Companies launch on-trend products at the height of pandemic

Some companies took the chance and launched new CPG items that became extremely profitable.
Debby Garbato

Despite the challenges of the last two years, some companies were brave and confident enough to launch new CPG items. Not only did some of these products make it through the pipeline and onto retailers’ shelves, they were repeatedly chosen by consumers and became extremely profitable. 

As with all successful launches, items were on trend, met current consumer needs, and were backed by appropriate marketing and promotions.

Here is a look at some winners:

Tide Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty 10x: Capitalizing on shoppers’ COVID-19-driven mysophobia and their established penchant for Tide, Procter & Gamble was right on the money with a detergent said to clean fabrics down to a microscopic level. The October 2020 launch was backed by social media and 2021 Superbowl ads featuring Jason Alexander. The product now comes in a pod version in multiple scents. “Tide Hygienic Clean has been huge,” said Jim Hertel, senior vice president of client development at Inmar Intelligence. “Everyone is playing on being germ free.”

Bud Light Hard Seltzer: This was one of the first major competitors to White Claw in the brand-new category of “lighter” carbonated alcoholic beverages. Unveiled in January 2020, the slightly flavored beverage has just 100 calories. A hedge against declining beer sales, it also benefited from Anheuser-Busch’s massive distribution network. The brand’s one-minute Super Bowl ads starred celebrity restauranter Guy Fieri. Bud Light Hard Seltzer took the leading spot among IRI’s Top 10 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters for 2020.

Downy Infusions Scents: The fabric softener strengthens fabrics, reduces friction during laundering, helps clothes maintain their shape and reduces pilling. Its scent is subtle and long-lasting. Topping the list of nonfood Pacesetters, the P&G product generated more than $120 million in sales during its first year.

Kroger’s Simple Truth: The private label line underwent a major expansion in 2020. In addition to plant-based meat alternatives, it includes shelf-stable salsas, salad dressings, cookies, crunchy snacks and peanut butter. Success is attributed to the category’s trendiness as well as the careful attention paid to assortment, quality and pricing on the part of Kroger. Simple Truth has been supported by robust marketing involving coupons, sampling and its own website, 

Don Stuart, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group, said the plant-based food category was one of the few that has seen myriad introductions. “Plant-based foods appeal to consumers who are not primarily vegetarians and want to eat less fat and animal protein,” he said. “They consume them as a meat substitute once or twice a week.”

In total, plant-based foods grew 6.2% in 2021, reaching a record $7.4 billion, according to data from the Plant Based Foods Association, The Good Food Institute and SPINS. Seventy-nine percent of shoppers consumed these foods multiple times in 2021.

Target’s Favorite Day: The retailer’s owned brand, which hit stores in spring 2021, takes a creative approach to self-rewards by emphasizing indulgence rather than a specific segment. Offerings include sweet/savory flavor combinations in snacks, baked goods, candy, ice cream and cocktail mixes. S’mores chocolate bark with Golden Grahams pieces and orange cream-flavored trail mix are two examples.

In April 2022, Target added innovative Easter items such as the Tie Dye Easter Egg Sugar Cookie Kit and Easter Bunny Cookie House Kit (similar to a gingerbread house). Other confections included Bunny Bair Trail Mix, honey roasted peanut and confetti cookie pieces; Bunny Butt Desserts; and marshmallow-flavored Hot Cocoa Bomb Eggs.

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