Two Hershey products are among the top of research firm IRI’s 2017 list of “New Product Pacesetters.”
Each year Chicago-based IRI, which tracks consumer, retail and over-the counter health care companies, publishes its “Pacesetters” report. Within the multi-outlet section, Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch ranked seventh, garnering $47.8 million in sales during the course of a year as a new product. In the convenience store category, the brand brought in another $41 million and ranked fourth. Kit Kat Big Kat, meanwhile, placed ninth in the convenience store category, reaching $30.9 million its first year. 
According to IRI, thousands of new brands hit retail shelves during 2017, with 49 percent of the top-ranking brands hailing from small manufacturers — defined as those earning less than $1 billion annually — and accounting for 26 percent of Pacesetter dollars. 
2017 IRI Pacesetters
Overall, the 200 new top-selling brands captured cumulative year-one sales of more than $4.6 billion across IRI’s multi-outlet geography, the market research company said. Overall, candy and gum accounted for 9 percent of food Pacesetter dollars, which is in line with trends seen over the past five years, the company pointed out.  
“Consumers are demanding products that are customized to their needs, and this type of targeted innovation continues to put small and niche companies on the New Product Pacesetter map,” said Susan Viamari, v.p. of thought leadership for IRI. “Just five years ago, an estimated nine out of every 10 Pacesetters launched were extensions of existing brand lines.
“In 2017, 40 percent of food and beverage and 25 percent of non-food Pacesetters were brands entirely new to the CPG marketplace,” she emphasized. “This clearly demonstrates consumers’ willingness to try ‘unknown’ brands. Millennials, in particular, are more moved by experiences and solutions to their needs and less likely to purchase based solely on brand name.”
Larry Levin, executive v.p. of consumer and shopper marketing for IRI, echoed that sentiment. 
“Smaller, more targeted product launches have become the new norm in CPG aisles, as manufacturers look to enhance impact with launches that align more closely with key consumer needs and wants,” he added. “In a testament to the power of this shift, 20 percent of this year’s top-selling launches earned less than $10 million during their first year on the shelves, continuing a trend we found in last year’s analysis.”
2017 IRI Pacesetters Convenience
“Innovating to meet core needs and wants is crucial to ensuring new product success, but the challenge doesn’t end there,” Viamari added. “For a new product to be truly successful, it is up to marketers to ensure that the product — and messaging — are where the shopper is, when the shopper is ready to buy.”