By Lisa Maas, Principal and Practice Lead, Circana, and Joan Driggs, Vice President of Content and Thought Leadership, Circana

Who among us hasn’t stopped short in a grocery store aisle because a new product — seemingly created to fulfill a specific recent craving, need, or void — suddenly catches your eye? Maybe you snap a photo for your group chat or your Instagram story while you’re still in the store (if you haven’t caused a traffic jam).

Or perhaps a digital ad from a well-known influencer appeared in a social feed and brought you to a convenience store to hunt down an energy drink with a unique flavor experience. Either way, you’re buzzing from the dopamine that accompanies discovering something new and exciting and sharing it with someone you know will love it.

If these consumer experiences resonate with you, it should be easy to understand why new products matter and why we’ve published our 29th annual New Product Pacesetters report. New products are essential for retail and CPG success because:

  • They help to address evolving consumer needs in innovative ways, and foster shopper loyalty for those retailers carrying those relevant products, giving shoppers a reason to visit the store and keep their dollars within the chain.
  • They give shoppers something new to talk about and provide an avenue through which they can engage with retailers and build relationships.
  • They create energy and enthusiasm for the category. Overall, 14% of Pacesetter survey respondents said they are early adopters who like to have the newest products, with 25% claiming to be early adopters of food products.
  • New products drive growth and contribute significantly to sales and revenue. Products that achieved Pacesetters status in 2023 accounted for an 18% growth contribution to total multioutlet sales, compared to 11% in 2022.

Success requires innovation
Being new isn’t enough to ensure a product’s success across food and beverage and nonfood CPG sectors. New products made our Pacesetters list because they used innovation to anticipate and respond to major shifts in postpandemic consumer behavior and economic forces like inflation fueling consumers to demand more value from their purchases.

Across food and beverage and nonfood CPG categories, we noted common themes in the most innovative products that should continue to be areas of opportunity.

More is more
As consumers grapple with inflation, they’re looking for products that provide the perception of added value or additional benefits. We saw this in several categories, from beverages to oral care to laundry products.

For example, consumers have been demanding functional benefits from beverages for years. But in 2023, Pacesetter products offered more benefits around hydration, zero sugar, added electrolytes and essential vitamins, and gut health. We saw this with Gatorlyte Zero, Electrolit, Gatorade Fit, Olipop, and Poppi. In the laundry detergent aisle, successful new products, including Gain+Odor Defense and Tide Ultra OXI with Odor Eliminators, don’t just mask odors; they eliminate odors embedded deep in fabrics. Pacesetter toothbrushes were “oral care personal trainers,” such as the Oral-B iO series of Bluetooth-enabled electric toothbrushes that track brushing habits.

Postpandemic behavior
Most of the products on this year’s list were developed during the pandemic and anticipated consumers’ new normal routines. The end of home-centric lifestyles precipitated demand for on-the-go snacking, whether indulgent or permissible (mini Doritos, Cheetos, and Sunchips, Nutella B-ready, Junkless Foods, Nature Valley Crunch Dipped), convenient dinner solutions (Kevin’s Natural Foods refrigerated entrées, Ben’s Original Ready Rice Jasmine, Birds Eye Microwave roasters), and a desire for more convenient specialty coffee in the home, (Starbucks by Nespresso for Vertuo).

The rise of parents
The baby boom and spike in pet adoption during the pandemic created an opportunity for CPGs to innovate with products for growing families. Like other categories, successful brands infused new products with added benefits, like the immune nourishing prebiotics in Similac 360 Total Care infant formula, or elevated baby foods in ultra convenient pouches, like the Serenity Kids line.

Savvy brands that understood how consumers consider their pets to be members of their family (up to 50% of pet parents our data shows) and marketed their products accordingly earned Pacesetter status.

For a deeper look at all these trends, check out our 2024 New Product Pacesetters Report. And don’t forget to watch a recording of our webinar, taking a deeper dive into the brand and marketing stories of the products featured in our report.