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New Store Products Hit Today's Consumer Trends


Twenty-four winners of CSNews' 16th annual Best New Products competition were recognized at the NACS Show

By Susan Durtschi, Past Times Marketing

The latest trends in convenience, portion control, value, clever and unique packaging, healthy eating, spicy tastes and energy formulations were on display this year among the scores of entries in the 2012 Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards contest.

After a month of testing, our exclusive consumer panel chose 24 products in 23 categories (there was one tie) that were recognized at this year's NACS Show for bringing the best new products to the convenience store industry over the past year.

Not surprisingly, the winning products represented many of the current market trends in the industry. From healthy drinks and snacks to innovative convenience packaging, this year's winners stood out in perhaps the most closely contested races in the history of the Best New Products Awards program.

Judging for the 16th annual CSNews Best New Products Awards was supervised by Past Times Marketing, a New York-based consumer research and product testing firm. Entries were rated and awarded points by consumers on the criteria of taste, value, convenience, healthfulness, quality ingredients, preparation requirements, appearance and packaging. (For more details on the judging process, got to and click on Resources/Awards & Contests.)

After tabulating the scores, here are the 2012 winners:

Dairy Beverage — Früsh, from Origin Food Group, is real fruit blended together with rich creamy yogurt and all-natural health booster probiotics. It features clever, modern single-serving packaging and a smooth taste. The peach flavor was called "fresh and zesty" by panelists. Another said, "I prefer to drink my yogurt, and the wider mouth on the bottle is great."

Non-Carbonated Soft Drink — V Blast Vitamins & Spring Water, from New York Spring Water Inc., came out on top. The Pomegranate Cherry Blast was the favorite flavor. In a packaging innovation, the twist cap releases vitamins into the beverage, a system that the manufacturer says keeps the vitamins fresh and potent, unlike other drinks that it claims degrade while sitting on the shelf. Our testers gave high marks to the graphics on the packaging.

Carbonated Soft Drink — Packaging again separated the winner from others in the carbonated soft drink category. The Coca-Cola Co. won with its 12.5-ounce handheld bottle with iconic logo and unique new bottle shape. "Cool label, right size, right price," said our panel. The custom design and a suggested 89-cent value price made for a winner.

Energy Drink — Monster Rehab from Monster Energy, a non-carbonated, 10-calorie tea and lemonade blend, ranked highest for flavorful taste and sharp packaging among the energy drink contestants. This product serves the needs of consumers who want more energy; it is targeted to them. Our team said this is a great alternative to diet colas.

Other Tobacco Product — Krome Cigarillo from Commonwealth-Altadis topped the Other Tobacco Product category. The White Grape Cigarillo, made in the Dominican Republic by the world-famous Phillies brand scored the highest with the panel. Adult tobacco users who tested the product lauded its "smooth taste" and said it has a lasting imprint.

Electronic Cigarette — Once thought to be a passing fad, electronic cigarettes have been rapidly gaining acceptance as consumers look to a healthy transition from traditional cigarettes. NJOY's One Joy Disposable Electronic Cigarette (Traditional Bold 1.8 percent) was the winner for its taste, and consumers liked the disposable nature of the product. Some comments from panelists were: "Great for curbing my habit," and "Why shouldn't I be able to light up when and where I want?"

Non-Chocolate Candy — The Hershey Co.'s Jolly Rancher Crunch 'N Chew impressed the judges. The item appears to be the perfect combination of taste and packaging size. The candy is hard on the outside and chewy in the middle with bold fruit flavors. Comments included: "Love the crunchy candy shell; A burst of flavor; Bite-sized and individually wrapped; Perfect for the car, office or purse; Just the right size portion."

Chocolate Candy — Tuxedos Dark and Milk Chocolate Covered Almonds from Promotion in Motion Inc. were "rich and creamy" and cited for their generously sized almonds. "They use premium-sized almonds," said one panelist. This candy ranked high for both taste and its appeal to the c-store customer.

Gum and Mints — Pharma Gum brings innovation into the gum and mints category by adding an energy kick with its new Caffeinated Java Gum. One piece has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee or an energy shot. It is a refreshing newcomer in the gum category.

Foodservice/Breakfast — Home Market Foods Inc. created an array of Roller Bites, bite-sized finger friendly nuggets for different meals and snacks. Our judges loved the Maple Pancake Coated Sausage Egg & Cheese Bites. These flavorful and crunchy nuggets were described by one panelist as "a perfect hot on-the-go breakfast."

Foodservice/Lunch/Dinner — AdvancePierre Foods' Fast Fixin' Sandwich Bar Breaded Chicken Patties were the clear winner among lunch/dinner offerings. The chicken patties are part of the Fast Fixin' Sandwich Bar offering. This product appealed to consumers for its size, value and taste. "It overflows the bun!" was a typical comment.

