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Starbucks Coffee, Coke's Vitaminwater, Chex Mix Snacks are 2010 Most Frequently Tried New Products

BOULDER, Colo. -- Starbucks coffee was the No. 1 brand tried by consumers in the coffee/tea category in January, earning twice as many mentions as No. 2 Dunkin' Donuts coffee and No. 3 Celestial Seasonings tea in a consumer survey conducted by Market Force Information.

Chex Mix and Ritz virtually tied for number of new product trials in the snack category, with a third more mentions than No. 3 snack Fiber One. In the beverage category, Coke's vitaminwater was the most commonly mentioned new beverage purchase in January, followed by V8 and SoBe, a strong showing for health-related beverages. Kashi and Special K led mentions in the cereal category, with both scoring significantly higher than No. 3 Cheerios. Lysol, Swiffer and Clorox all scored comparably high marks for new product trials in the cleanser category.

These findings emerged from a New Brand Trial survey Market Force conducted last month among its network of 300,000 independent mystery shoppers and merchandisers. Nearly 6,000 consumers responded to a series of questions designed to shed light on which brands drove the most new product trials and why.

When consumers were asked what made them pick up and buy a new product in the categories studied, four in 10 said: 'They saw it on the shelf or display.' Promotions such as coupons were mentioned as driving factors by another three in 10. Referrals by friends was the next most popular reason driving new product purchases and advertising was cited by just 8 percent of survey respondents. There were some differences by category, with cereals being the most responsive to promotions and couponing, and snack purchases influenced most by merchandising.

A whopping 82 percent of respondents said they drink coffee or tea and cited traditional brands, such as Folgers, Sanka, Lipton and Nestea, as the brands they currently have on their shelves at home. But specialty coffee and teas enticed more consumers to try a new brand or flavor in early 2010. Out of the 2,000 who responded to this portion of the survey, 52 percent said that they had tried a new brand or flavor of coffee or tea from a grocer in the past 30 days. Their purchases ranged across a variety of brands, with 15 brands receiving 10 or more mentions. Starbucks coffee garnered the highest response in the coffee/tea category with 81 mentions. Dunkin' Donuts coffee received roughly half that number with 43, followed by Celestial Seasonings and Folgers with 35 and 34, respectively. Tazo Tea was fifth, with 25 mentions.

Beverages, including health and energy drinks and sodas, received the largest number of brand name mentions of any category sampled. Coke's vitaminwater, V8 and SoBe were called out by consumers as the top three new brands they remember purchasing in the last 30 days.

Out of the top 17 brands that dominated in the beverage category with 10 or more mentions, Pepsi accounted for five of them including Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist and Gatorade. Starbucks also made it on to the beverage list, showing its increasing marketing muscle in the grocery aisle. Fuze had a very strong showing as a relatively new entrant, mentioned almost as frequently as better-known brands, such as Pepsi and Mountain Dew. When surveyed consumers were asked what kind of beverages they had on their shelves at home, more than half (52 percent) said bottled water, followed closely by Coke products (49 percent). Pepsi products were named by one-third of respondents (32 percent) and bottled/boxed juices received a similar response (30 percent).

Crackers, popcorn, chips and pretzels are consumer favorites, as seven in 10 of respondents said they have those at home. It appears that consumers are very open to trying other sorts of snacks. Forty-four percent of consumers reported trying a new brand of snack in the last 30 days.

While just 17 percent of consumers said they typically have snack mixes at home, the leading brand of snack consumers remember trying in the past 30 days was Chex Mix, followed closely by Ritz and Fiber One. That said, consumers could recall buying these brands, but they typically could not recall the new flavor or SKU they tried. This fuzzy memory effect could be due to an overload of flavor varieties, Market Force Information concluded. General Mills' Chex Mix, for example, has 13 different flavor varieties ranging from salty to sweet. Kraft Food's Ritz brand has six varieties of its cracker brands, plus a new Crackerfuls cheddar cheese cracker sandwich.

Kashi and Kellogg's Special K cereals were the two brands mentioned most frequently as new cereal products tried by consumers in the past 30 days. They had more mentions than any brand across the six categories researched, with 127 and 123, respectively. General Mills' Cheerios brand had 80 mentions. The nearest competitor was Post's Honey Bunches of Oats with 24 mentions. The same branding recall issues manifested in the cereal category, where some consumers could remember the brand, but not the specific flavor, listing 'Post' or 'Kellogg's' in their responses.

Consumers were slightly less likely to try a new cleaning product than snacks, coffee or beverages, with 29 percent of consumers reporting that they bought a new brand in the past 30 days. When they did try a new cleaning product, long-standing brands won out. Reckitt Benckiser's Lysol was mentioned most frequently, followed closely by Procter & Gamble's Swiffer and Clorox, with 29, 28 and 27 mentions, respectively.

Advertising played a stronger role in driving new cleaning product trials than it did in the other categories surveyed, although it was mentioned explicitly in just 11 percent of consumer responses in the cleaning products category. While advertising was not reported as the primary reason for new product trials, it clearly helps build brand awareness, making consumers more likely to try a new offering from a familiar brand.

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