IRI's New Product Pacesetters Report 2019 was released this week. Every year, IRI Worldwide features the new products that recorded the highest dollar sales in the 52 weeks after launch. Come May, I start looking forward to musing about the list of "winners." Last year, the top 2 new products of 2018 were candy; Kinder Joy, a chocolate egg with a surprise toy inside, and M&M's Caramel. I recall remarking at the time that despite (or maybe because of) all our good intentions to eat healthier, our desire to reward ourselves and others with sweet indulgences is unrelenting.
Snack indulgences still feature in the 2019 list (Pop Tarts Bites and Cheez-it Snap'd) but topping the list, by a considerable margin, at $299 million in its first year, is Bang, a better-for-you energy drink touting formulas based on rigorous nutrition science, and Enfamil Neuro PRO at $235 million. This infant formula is fortified with a new ingredient, Milk Fat Globule Membrane, which helps with brain structure and development. Bang, Enfamil Neuro PRO, as well as #3 Gatorade Zero, and Slim-Fast Keto at #8 represent products that are made with added, or more of, specific functional ingredients.
It's not that the pendulum has swung away from "naughty" food this year, it's likely that we are increasingly looking to food to be more than sustenance, and beverages to do more than hydrate. We want food and drink to do more than just taste good so that we get a base level of satisfaction. This 2020 IRI Pacesetters report reflects, in part, that a growing number of us want food to solve daily problems, and make us better versions of ourselves.
I've heard versions of the following quotes in recent food-related consumer research work...
"I need to be in the zone when I'm at work. If I'm not focused. If I'm not at 100%, it shows, so I can't afford not to be at my best."
"I want to do the best for my child. I want them to be the best they can be everyday, and give them the best chance for a healthy, productive, successful life."
"I'm go, go, go all day. I need protein all day to power through work and power through my work-outs."
Most of us say we believe that following the right diet can maintain or even improve your health, but food and beverage makers continue to market products as problem solvers and image makers because it appeals to this unquenchable appetite for self-betterment; this goes beyond weight management and disease prevention. For most of us, our physical well-being would probably benefit from consuming less sugar, fewer refined grains, more natural fats, and more fiber, but even if most of us do so, I think we will still want to believe that eating food products crafted with specific ingredients can make us smarter, stronger, or more attractive.
There is a parallel, on-going quest to find the next wonder ingredient. Milk was fortified with vitamin D eighty years ago. Orange juice was juiced up with calcium 30 years ago. Turmeric and collagen are hot right now. Look out for cacao fruit, fonio, and sea kelp (and many others, I'm sure) on this horizonless horizon.