Foodservice/Home Meal Replacement — Tyson's Deli Market Products Buffalo Chicken Wings was the best prepackaged take-home meal. One consumer liked its "spicy, saucy taste and great texture." Another noted, "Perfect for Monday Night Football."

Packaged Ice Cream — Milky Way Brand Chocolate Ice Cream Bars from Mars Chocolate North America were a big hit. With the same great taste and size of the candy bar, this frozen confection capitalizes on the strong brand. "Simply indulgent!" said one judge.

Healthy Salty Snack (tie) — Gourmet Basics' portioncontrolled Smart Fries was co-winner in this category, which received dozens of entries. Our judges loved the Cracked Pepper & Salt version. Described as a "better for you snack," these tasty potato sticks are air popped, not baked or fried. "Could not believe the taste and the fact that they contain only 2 grams of fat or less per serving," one judge remarked. Panelists noted that Smart Fries contain 80 percent less fat than regular potato chips.

Healthy Salty Snack (tie) — Plentils Crunchy Lentil Chips from Enjoy Life was the other co-winner in this category. The Margherita Pizza flavor was favored by most panelists. Lentils are one of the trending ingredients in the fast-growing vegetable snack category, and gluten-free is a rising ingredient trend. "High protein, gluten-free, what's not to like? A great way to get my veggies," said panelists.

Regular Salty Snack — Inventure Foods introduced a new line of snacks under the well-known Nathan's Famous hot dog maker brand. The single-serve bags of Nathan's Honey Mustard Crunchy Crinkle Fries provide a tangy and crunchy alternative to regular chips. Nostalgic Coney Island graphics on the package were a big hit with panelists. Our judges said they tasted good, and they loved the thick cut and hearty portion. One comment was: "Where's the beer?"

Alternative Snack — Oh Yeah! Trail Mix Bar — Chocolate Raisin Candies — with its low sugar and high protein content was considered a "right size" portion energy bar. These trail mix bars ticked off all the right boxes with consumers who applauded their taste and the texture of the combination of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. "It's a great grab-and-go item with all the right healthy ingredients," one judge said.

Chilled Fruit Snack — Crunch Pak DipperZ, lowcalorie single-serve produce snack items, won this closely contested category. Tart apples packaged with low-calorie caramel dip made this a firm winner. At approximately 80 calories, DipperZ fruit is super crisp and fresh, and perfect for school lunches and snacking on the go.

Health and Beauty Care — The EZ Paks Over the Counter convenience size products from Lil' Drug Store Products made a powerful presentation. The EZ Paks boxes are an appealing size with bright large text, each containing 20 tablets for $3.99. The streamlined presentation highlights top-selling formulas, including sinus relief, cold relief, sleep aid and pain relievers.

Jewelry/Accessories — Tru Witness key covers from Kerusso are Christian-faith themed products that panelists thought were ideal for a niche market. These eye-catching, impulse-buy items were considered innovative and a unique way for Christian consumers to profess their faith with style and personality. The line includes a bright and colorful assortment of cool themes. The display was very visually effective.

General Merchandise — BIC Consumer Products USA came out with one of the highest scoring new items in this year's contest. The FlameDisk provides a convenient and portable outdoor griller as an alternative to charcoal. Comments included: "Looks like it would be great for camping and tailgating. Seems idiot proof."

Energy Product — Hangover Joe's Recovery Shots took the honors in this category. This recovery shot is fully loaded with lots of antioxidants that help relieve the symptoms associated with a hangover. Product packaging and branding is based on the popular comedic movie, "The Hangover." Great packaging with the latest movie tie-in.

Gift Card — Ambess Prepaid has come out with the Gift Card Gallery. This is one card that gives customers access to gift cards from more than 500 retailers, e-tailers, hotels and restaurants. Recipients can choose from 500-plus gift cards to their favorite places. "One card with 500 choices? Wow," said one panelist. The cards come in denominations of $25, $50, $75 and $100. What makes this favorable is that it has no activation fees and no time restrictions on use. The judges loved the concept and the convenience of the card. Perfect for gift giving.

Overall Innovation — MiO Energy Liquid Water Enhancer from Kraft capitalizes on the existing trend of flavored waters. This portable liquid water enhancer encourages the customer to make a second purchase in the store — a bottle of water. Adding MiO to water makes any drink customized for the user on the go. The tangerine flavor was the clear favorite in the survey. Packaging also received high marks. The small bottle has a trendy flask shape and flip-top lid.

Susan Durtschi, an experienced retailer buyer and product development specialist for both brick and mortar and online retailers, is president of Past Times Marketing, a consumer research firm. For the third consecutive year, Convenience Store News partnered with Past Times Marketing for the CSNews Best New Products Awards contest. Past Times works with focus groups and through online surveys to consumers across the country to judge products. For more information, go to

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