C-Stores Are 'Rock Stars' for New Products

SymphonyIRI's Levin outlines industry's crucial role in successful launches

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Larry Levin

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- "It's all about innovation--not imitation." This was one of Larry Levin's main messages to the retailers and suppliers attending his "Making Stars Shine Bright in C-Stores: The Channel's Importance in New Product Launches" Convenience Retailing University (CRU) session.

Not surprisingly, SymphonyIRI Group Inc.'s executive general manager of consumer insights had data to back up such a claim: the company's data shows that an innovative new product will make $36 million as opposed to the $24 million an "imitation" product would bring in.

And perhaps no one knows this better than c-store retailers. "You guys are truly a great catalyst in bringing new products to market," Levin told the crowd, later dubbing the industry as a "rock star" for innovation.

SymphonyIRI's Pacesetters report clearly shows the important role convenience stores play in successful product launches. For 13 years the Chicago-based market research company has tracked the most successful new product launches of new or extended brands with at least a 30% distribution and $7.5 million in first year sales. During that time, c-stores have accounted for approximately $2.5 billion of the Pacesetter new product sales--more than two thirds of all Pacesetter dollars. 

"C-stores are a great laboratory to breed successful launches, especially in alcohol, tobacco, sports and energy drinks," Levin said.

Not surprisingly, when Levin laid out the top 10 c-store new product launches over the last 13 years (representing a whopping $1.4 billion in sales), all the top products fell into those four segments. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that out of those products, four saw all bout 100% of their sales dollars from the c-store channel: Monster Nitrous had $55 million in sales during its first year (100% of which were in c-stores), Muscle Milk had $86 million year-one sales (99% c-store), Camel Snus clocked in at $90.8 million (99% c-store) and the No. 1 first-year new c-store product was Camel Crush with $375 million in sales (100% from c-store).

"As you think about these top 10 products, it really helps you see the importance that you folks play in gaining the trial, gaining the repeat and sustaining the distribution for these manufacturers as they release these important products," said Levin.

CRU began Tuesday in Glendale, Ariz., and continues through Thursday.