Nearly 12 months on from the start of the pandemic, our consumer landscape has changed in many ways. And while the pandemic has presented the retail and FMCG industries some of the most colossal and unexpected challenges, it has also been a year of innovation and ingenuity.
Working in partnership with leading data and insights company Kantar, 10,000 consumers and a panel of experts have been surveyed to help decide the products that will take home a prestigious Product of the Year Award.
Perhaps the greatest prize for brands is the iconic Product of the Year logo that winning products earn the right to carry on their packaging. Bold, red and uniquely recognizable, the logo acts as a beacon to shoppers on busy supermarket shelves as an assurance of a product’s quality, leading to a 10-15% sales uplift.
This year, during a virtual ceremony hosted by actress and comedian Sally Phillips (Smack the Pony, Bridget Jones), the winners were announced with Unilever and Premier Foods both leading the charge with a trio of wins respectively. It wasn’t all a battle of the big brands, a growing number of independents also stood out and bagged a trophy, from health products to Nolo and sweet treats to kombucha.
Here are the key trends that emerged…
Shake it up
The drinks industry has been bubbling with innovation over the last year. Cooped up indoors, many of us have been forced to bring the ‘party’ inside and brands have responded with a cocktail of choice. Dutch brewing brand Heineken impressed judges with its exciting blend of drink genres, Strongbow Rosé Cider – made with blush red apples – a worthy winner of the alcohol category. On the lower ABV end of the scale is an American import, the hard seltzer, a tantalizing blend of alcohol and sparkling water. According to a recent report published by drinks brand Drty, the value of the hard seltzer category in the UK is a staggering £10.4m and growing. Ahead of the curve with its own take on the trend is Echo Falls Blueberry & Hibiscus Rosé Seltzer, a low-alcohol, calorie-light drink. ‘Nolo’ (no/low) alcohol continues to grow in popularity. Product of the Year winner and the aptly named Smashed Pale Ale is so convincing you might forget its alcohol count is close to zero.
Healthy mind, healthy body, healthy brands
The last 12 months has been a sedentary period for many, but it has also provided an opportunity to focus on our health and fitness. It’s a mood that has been reflected in Product of the Year’s winners list with Graze Super Snack Cereal Bars for kids with 50% less sugar winning an award and the craze for fermented goods is evidently still on the up as Good Earth Kombucha also took home a Product of the Year Award.
Alternative diets are fast becoming mainstream. Arla’s Lactofree Organic Semi Skimmed Milk Drink won in the dairy alternative category and Herbalife Nutrition Tri-Blend Select took first place in the nutritional supplements category.
Our homes have become havens of work, sleep and play, and many consumers have taken to creating the perfect space for all activities. And while dining out may no longer be possible, some enterprising establishments are taking necessary steps to bring their services to the people. Nando’s has long offered a home-delivery service but it was Nando’s Garlic Perinaise Peri-Peri Mayonnaise that won the approval of the voting public. Product of the Year coffee winners Starbucks by Nespresso Capsules Range and Costa Instant Coffee with Finely Ground Beans brought café culture into the home when we needed it most.
Popping out for a snack or restocking the dwindling fridge supplies has never been more convenient. Instant meal innovation is on the up and it’s making the lives of consumers much easier. Lunchtimes are made simpler with Product of the Year winner Cathedral City Sandwich Slices, and by the afternoon when many of us are ready for a sweet treat, Product of the Year winner Mr Kipling’s Signature Collection’s deliciously indulgent cakes are ideal. And, last but not least, Batchelors Big Super Noodles Range was crowned king of the convenience food category.
Hygiene has never been more important, be it washing our hands or sanitizing our homes. These days, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and cleaning products have increasingly been a part of that conversation. Fortunately, many brands are taking note and finding new ways to create products that leave less of an imprint on the world. Two Unilever brands are making a difference. Cif Anti-Bac & Shine Range leaves minimal waste, packaged in an eco-refill spray bottle, and Persil’s Liquid Laundry Detergent impressed the 10,000 UK consumers who voted the plant-based stain remover a Product of the Year winner – signaling a wider move by the industry to become more sustainable.
To find out all the winners click here