Beverage-makers today can get their hands on a wealth of data that previous innovators could only dream of. Despite all of these information gathering services, the one that still is biggest discussion will be the sales reports. Brand owners understand that the true testament to a product’s success is whether consumers will opt to spend their money on it.

Every year during my tenure at Beverage Industry, I look forward to Circana’s release of its New Product Pacesetters report to see which new beverages are making a splash in the market. This year marked the 29th iteration of the annual report. In a release, the Chicago-based adviser stated that the 2023 New Product Pacesetters garnered a $6.1 billion in combined year-one sales across food, beverage and nonfood products, which was slightly less than the $7 billion achieved by 2022 Pacesetter sales.

“Consumer behavior has changed dramatically in recent years, from the pandemic and then the resumption of active lifestyles and hybrid work,” said Lisa Maas, principal and practice lead of innovation at Circana, in a statement. “The latest Pacesetters align with consumers’ desires for new experiences and product formats, new levels of convenience, trusted solutions for baby and pet and products that deliver superior performance. Brands that lead with relevant innovation stand to not only boost sales, but also cultivate lasting customer loyalty.”

Of the Top 10 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters, six were beverage brands: PRIME Hydration (No. 2), Starry (No. 3), Starbucks by Nespresso for Vertuo (No. 5), GHOST Energy (No. 6), Black Rifle Coffee (No. 7) and Electrolit (No. 9)./p>

The report notes that consumers’ interest in products with functional benefits increased in 2023, which was prominent among the top beverage performers.

“The trend was particularly evident in the beverage sector, where products offering enhanced hydration, energy, and nutritional benefits were prominent, even among traditional carbonated soft drinks,” the release states. “PRIME Hydration, ranking No. 2 among food and beverage Pacesetters, capitalized on its appeal to a young audience and the excitement of new flavors. GHOST Energy, Electrolit and Olipop, coming in at No. 6, No. 9, and No. 11 respectively, also offer a variety of added functional benefits.”

Although more prominent with the top food performers, the report also showed the positive impact that co-branding and licensing can have with new releases.

“The data shows that co-branding and licensing, as seen in the Carnation-Kellogg’s offerings, leverage the trust and loyalty that established brands enjoy, opening doors for expansion beyond their core categories,” the release states. “For instance, OREO cookies and Little Debbie snack cakes have made their way into the frozen aisle, with OREO Frozen Desserts ranking No. 4 on the food and beverage Pacesetters list, and Hudsonville Ice Cream’s Little Debbie flavors at No. 18.”

Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at Circana, echoed these sentiments.

“In 2023, collaborations with well-known brands, compelling brand narratives, and a dedication to product expansion helped drive brand awareness and increase sales,” she stated. “Products identified as Pacesetters contributed an 18% increase in total multi-outlet sales, compared to an 11% increase in 2022, highlighting the importance of innovation and strategic partnerships in achieving sustained growth and market success.”

The report also highlighted the contributions from mid-sized companies. For instance, brands with sales less than $500 million represented 59% of New Product Pacesetters by count, which is up from the 41% in 2022. They also are contributing more in dollars portion, accounting for 43%, up from 18% in 2022.

Much like the effects of the “after” of a big holiday or event, I’m already eager to see who the 2024 New Product Pacesetters will be. But I’ll have to wait another year.