty Brew, Pop-Tarts Bites, Ripple Plant-Based Milk and Danone’s Two Good.
- To find their way onto this list, each product needed to reflect strong, distinct qualities such as mass potential, longevity, brand incrementality, category distinction or appeal toward a specific consumer target. Nielsen said that selected winners are those that are helping to define product innovation for the "new normal."
- Nielsen noted that the pandemic has caused consumer needs and priorities to evolve and that brands that provide solutions have better chances of success. Despite the upheaval in markets and consumer behavior over the past few months, a survey from food innovation lab Mattson found innovation is still going strong with 58% of consumers said they are ready to purchase new products when they arrive on shelves.
This year, COVID-19 reimagined food and beverage products for the nation, with Nielsen calling the emerging trends part of the “Homebody Economy” where consumers are looking to bring convenience in-home to replicate out-of-the home experiences. Some of the innovations that seemed to resonate strongly with consumers per the Nielsen data were in the plant-based, snacks and alcohol space.
Healthy eating is often synonymous with plant-based foods as consumers look to cultivate both healthier and more sustainable diets. This spring, the trend exploded and plant-based foods grew 35% faster than the food category in general. Ripple Plant-Based Milk, Beyond Meat Beyond Burgers and Ketel One Botanical all tapped into that trend to reframe the power of plants in the context of household staples of milk, meat and flavorings, respectively.
Nielsen also highlighted several snacks on its list. Cheez-It Snap’d, “Game of Thrones” Oreo and Pop-Tarts Bites all brought favorites from millennials’ childhoods and reworked them for 2020. While the tendency to snack is nothing new for American consumers — prior to the pandemic, snacking was preferred to eating meals for 59% of adults worldwide, according to Mondelez’s "State of Snacking" report — the habit received a big boost as people were quarantined at home. A study from the NPD Group reported snack food consumption increased 8% in April.
Innovative beverages also received several mentions, including Bang Energy Drinks, BodyArmor Lyte and Monster Energy Mango Loco. Energy drinks comprise a category that has grown steadily with U.S. sales anticipated to total about $16.9 billion by 2022, according to Market Research Hub. However, with this increase in popularity comes more competition making it imperative that even industry staples reinvent themselves to continue to stand out. Bang has received praise before, getting the top spot spot on IRI’s New Product Pacesetters list last year.
While plant-based and beverages are a trend that has carried over from last year, brands focusing on packaging innovations, as they did in 2019, did not seem to make the cut, indicating that product function outweighed presentation this year as consumers searched for practical solutions to their everyday needs.
This marks the second year that food and beverage brands have dominated the Nielsen innovative products list. It is interesting that edible products are in large part driving innovation within consumer packaged goods. The space has recently seen a massive interest from VC capital that has sent billions of dollars into product innovation as people work to reinvent these items to be more sustainable, nutritional and overall better-for-you.
With 30,000 product launches every year, according to Nielsen, innovation remains important for companies looking to stay relevant. However, having staying power amid consumers that are accustomed to rapid product turnover can be difficult. According to market research firm IRI, more than 10,000 new products make it to retail shelves every year, and 90% fail to achieve the goals they set out originally.