During my tenure with Beverage Industry, there are not too many announcements that garner the same attention as when Information Resources Inc. (IRI) announces its list of New Product Pacesetters. In its 27th year, the 2021 list of these top new food, beverage and nonfood product launches have served as a benchmark of where consumers are spending their dollars.

Despite many of the challenges that manufacturers faced throughout 2021, IRI notes that the New Product Pacesetters delivered $6 billion in aggregate year 1 sales across food and beverage and nonfood products. For the top food and beverage 2021 New Product Pacesetters, six of the 10 are beverages.

The Top 10 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters

  • Dr Pepper & Cream Soda
  • AHA Sparkling Water
  • Corona Hard Seltzer
  • High Noon Sun Sips
  • Oatly
  • Truly Iced Tea
  • Michelob ULTRA Organic Seltzer
  • Impossible Burger
  • Minute Maid Zero Sugar

In its analysis, IRI notes that new flavors and combinations could be found in top new alcohol and non-alcohol beverage releases. Meanwhile, variety packs among hard seltzers allowed brands to reach at-home entertaining need as well as test new flavors, it adds.

“During 2021, our data indicates that consumers juggled at-home and out-of-the-home work and school as the pandemic evolved,” a release from IRI states. “Several coffee and tea products performed well to keep people’s energy up, including Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew, which brings coffeehouse quality home, notched at No. 29. Rounding out the Top 50 are Kitu Super Coffee at No. 30, Dunkin’ Multi-Serve Iced Coffee at No. 47, and Tazo ready-to-drink iced tea at No. 50.”


Coca-Cola​ Raspberry Acai
Image courtesy of The Coca-Cola Co.


When analyzing total store growth with similar contribution from food, beverage and nonfood innovations, IRI found that the 2021 Pacesetters accounted for 44% of total store growth. The market research firm also found that Pacesetters’ first-year revenues mostly remained consistent with previous years, despite limited promotional activity. It reports the median dollar sales of food and beverage products in 2021 Pacesetters was $20 million, which is slightly under 2020 Pacesetters, but equivalent to 2019.

Large CPG corporations ($6 billion-plus revenues) led in total dollar sales, accounting for 47%. Medium companies ($1 billion to $6 billion revenues) represented 27% of total dollar sales. While smaller companies ($100 mill to $1 billion) accounted for 15%.

IRI’s research also highlighted that consumers show an eagerness to explore new flavors in food and beverage. The market research firm also noted the importance of manufacturers engaging with “early adopters,” as this group represents 27% of consumers. IRI research also notes that 93% of that group considers themselves to be “avid early adopters.”

“Early adopters drove outsized sales of Pacesetter products, but supply chain problems brought on by the pandemic pushed more shoppers to reach for something new: 22% stated they looked for new products only if their usual product was unavailable, up 3 percentage points from 2021,” said Lisa Maas, principal of Innovation at IRI, in a statement.

As beverage-makers continue to release New Products throughout this year, I’m sure many of you will be keeping a watchful eye to see whether the trends that drove this year’s beverage Pacesetters will continue into 2022.