New Products of the Year – Surprising or Predictable?

New products are the variety consumers crave. Variety in foodservice generates sales. That’s why every year, Automatic Merchandiser and ask readers to vote for their best-selling new products from the prior year. As one might expect many of the winners are consistent with trends seen in other retail segments.

The BIG AZ Cheeseburger was always popular with consumers, and now its latest extension, the AdvancePierre Foods’ BIG AZ BaconAddict® Cheeseburger, has been crowned a new product of the year winner in the food category.


Chocolate spans three categories

Chocolate proved to be a big winner this year due to its mass appeal. Lucintel reported that 73.9 percent of the U.S. population enjoyed eating chocolate in 2013. It is unsurprising then that three of the six new product winners included chocolate — M&M’s® Chocolate Bar, Mrs. Freshley’s Chocolate Dreamies™ and Basil’s Chocolate Chip Mini Bites. Consumers love their chocolate, but they are also trying to eat healthier. Herr’s® Good Natured Selects Baked Multi-Grain Crisps Cheddar Cheese, the winner of the salted snack category, meets this demand for “better for you” products. Drinks also fit well into consumer trends. Coca-Cola’s Honest® Unsweet Lemon Tea won in the cold beverage category — a testament to the increasing demand for ready-to-drink tea. Consumers are also showing a preference for gourmet coffee, with one third of coffee drinking adults enjoying at least one per day, according to the National Coffee Association. The winner in hot beverage, J.M. Smuckers Folgers® Cappuccino Fall Flavors, meets this trending consumer demand.

Two new categories were introduced to this year’s contest — equipment and technology. With more than 58 percent of American adults owning smartphones, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, and more companies incorporating digital signage into their machines, technology and equipment are becoming increasingly relevant, making them two obvious choices for category additions. The Newco’s Fresh Cup 3, winner of the equipment category, is a great example of new equipment that meets several consumer demands related to gourmet coffee. With the newness of mobile technology in vending, it was an unexpected win for Vend Central’s Mobile Request 1, a mobile app for consumers, in the category of technology.


Deliver on trends

The AdvancePierre Foods’ BIG AZ BaconAddict® Cheeseburger, winner of the food category, was launched at the 2013 NAMA OneShow and began shipping one month later. As a line extension of the BIG AZ brand sandwiches, the BIG AZ BaconAddict Cheeseburger is set to satisfy bacon-loving consumers. “At AdvancePierre, we monitor food and flavor trends constantly, making sure to keep our offerings up to date with current trends,” said Nancy Todys, senior director of convenience marketing at AdvancePierre. “Bacon on sandwiches is hot and growing. When we decided to add a bacon cheeseburger to our BIG AZ line-up, we were challenged to deliver the concept in BIG AZ style. We did a lot of research and development to find ways to deliver a satisfying bacon experience and live up to the BIG AZ BaconAddict Cheeseburger name.” Todys continued, “Bacon is more popular than ever, and the BIG AZ BaconAddict delivers on the promise of big bacon flavor.”

In 2013, bacon was not the only trending flavor option for consumers. As expected, the demand for chocolate drove Mars, Flower Foods and Biscomerica to create products for those with a sweet-tooth.

“Consumers are willing to try new flavors from brands they already know and love,” said Tim Quinn, vice president of trade development for Mars Chocolate North America. M&M’s® Chocolate Bar, winner of the candy category, launched in May 2013. “Consumers looking for a chocolate bar format now can also enjoy the colorful candy fun of M&M’s brand candies at the same time with the M&M’s Chocolate Bar.” M&M’s Chocolate Bar earned 70 percent purchase interest and ranked top in performance across all other measures, including uniqueness and trial.

In the pastry category, the winner, Mrs. Freshley’s Chocolate Dreamies™, became available across the country starting in September. The chocolate cakes are available in 2.8 ounce two-count, single-serve packs for the vending channel. Chocolate Dreamies are available in colorful cellophane packaging with a view window prominently displaying the chocolate cakes. “Mrs. Freshley’s mission is snack cake innovation, whether that’s creating a new twist on a classic or developing unique items in partnership with other well-known brands,” said Brent Bradshaw, Flowers Foods’ vice president of marketing. “Chocolate was an obvious choice when we thought about expanding our popular Dreamies line. These are the ultimate in on-the-go snacking, offering great flavor and freshness.”


Flavor and health

Basil’s Chocolate Chip Mini Bites, winner of the cookie category, was specifically designed and targeted to meet the 35-10-35 and school location requirements. It contains both the consumers’ preference for chocolate with a healthy edge. Kathy O’Brien, vice president of sales/vending for Biscomerica believes that Basil’s Chocolate Chip Mini Bites is popular due to the demand of a much needed cookie item for the “healthy” and school-approved category. In addition, O’Brien credits the appeal to containing a low calorie count, whole grains and no trans fats. “This product gives consumers seeking a healthy choice a real taste treat,” said O’Brien.

In keeping with healthy preferences, Herr’s® Good Natured Selects Baked Multi-Grain Crisps Cheddar Cheese was a best seller in 2013 in the category of salted snack. Good Natured Selects offers a healthy blend of oats, potato flour and a combination of poppy, flax, sesame and caraway seeds blended to create the nutty flavor that will satisfy the most robust appetites. Good Natured Selects contain no saturated fats, no artificial ingredients and are completely gluten free. In addition to the Cheddar Cheese flavor, Good Natured Selects are available in Original Grains with Sea Salt and Tuscan Garden Medley.

Ready-To-Drink Tea has grown 15 fold over the last decade, according to Tea Association of the U.S.A. So unsurprisingly, Coca-Cola’s new unsweetened tea, Honest® Unsweet Lemon Tea, was the best seller in the cold beverage category. Brewed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic, Fair Trade Certified™ tea leaves from India, the unsweetened, zero calorie beverage is flavored with organic lemon extract and is available in 16.9 ounce polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Launched in November 2013, Honest Unsweet Lemon Tea contains no genetically modified organisms and is gluten-free.

The NCA’s 2013 National Coffee Drinking Trends reported that 31 percent of Americans consumed gourmet beverages. This growing trend led to the winner of the best hot-beverage launched in 2013, J.M. Smuckers Folgers® Cappuccino Fall Flavors. This specialty coffee is available in two flavors: Caramel Macchiato and Pumpkin Spice.


Inaugural category winners

Voters were not shy about choosing the most trending products in the newest categories introduced — technology and equipment. Newco’s Fresh Cup 3, winner of the equipment category, was designed with the roaster and operator in mind. This product lets users choose from up to five programmable recipes including coffee mild, medium, bold, espresso and iced. Newco’s flow meter provides precise volume accuracy and comes with one touch brew activation, back-to-back brew cycles without reheat delays and error codes for “heads up” serviceability.

Vend Central’s Mobile Request 1 mobile app pulled off an unexpected win as it was voted the best new product in the technology category. “The reason it’s so popular is because mobile technology is so popular,” said Neil Swindale, president at VendCentral. “Customers shopping out of vending machines don’t necessarily like to make a phone call when they have an issue. Our MR-1 is a cloud based customer service platform that allows customers to contact the vending company immediately via their smartphone.”

Generate excitement — give some of the best selling new products of 2013 a try. Following consumer trends can lead to higher sales.