Circana: Which Products Are Leading the Market and Why

Leading analytics company Circana™ released the 29th annual report 2023 New Product Pacesetters highlighting the top-selling new product launches across food and beverage and nonfood consumer packaged goods sectors.

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.

According to Circana, leading products reflect shifts in Americans’ daily routines, offering increased versatility and venturing into new categories.

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.

“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.

Maas added, “The latest Pacesetters align with consumers’ desires for new experiences and product formats, new levels of convenience, trusted solutions for babies and pets, 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 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™

Keeping Breakfast at Home

Circana’s findings indicate that shifting daily routines have impacted every aspect of consumers’ lives, from how they practice self-care to the meals they prepare and the daily appliances they use.

There has been an increase in slow cooker and casserole dish sales, likely due to their association with easy meal preparation and cost savings.

This reflects the ongoing demand for convenient solutions for complete meals or meal shortcuts.

Consumers are looking for ways to elevate the morning experience, as evidenced by Starbucks by Nespresso for Vertuo’s fifth-place ranking on the food and beverage Pacesetters list.

Additionally, Nestlé collaborated with popular Kellogg’s® brands to introduce Carnation Breakfast Essentials®, Kellogg’s ready-to-drink breakfast meals, providing a quick breakfast option for consumers.

Product Expansion and Co-Branding on the Rise

The data shows that co-branding and licensing, as seen in Carnation-Kellogg’s offerings, 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 at No. 4 on the food and beverage Pacesetters list, and Hudsonville Ice Cream’s Little Debbie flavors at No. 18.

Among non-food 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.

Consumers Desire Functional Benefits

Circana’s 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.

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.

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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 non-food 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.

Innovations in Baby and Pet Products

The U.S. birth rate increased in 2021, particularly among women younger than 25, and first-time mothers.

The report signals that this trend may have been fueled by increased work-from-home arrangements, giving people increased flexibility to start a family.

The market has responded to this shift with a variety of baby products, including the No. 1 food and beverage, Pacesetter Similac 360 Total Care infant formula.

This formula, enriched with five “immune nourishing” prebiotics, is claimed by Abbott Laboratories to offer added advantages for brain development and digestive health.

Top-ranking products for babies and young children likely reflect parents’ commitments to providing healthy starts for their children.

Families with pets are also increasing, with The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reporting that nearly one in five households adopted a pet during the pandemic.

The data indicates that this rise has spurred innovation in pet food, toys, and health care, becoming a key opportunity for manufacturers.

Bark, the No. 8 nonfood Pacesetter, gained a distribution and sales boost through its partnership with Target®, featuring in-store dog toy displays with whimsical plush toys, treat dispensers, and durable chewers.

PEDIGREE® MarroBites dog food, No. 17, is made with real bone marrow and whole grains, offering added benefits like omega-6 fatty acids and zinc to help nourish dogs’ coats.

Following the lead of human products, many pet Pacesetters tap into wellness and joy.

Who’s Innovating, and 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 multi-outlet sales, compared to an 11% increase in 2022, highlighting the importance of innovation and strategic partnerships in achieving sustained growth and market success,” Driggs concluded.