GLOBAL – Beverage launches faired better than new product releases in other food categories in 2021, according to a recently released New Product Pacesetter report by market research firm IRI.

Although the launches were slightly less than 2020, the beverage’s dominance of IRI’s New Product Pacesetter ranking continued in 2021, with a record-setting 46 beverages making the top 100 list.

While the products are very different from carbonated soft to next-generation caffeinated sparkling waters, many are driven by the same force: young adult consumers.

Within the top 25 category, 13 counted as beverages while the top 10 was the most dominated with 8 of all the top new product launches being beverages.

Among the 10, Keurig Dr Pepper’s Dr Pepper & Cream Soda led the ranking with US$137.3 million in sales, followed by Coca-Cola’s Aha sparkling water at US$128.6 million.

In the report, IRI noted that Dr Pepper & Cream Soda’s successfully hinged on its appeal to “a large portion of Gen Z eager to explore flavor combinations.”

Hard seltzers had a strong showing with debuts of many new products including Constellation’s Corona-branded line, E&J Gallo’s High Noon Sun Sips, Boston Beer’s Truly Iced Tea, and Michelob Ultra’s Organic Seltzer.

Truly brand has been chasing millennials with new flavors like its January 2021 iced tea hard seltzer launch, which rang up US$90.5 million in sales last year, according to IRI.

Additionally, IRI report flagged several beverage products as “rising stars,” set to perform well in 2022.  Molson Coors’ Topo Chico and Boston Beer’s Truly Punch were some of the identified rising stars from the hard seltzers category.

Energy drinks such as PepsiCo’s Mtn Dew Energy, Alani Nu from startup Alani Nutrition and PepsiCo’s Bubly Bounce caffeinated sparkling water also made it to the category of rising stars for 2022.

Median dollar sales for 2021 food and beverage New Product Pacesetter launches was US$20 million, slightly less than in 2020 and about equal to 2019, according to IRI.

The report further detailed that Small companies, with US$100 million to US$1 billion in revenue, grew their share of Pacesetter dollar sales to 15% from 2020.

Despite the strong launches of the New Product Pacesetters and other products having a good start, it could prove challenging to keep up the pace of growth.

Many of the top products will be challenged to maintain their momentum in 2022, as category crowding, supply chain issues, and higher food prices take their toll.

The hard seltzer category will be the most watched when it comes to performance as it has been showing signs of slowing as consumers struggle with a flood of products.

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