Beverages, Nicotine Pouches Top IRI’s C-Store Pacesetter List

Annual report highlights innovation
Truly Hard Lemonade
Photograph: Shutterstock

CHICAGO — Beverages in several segments, as well as nicotine pouches and meat snacks, were among the top products in the convenience-store category in the 2021 New Product Pacesetters list released June 8 by IRI.

The annual report features the top new product launches in the food and beverage and nonfood categories.

The Top 10 C-Store Pacesetters are:

  • Truly Hard Lemonade
  • Dr Pepper & Cream Soda
  • Corona Hard Seltzer
  • On
  • Rogue
  • Truly Iced Tea
  • Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer
  • Java Monster 300
  • Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew
  • Jack Link’s Cold Crafted

The unpredictability of the pandemic made the work of manufacturers even more difficult than in 2020, as COVID-19 and the resultant behavior of shoppers ebbed and flowed during 2021, IRI said.

Despite facing many challenges, this year’s New Product Pacesetters delivered an impressive $5.8 billion in aggregate year one sales across the food and beverage and nonfood categories, Chicago-based IRI said. Six of the top 10 Pacesetters in food and beverage included bubbles, in both alcohol and non-alcohol categories, reflecting consumers’ desires to socialize at home.

“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, vice president, content and thought leadership at IRI. “COVID-19 generated trends that both helped and hindered growth trajectories. In-home stockups eased from 2020 levels, while concurrently, interest in new products representing beverages, frozen convenience foods, household goods and self-care resulted in healthy growth.”

New alcohol and non-alcohol beverages with a new variety of flavors and combinations encouraged consumers to explore, IRI said. Variety packs in hard seltzers made entertaining at home more interesting and gave brands an opportunity to test new flavors by promoting trial.

During 2021, IRI’s data showed that consumers juggled at-home and out-of-the-home work and school as the pandemic evolved. Several coffee and tea products performed well to keep people’s energy up, including Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew.

Analyzing trends among New Product Pacesetter products is especially important since they typically comprise just 1% of total CPG dollar sales but are responsible for a very significant one-third of growth year over year, IRI said. In 2021, Pacesetters accounted for 44% of total store growth with similar contribution from food and beverage and nonfood innovation, despite challenges ranging from supply chain issues to store space allocation and unpredictable demand.

Pacesetters’ first-year revenues mostly held steady with previous years, despite limited promotional activity, IRI said. The median dollar sales of food and beverage products in this year’s Pacesetters was $20 million, slightly under 2020 Pacesetters, but equivalent to 2019. Among nonfoods, median dollar sales totaled $17 million, the highest since 2017 New Product Pacesetters.

IRI delivers market, consumer and media exposure information and predictive analytics for small to midsized companies in the consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail and over-the-counter health care industries. This is IRI’s 27th annual New Product Pacesetters report.

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