With own label accounting for a greater share of innovation than ever, the pressure is on brands to deliver. The Grocer’s inaugural New Product Awards this week hailed the most creative launches by brands across 29 product categories
Brands have been left somewhat in the shade in the past couple of years as retailers have given more attention - and funding - to extensive own-label NPD programmes. But they still have plenty to offer when it comes to exciting and helping consumers, as The Grocer’s inaugural New Product Awards this week showed.
Presented by editor Adam Leyland, the awards complement The Grocer Own-label Awards - held earlier this year - and recognise innovation by branded suppliers across 29 product categories including food, soft drinks, household goods and personal care.
The winners included a number of smaller players such as drinks supplier Coldpress, New Zealand-based yoghurt brand The Collective and privately owned soup manufacturer English Provender.
But the biggest names in the business also made their presence felt. The best showing was from Symington’s, which won four awards, including two for its Ainsley Harriott brand, and further awards for celebrity chef Simon Rimmer’s ‘Si’ Thai potato pancakes and its Oat burst porridge.
Other fmcg giants included Unilever (PG Tips; Ben & Jerry’s ice cream); Warburtons, for its Squarish Wraps; GSK, with its Lucozade Energy Cola; Premier Foods for its Mr Kipling Angel Slice Snap Packs; and Mars for Uncle Ben’s Rice Time sweet & sour ready meal.
“With an an ever-decreasing window of opportunity afforded by buyers, corresponding with an ever-growing capacity for innovation within own label, the pressure is on brands to justify their innovation in the supermarket aisles,” said Leyland. But “after the tests we put their products through” every supplier who stepped up to the winner’s podium at the Wyndham Grand Central hotel in London’s Chelsea Harbour on Tuesday has surely done so, he added.
The Grocer employed a rigorous two-stage process to separate the good from the great, starting with extensive consumer panel testing by Cambridge Market Research, which was used to whittle the hundreds of entries down to shortlists. The shortlisted products were then judged by a panel of industry experts including food developers, branding experts, chefs and food journalists.
The consumer panel test results were encouraging, said CMR managing director Paul Beresford. “The last five years have been the most exciting I’ve seen in 30 years as a market researcher, and there’s been a notable increase in scores for branded innovation in recent months, which contrasts with a decline in own-label scores, suggesting that the momentum may be swinging again.
“Consumer tastes are changing, and shoppers are more willing to try new products. Brand owners appear to be recognising this and are responding,” Beresford added.
It was vital the momentum was maintained, Leyland added. “People have a short attention span, and fast, good, consumer-led moves are vital to keep them excited about shopping, as well as driving value back into the retail and supplier mix amidst a sapping promotional environment.”
BEVERAGES - ADULT: Coldpress Pink Lady
With a bottle shape and pale pink colour that judges felt would stand out well, this won plaudits for its authentic apple taste.
- Bottlegreen Elderflower still (highly commended)
- Funkin strawberry daiquiri cocktail mixer
- Shloer limited-edition Berry Punch
BEVERAGES - FAMILY: Levi Roots Caribbean Crush
Our judges felt this drink - the latest in a growing range of products to carry Roots’ branding - offered a great taste that was fruity, refreshing and tasted more natural than similar drinks on the market.
- Ribena sparkling blackcurrant (highly commended)
- Twiss sparkling mango with lime
BEVERAGES - FUNCTIONAL: Lucozade Energy Cola
As well as terrific branding and packaging, our panel described this as “the first cola-based energy drink that succeeds in delivering on the flavour front too.”
- Firefly Natural Drinks Love Potion
- Powerade Energy
- Scheckter’s Organic Energy (highly commended)
BEVERAGES - HOT: PG Tips - The Hint of Earl Grey One
“This is a very smart brand extension,” said one of our judges, while others praised it for offering excellent flavour and value.
- Clipper Organic Earl Grey tea bags
- Clipper Wakey Wakey roast & ground coffee (highly commended)
- Tetley Blend of Both
- Typhoo Eco Refill
BREAD: Warburtons White Square(ish) Wraps
This was a terrific family product, felt our judges. It was fun and different enough to excite children, which can only be good news for mums struggling to keep packed lunches interesting.
