Product of the Year winners showcase innovation in the convenience and health sector

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Healthier offerings, products with strong provenance and convenient food options that incorporate consumers into the cooking process have topped the list of the most innovative items in the consumer marketplace, according to new research by Product of the Year. With more than 11,500 consumers choosing the winners of 42 FMCG categories, Product of the Year is the world’s largest consumer-voted annual award for product innovation.

While 2015 may have been the year shoppers got to grips with an unprecedented amount of healthier options on supermarket shelves, 2016 will be the year of the discerning health foodie – consumers concerned with health as well as taste are unwilling to sacrifice one for the other. Winning products this year striking the right ‘better-for-you’ balance include Ritz Crisp & Thin and Jordans Lighter Granola.

This progression of consumer knowledge has resulted in the rise of functional foods, specifically protein-enriched products. With the winner of the Cereal Category, Weetabix Protein Crunch, containing 20% of an adult’s recommended daily intake and Arla’s skyr yoghurt containing three times as much protein as a standard yoghurt, it is clear that this category, once confined to the niche aisles of a supermarket is permeating the mainstream at a staggering rate.

Arla’s Icelandic-style skyr yoghurt also focuses on another trend becoming more prevalent on 2016’s supermarket shelves: product and ingredient origin. In an increasingly globalised marketplace, consumers are presented with a plethora of products which can lack traditional identity and a story-telling nature. Clear messaging of the provenance of an item therefore resonates well with consumers, striking an emotive and relatable chord. In somewhat saturated categories, such as yoghurt, this market cut through is paramount, with manufacturers continuing to differentiate, taking inspiration from further afield, bringing trends, and traditional favourites, from elsewhere to the UK.

The convenience sector has also seen a step change this year, with the speed of preparation no longer being enough, now involving the consumer in the method of preparation is key to successful innovation. Exciting new products launching from Birds Eye Stir Your Senses and Sharwood’s Stir Fry Melts both mirror a technique first used en masse by General Mills for Betty Crocker in the 1950s. The idea was to involve the consumer in the process of preparing their meal, encouraging involvement with minimal effort being a strong driver, elevating the everyday prepared meal beyond a simple ‘ping’ when it’s ready.

Streamlining efficiency also looks to be a key factor in product success this year. Whether it be packaging, waste or functionality, consumers are after the products that save time and energy in all respects. Gillette Fusion Proglide Sensitive 2-in-1 Shave Gel showcases on-trend innovation at its best. With a waste-free dispenser and a gauge that shows how much gel is left, users have a multi-benefit product that provides efficient usability. Focusing on reducing waste, the Energizer EcoAdvanced batteries are the first AA size to contain 4% of recycled batteries, responding to consumer demand for efficient usage that does not compromise on performance.

Mike Nolan, CEO of Product of the Year, said: “Whether it be healthy benefits, the convenience of a product or its efficiency, it is clear that consumers continue to refuse to compromise. We believe that product innovation is about understanding what consumers want and offering it but, crucially, not at the expense of previous benefits. Product of the Year rewards brands that achieve this and we’re delighted to offer this year’s winners our stamp of approval for 2016.

“The FMCG sector continues to be fiercely competitive so having an effective shortcut to the most innovative products on the shelf provides companies with strong cut through. Winners can see a direct sales increase of around 10-15% so the Product of the Year logo continues to provide differentiation, giving brands the confidence of a tried and tested marketing tool and shoppers with the confidence of a truly innovative product.”

Colin Moyer, UK head of innovation product development, added: “The most successful products are those that tap into more emotive-led consumer trends such as protein enriched foods, authentic origin or strong ingredient stories (such as Arla skyr), or those that encourage more involvement in the kitchen such as Birds Eye Stir Your Senses. These are the type of trends that are likely to continue having a strong impact on consumer preferences in the future.”

The Product of the Year award ceremony was held at The London Hilton on Park Lane and was hosted by comedian Rory Bremner.

With entertainment from X Factor’s 4th Impact, the evening was attended by some of the biggest players in manufacturing including Mars, Unilever and P&G alongside up and coming businesses such as Bootea and Little Miracles.

TNS, one of the largest research agencies worldwide, conducted the research, offering an industry sector understanding and collating the survey from more than 11,500 people in the UK and Ireland.