Something for Everyone Clean labels, plant-based ingredients and bold flavors dominate among the winners of our annual new products contest. Introduction by Jim Dudlicek Reviews by the PG Staff
he level of innovation from new product developers never ceases to amaze us. After all, you can’t spell innovate without A-T-E, and that’s exactly what we did, yet again, with hundreds of new products, from meal solutions and snacks, to sweets, beverages and condiments. In all, more than 200 individual food and nonfood products crossed our desks this year, vying to be chosen as one of Progressive Grocer’s Editors’ Picks. What did the winners do to stand out from the pack? The products we liked best leveraged the key trends motivating consumer purchases, among them clean label; free-from, low or no; protein; plant-based ingredients; and new and bold flavor profiles. They offered solutions to key consumer need states. And above all, they had to taste good. (Well, except for the nonfood products — they got a pass on taste but were held to a higher standard for utility.) This year’s contest brought our first CBD and hemp products — W+ CBD Sparkling Water and Elmhurst creamers — which we felt were unintimidating ways for folks interested in the herbals category to get their feet wet with otherwise familiar products. We were impressed by the increasing quality of vegan products, like those from Follow Your Heart and Upton’s Naturals. We were intrigued by efforts to add extra servings of vegetables to traditional products like hamburger patties (Applegate), snack chips (Real Food From the Ground Up) and frozen pizza (Spinato’s). 20
We embraced flavor combinations like turmeric sweet potato, Meyer lemon, blackberry mojito, maple fig, sugar cookie confetti, blood orange and Cuban mojo. We were quenched by functional beverages like GT’s Alive adaptogenic tea, Odwalla Smoobucha and Zyn Curcumin. We marveled at convenient meal solutions like Applegate charcuterie plates, Hormel snack packs, Little Potato side dishes, Mann’s breakfast bowls, Mountain House freeze-dried meals, and Skippy PB&J Minis. And we were amazed by how far cookies continue to go, with options available for consumers seeking less sugar, no sugar, no wheat, no dairy — even a cookie with healthy fats for keto dieters. Despite the continued rise of products made with or including plant-based ingredients, products made from or including meat made a fine showing as well this year. That’s still reflective of the current market. According to recent data from Nielsen, 98 percent of meat-alternative buyers also purchase meat, and they do so more than the average meat buyer. Flexitarians, defined by Nielsen as medium and heavy buyers of meat and meat alternatives, account for 37 percent of meat-alternative buyers, spending $643 on meat every year. The average meat buyer, meanwhile, spends $478 per year. The percentage of U.S. households buying meat alternatives increased 1.6 percent in the past year, to 21.6 percent. According to the Nielsen study, 62 percent of consumers surveyed said that they’re willing to reduce meat consumption due to environmental concerns, and 43 percent said that they would replace meat-based protein with plant-based protein. Still, meat accounted for $95 billion in sales over the past year, whereas meat alternatives are still shy of crossing the billion-dollar mark, coming in at $893 million, Nielsen reports. But all indications are that the latter figure will continue to grow. Like the results of our contest, that’s plenty to chew on.