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JERSEY CITY, N.J. — I am often asked how a product wins a Best New Product Award from Convenience Store News. From judging the program over the last six years, we at Past Times Marketing have found that innovation and newness are vital in the fast-moving convenience store industry.
We’ve also seen that consumer awareness is higher than ever. Information about new products now spreads at lightning speed through the Internet, social media, apps and word of mouth. Your customers’ expectations for excitement, taste, value and convenience are much higher than in the past and new products that deliver on these expectations will keep them coming back again and again.
When we judge a new item, both with industry experts and consumer panels, we look at these eight key characteristics:
1. Taste — Is the flavor unique? The texture? Ingredients?
2. Value — Does the portion size reflect an appropriate value in the consumer’s mind?
3. Convenience — How easy is it to buy, open, eat on the go?
4. Health — Does it meet consumers’ desire for better-for-you products? Are ingredients transparent? Portion and calories clearly stated?
5. Ingredients — Are they easy-to-read, dated, local, natural, fresh?
6. Preparation— Is it consumed cold? Heated?
7. Appearance — Does it look appetizing?
8. Packaging — Is the packaging neat and clear? Easy to open? Eye-catching?
Two excellent examples of new products that more than met these criteria were winners in last year’s Best New Product Awards program: Reese’s Spreads Snacksters with Graham Dippers from The Hershey Co., and LALA Greek Smoothies from Borden Dairy Co.
In 2015, The Hershey Co. took its Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and turned it upside down with a great product extension called Reese’s Spreads Snacksters with Graham Dippers. Taste was the key factor in its winning, but the ingenious graham cracker sticks let the customer control the quantity on the stick. It was a spawn of the Nutella and Dulce de Leche spreads and the combo of the crunchy and the smooth was a big hit with our consumer testing panels.
Also, the packaging was innovative. This proprietary package, with its oval shape, contributed to its unique features. In addition, the clearly stated portion-controlled 290 calories was yet another contributing factor to its success.
This product ticked all the boxes for a great new product: taste, innovation, value, convenience, fresh packaging and portion controlled. What’s more, The Hershey Co. gave detailed supporting documentation and explanation of why this product should win when it entered the awards program, including excellent examples of data and insights. The testing panel was impressed.
LALA Greek Smoothies was another product that stood out from the pack. As more alternatives to fluid milk are being developed every day, LALA debuted a product that filled a niche for millennial consumers.
The company identified the absence of a Greek yogurt smoothie in the marketplace at the time. It then filled the gap with a product that combines the nutrition of Greek yogurt with an added 12 grams of protein. It also put the smoothie drink into a snazzy container with a cool label, creating a hip, new beverage with an affordable price point.
Convenience store customers expect constant newness. This has required — and continues to require — brands to adapt to the moving goalposts of consumer expectations. The companies that best convey why their new product rocks will be best positioned to seize the winning prize.
Keep an eye out for the launch of the 2016 Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards. The latest information can be found at www.csnews.com/awards-and-events.