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New Product Pacesetters Meet Shifting Consumer Behavior

Circana: Beverages dominated product launches in the convenience channel last year.
Danielle Romano
A shopper at the Choice Market at The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

CHICAGO — Products offering convenience, enhanced performance and a compelling brand story met consumers' shifting behavior in 2023, according to Circana's "2023 New Product Pacesetters Report."

The 29th annual report highlighted the top-selling new product launches across food and beverage, and nonfood consumer packaged goods (CPG) channels. 

The report details the continued impact of innovation within CPG, revealing that consumers seek exploration and new experiences as they adjust to active post-pandemic lifestyles. Leading products reflect shifts in Americans' daily routines, offering increased versatility and venturing into new categories, according to Circana. The 2023 New Product Pacesetters garnered a notable $6.1 billion in combined year-one sales across food, beverage and nonfood products, slightly less than the $7 billion achieved by 2022 Pacesetter sales.

[Read more: Entry Period Opens for Convenience Store News 2024 Best New Products Awards]

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"Consumer behavior has changed dramatically in recent years, from the pandemic and then the resumption of active lifestyles and hybrid work," said Lisa Maas, principal and practice lead, Innovation, Circana. "The latest Pacesetters align with consumers' desires for new experiences and product formats, new levels of convenience, trusted solutions for baby and pet and products that deliver superior performance. Brands that lead with relevant innovation stand to not only boost sales, but also cultivate lasting customer loyalty."

The Top 10 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters for 2023 are:

  1. Similac 360 Total Care
  2. PRIME Hydration
  3. Starry
  4. OREO Frozen Desserts
  5. Starbucks by Nespresso for Vertuo
  6. GHOST Energy
  7. Doritos/Cheetos/Sunchips Minis
  8. Black Rifle Coffee
  9. Electrolit
  10. Kevin's Natural Foods

The Top 10 C-store Pacesetters for 2023 are:

  1. GHOST Energy
  2. Alani Nu
  3. Gatorade Fit
  4. Black Rifle Coffee
  5. Voodoo Ranger Juice Force
  6. Liquid Death
  7. Gatorlyte Zero
  8. Starry
  9. OREO Frozen Desserts
  10. Simply Spiked Lemonade

The Top 10 Nonfood New Product Pacesetters for 2023 are:

  1. Gain+Odor Defense
  2. Tide Ultra OXI with Odor Eliminators
  3. Raw Sugar
  4. Kristin Ess
  5. Dr. Squatch
  6. Flamingo
  7. Duke Cannon
  8. Bark
  9. Billie
  10. Downy Rinse & Refresh

Some insights found among the 2023 New Product Pacesetters Report include:

Product Expansion & Co-Branding on the Rise

Data shows that co-branding and licensing leverage the trust and loyalty that established brands enjoy, opening doors for expansion beyond their core categories. For instance, OREO cookies and Little Debbie snack cakes have made their way into the frozen aisle, with OREO Frozen Desserts ranking No. 4 on the food and beverage Pacesetters list, and Hudsonville Ice Cream's Little Debbie flavors at No. 18.

Among nonfood Pacesetters, the AXE Car range of masculine-scented car air fresheners (No. 70) showcases the significant expansion opportunities available, and how brands can meet emerging consumer needs and desires in new spaces, and for new occasions, the market research firm said. 

Consumers Desire Functional Benefits

The report suggests that consumers increasingly sought functional benefits across the store in 2023. This demand for added value was likely driven by high inflation and a continued focus on well-being. 

[Read more: Beverages Dominate New Product Launches in 2022]

The trend was particularly evident in the beverage sector, where products offering enhanced hydration, energy and nutritional benefits were prominent, even among traditional carbonated soft drinks. PRIME Hydration, ranking No. 2 among food and beverage Pacesetters, capitalized on its appeal to a young audience and the excitement of new flavors. GHOST Energy, Electrolit and Olipop, coming in at No. 6, No. 9 and No. 11 respectively, also offer a variety of added functional benefits.

Performance expectations and new benefits extended to nonfood categories as well. Natural personal care products with simple ingredient lists and "free-from" claims performed well. Raw Sugar, ranked No. 3 among nonfood Pacesetters, offers self-care products enriched with natural ingredients and vitamins to revitalize the skin. Laundry products designed to eliminate odors, like Gain+Odor Defense (No. 1 in nonfood Pacesetters) and Tide Ultra OXI with Odor Eliminators (No. 2), also performed well.

Who's Innovating & How?

While Circana saw strong contributions from mid-sized companies last year, the 2023 Pacesetters showcase the influence of innovation from smaller companies. Manufacturers with sales under $500 million represent 59% of New Product Pacesetters by count, up from 41% in 2022. These smaller companies are also making a significant impact, accounting for 43% of New Product Pacesetter dollars (up from 18% in 2022). A common theme across leading companies last year was a keen focus on the consumer, with a commitment to meeting consumers' needs with relevant product solutions, messaging and pricing.

"In 2023, collaborations with well-known brands, compelling brand narratives, and a dedication to product expansion helped drive brand awareness and increase sales," said Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at Circana. "Products identified as Pacesetters contributed an 18% increase in total multioutlet sales, compared to an 11% increase in 2022, highlighting the importance of innovation and strategic partnerships in achieving sustained growth and market success."

The Circana 2023 New Product Pacesetters report is available exclusively from Circana, a leading advisor on the complexity of consumer behavior. The findings of this report were compiled based on insights from Circana's New Product Innovation Practice's suite of analytical and decision-making tools, as well as the 2023 Circana New Product Survey.

To download the full report, click here.

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