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Thousands of products are introduced into the convenience store industry each year, but only a few make the cut with retailers and consumers.
So, what does it take to be a successful new product? After supervising the judging of last year's Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards contest, it became apparent to me that it takes more than just a new idea to find a place on retailers' shelves. Last year's winners exhibited seven key qualities that won consumers' favor and retailer attention.
Those qualities are:
• Creating and capturing new demand in the market. Some items are a success because they create a new way of using and enjoying a favorite product. A good example is last year's beer category winner, the MillerCoors Light Home Draft System, which allowed purchasers to consume a draft beer periodically from their own refrigerator, as opposed to being used only for one-time party use.
• Targeting a hot demographic. We all know about the boom in marketing and merchandising to the growing Hispanic population. Our winner in beverage innovation last year -- the Barcardi Silver Sangria by Anheuser-Busch InBev -- not only does that, but also satisfies the growing interest of the general market population in Latino flavors and tastes.
• Extending an existing brand into a completely new product. Our winner last year in the chocolate candy category -- M&M'S Pretzel Chocolate Candies by Mars -- capitalized on the strong brand franchise of M&M'S, but created a new product that perfectly blended the salty and sweet flavors in the familiar M&M'S shape.
• Innovating the process. We know how consumers love to mix their own drinks at the fountain area. F'real Foods Real Fruit Smoothies offer fresh ingredients in a refrigerated case, from which consumers chose their flavor (the Reese's Milk Shake was most popular among our test group) and mix the shake themselves on a compact machine.
• Anti-aging/Energy/Rejuvenation. These products offer an innovative spin on the energy drink market. For instance, Modjo4Life was honored last year for coming up with a tasty beverage with rejuvenating ingredients.
• Value-sized packaging. Larger-sized packaging allows retailers to offer greater value to their customers without sacrificing margin dollars. A good example is one of our winners in the snacks category last year -- Jack Link's Sasquatch Big Stick -- a gigantic 16-inch stick of beef jerky that's large enough to be a meal.
• On-the-go breakfast. Today's consumers are harried and breakfast items that target this constant time crunch are poised to explode. Our winner in the foodservice category in 2010 capitalizes on this trend. Home Market Foods' Sausage Scrambler Rollerbites can be held in one hand, and are flavorful and ideal for busy consumers.
Launching a successful product requires much more than just a great idea. I'm looking forward to seeing what suppliers come up with this year for convenience store shoppers.
Susan Durtschi, an experienced retail buyer and product development specialist, is president of Past Times Marketing, a consumer research firm. Convenience Store News is partnering again with Past Times Marketing for the 2011 CSNews Best New Products Awards contest. Past Times works with a network of focus group facilities across the U.S. to judge products. Last year's CSNews Best New Products Awards featured winners in more than 20 product categories. For more information, go to: http://www.csnews.com/page-best_new_products_awards_-103.html.