- Doves Farm organic English wholegrain Einkorn flour (highly commended)
- Warburtons soft white sandwich thins
CONFECTIONERY - CHOCOLATE: Kit Kat Chunky Peanut Butter
“Can I take it home?” asked one judge as, after underwhelming in the past with its Kit Kat brand extensions, panellists felt the product far exceeded expectations, and were won over by the bar’s rich and intense flavour.
- Elizabeth Shaw Crisp Collection
- Princess chocolate-coated mini mallows
CONFECTIONERY - SUGAR: Mentos 3 Layers Fruity Fresh strawberry-apple-raspberry
The three layers of fruit gave this gum a strong and refreshing taste, and the stylish ‘matchbook’ packaging was also praised.
- Beenies Hawaiian Splash (highly commended)
- Skittles Crazy Cores
- Wrigley Extra Ice White
DESSERTS - ALL CHILLED: Aero Chocolate Finesse
This easy-to-eat treat was perfectly placed to offer the whole family a treat, felt our panel, but proved a particular hit with our male judges. “Yum,” said one.
- Anchor Real Dairy Cream
- Lovetub chocolate pudding
- Ski strawberry mousse with strawberry sauce (highly commended)
DESSERTS - YOGHURTS: The Collective passionfruit yoghurt
This delicious, indulgent yoghurt also won accolades for its innovative packaging.
- Munch Bunch Double Up strawberry/raspberry
- Rachel’s organic Greek-style ginger
- Twekkelo rhubarb & raspberry farmhouse yogurt (highly commended)
FATS & OILS: Lurpak Lightest Spreadable
This was seen as a very strong and well-presented addition to the Lurpak portfolio, with our expert judges feeling it was a product that was likely to be around for a long time to come.
- Flora Cuisine (highly commended)
FOOD TO GO: Rustlers Hot Wraps BBQ chicken with cheese
This product did not disappoint, with our judges impressed by “a great taste and look - plus a satisfying eat”.
- Ginsters Stuffed Sub chicken tikka
- Mug Shot On the Go spicy sweet & sour (highly commended)
- Wild West Honey BBQ beef jerky
FROZEN - DESSERTS: Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra Core
Judges loved the concept of two flavours of ice cream with a soft centre and felt it offered a new and interesting combination of taste and texture likely to win over consumers.
- Magnum Infinity
- Taywell Minipot ice cream selection
FROZEN - SAVOURY: Aunt Bessie’s Perfect for Sausages boat-shaped Yorkshires
Simple and effective, and as good - if not better - than homemade, said our judges.
- Birds Eye Rice Fusions Mediterranean
- Linda McCartney vegetarian mushroom & ale pie
- McCain ready-baked jackets (highly commended)
MEALS - FISH: Charlie Bigham’s fish pie
Our judges were impressed that a product produced on a scale to supply the supermarkets could taste this good and offer a wide variety of fish and high-quality ingredients.
- Big Prawn Co Big and Juicy Delicious Clams
- Big Prawn Co king prawn multipack (highly commended)
MEALS - READY MEALS: Walker & Son classic chicken, bacon & white wine pie
This offered a “sumptuous” filling in a delicious crispy pastry, said our panellists.
- Glorious! Bengal chicken masala stew (highly commended)
- Mash Direct Dauphinoise potato
- Mash Direct Maris Piper mash
- Walker & Son supreme steak pie
NON-FOOD - CLEANING PRODUCTS: Karcher Window Vac
Our consumer testers were impressed with how easy and effective this was, and liked the fact it did not have dragging cables or required the use of chemicals. “It leaves the windows streak-free,” said one panellist.
- Bissell Cleanview Lift-Off (highly commended)
- Bissell Steam and Sweep
NON-FOOD - HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS: Oven Pride oven cleaner
This cleaner was praised for its “amazing” results and for being so easy to use.
- Domestos Extended Germ Kill (highly commended)
- Limelite Everyday limescale remover spray
- Method Daily Shower surface cleaner
- Persil Small & Mighty 2in1 with Comfort
NON-FOOD - PERSONAL GROOMING: Schwarzkopf Live Color XXL Shake It Up colour foam
Our judges felt this effective foam-based colour was less messy than other dyes.
- Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort face & body wash
- Lynx Just Clean shampoo
- Sure Fragrance Collection Bright (highly commended)
NON-FOOD - PERSONAL HYGIENE: Sensodyne Repair & Protect
This impressed with its eye-catching 3D-effect packaging, while the paste delivered on its promises, according to some testers. Many liked the taste and texture too.
- Andrex Washlets (highly commended)
- Lil-Lets Teens Ultra Towels Day
- Regina Softis toilet tissue
- Vaseline 2-in-1 Hand Cream + Anti Bac
PORRIDGE: Oat Burst apricot & honey porridge
Judges felt these Oat Burst porridge sachets succeeded in offering fantastic value for money in family-friendly packaging.
- Moma cranberry & raisin porridge (highly commended)
- Quaker Oat So Simple pots - original
RICE & PASTA: Uncle Ben’s RiceTime Sweet and Sour
Our judges agreed this succeeded in offering a healthy, convenient meal, and enjoyed its quality and taste.
- Dolmio PastaVita fusilli bolognese
- Tilda Kids sweet vegetable & wholegrain rice (highly commended)
- Zugo’s Deli Café pasta carbonara
SAUCES - COOKING: Kent’s Kitchen spicy korma meal kit
An attractive product that delivers on taste.
- Epicure Lebanese paste
- Glorious! Mediterranean sunblush tomato & chianti pasta sauce
- Loyd Grossman For One tomato & mascarpone pasta sauce (highly commended)
- Sacla’ Intensely Italian spicy roasted pepper sauce
SAUCES - DRIED: Ainsley Harriott South Indian lentil sauce mix
Described as tasting very fresh for a dried product our judges felt this product would not only inspire great meals, but “could create a new category of sauces in its own right.
- Colman’s Season & Shake chicken tikka masala
- Knorr Fish stock pot
SNACKS - SAVOURY: Tyrrells Crinkly Veg beetroot, carrot & parsnip
- Burts pesto potato chips
- Seabrook’s Cheddar cheese & red onion bread crisps (highly commended)
- Sunbites sun-ripened sweet chilli flavour
- TorTyrrells Glastonbury Cheddar & caramelised onion tortillas
- Walkers Cheddar & Onion Crinkles
SNACKS - SWEET: Mr Kipling Angel Slice Snap Packs
Our judges felt brand owner Premier Foods had succeeded in reinventing a very traditional product with what was described as “excellent” packaging innovation.
- Pear Fruit of the Season (highly commended)
- The Miniature Bakery chocolate biscuit selection
SOUP - AMBIENT: Ainsley Harriott Moroccan Spicy Tomato with Giant Cous Cous soup
A quality mix blended in an innovative way to make a tasty soup with good heat.
- Baxters Stay Full tomato, chorizo & mixed bean soup (highly commended)
- Campbell’s Condensed cream of mushroom
- Campbell’s Cup cream of tomato
SOUP - CHILLED: Yorkshire Provender chunky vegetable soup with ham & smoked paprika
Our judges were wowed by the smaller Lunch Pot format that was used for this soup and felt the product delivered on taste while reducing the risk of waste. Panellists also liked the chunky pieces of veg and distinctive paprika flavour.
- Glorious! Azteca Skinny soup
- Glorious! Fragrant Thai Carrot Skinny soup
- New Covent Garden Soup Co Mexican chipotle chicken
- New Covent Garden Soup Co scrumpy chicken
- Yorkshire Provender chunky veg & ham soup with winter greens & lentils (highly commended)
SPECIAL DIET: Genius gluten-free seeded loaf
This impressed our panellists, offering a good-looking bread and great flavour.
- Alpro fruity & creamy peach (highly commended)
- Bessant & Drury’s lemon dairy-free frozen ice cream
- Doves Farm gluten-free fibre flakes
- Nature’s Path gluten-free Maple Sunrise
STORE CUPBOARD: Si meat-free cuisine Thai-spiced potato cake mix
This was a superb way to modernise instant potato, said our judges, who felt it was a good option for meaties and vegetarians.
- Cirio chopped tomatoes
- The English Provender Co caramelised red onion chutney (highly commended)
- The Reel Fish Co tuna in sunflower oil