Energy Drinks Outpace New Products in C-Store Channel

Beverages took nine of the top 10 spots in IRI’s 2020 pacesetters report, behind only ZYN nicotine pouches.

June 16, 2021

CHICAGO—Despite significant hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, many new products introduced into the convenience store channel in late 2019 and early 2020 managed to beat the odds and emerge as strong performers, according to IRI’s 2020 New Product Pacesetters, the 26th annual report revealing the top new product launches across food and beverage and nonfood sectors.

More than a quarter of the New Product Pacesetters launched in the fourth quarter of 2019 or January 2020 saw big performances, accounting for 51 of 200 Pacesetter products, with 27 in the food and beverage sector, according to IRI.

“The top New Product Pacesetters of 2020 accomplished a unique feat by achieving success in circumstances never before seen in the history of Pacesetters,” said Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership for IRI, in a press release. “Many shoppers made the leap to new products because their go-to brand was unavailable, but many also actively sought out innovation for new experiences, measured not just by dollars earned, but also by the ability to reach the intended audience.”

IRI estimates the pandemic created upward of 33 million new in-home meal occasions, leading to increased pantry-stocking and CPG spending for products from manufacturers of all sizes. Many shoppers sought innovative products that offered a sense of novelty and comfort amid the pandemic.

In the convenience channel, ZYN nicotine pouches took the top spot with $339.2 million in sales. Beverages took nine of the top 10 spots. While half of the top 10 broke the $100 million threshold, overall sales were down compared to 2019, which saw eight of its top 10 break the same barrier. Similar to previous years, consumers turned to convenience for an energy boost, with six of the top 10 products being energy drinks.

The top 10 c-store Pacesetters for 2020 are:

  1. ZYN
  2. Reign
  3. Bud Light Seltzer
  4. Red Bull Peach Edition
  5. Monster Energy Ultra Paradise
  6. Starbucks Tripleshot Energy
  7. Mtn Dew Zero Sugar
  8. Starbucks Frappuccino with a splash of Cold Brew
  9. Red Bull Pear Edition
  10. Coca-Cola Energy

One trend in this year’s Pacesetters is a notable consumer interest in carbonated beverages, including sparkling waters and hard seltzers. Of the top 25 food and beverage Pacesetters of 2020, 10 are beverages. Bud Light Seltzer, which launched in January 2020, took the No. 1 spot, followed by Truly Lemonade and Mtn Dew Zero Sugar. All of the top three food and beverage Pacesetters generated more than $100 million in sales in IRI’s measured multioutlet markets.

Beverage alcohol products accounted for eight of the 27 beverage Pacesetters and generated a $547 million in sales. In 2020, beer, wine and spirits benefited as consumer celebrations and entertaining moved in-home. New product launches in this space made a huge splash, generating a combined 44% of Pacesetter beverage dollars, compared with 17% in 2019.

“Understanding consumer demographics and why certain products succeed is imperative for brands, both big and small, as innovation strategists work to respond to the continuously shifting marketplace,” said Larry Levin, executive vice president for market and shopper intelligence and thought leadership for IRI. “IRI's 2020 New Product Pacesetters and its consumer attitudes survey about new products tell a story of people staying at home, but still seeking out products and brands that offered indulgence and comfort amid the chaos of COVID-19.”

Next month, NACS Magazine takes a deep dive into the top performing products in the convenience channel. In the meantime, don’t miss the June issue covering NACS State of the Industry data for 2020.
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