Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), Chicago, identified last year’s most successful consumer packaged goods (CPG) in its “2014 New Product Pacesetters” report, a benchmark analysis of exceptional first-year CPG sales success for newly launched products.

Officials say thousands of new brands hit retail shelves during 2014, yet only 200 achieved best-of-the-best IRI New Product Pacesetter status. These food and non-food products captured cumulative year-one sales of more than $7 billion.

“The innovators behind this year’s New Product Pacesetters are truly remarkable for the ways they effectively embraced the ‘4 Ps’ of marketing to capture significant sales dollars in a very conservative marketplace,” says Larry Levin, executive vice president, Mid-Market, IRI. “The most successful CPG launches of 2014 brought in big dollar sales, but revenue is just one piece of the pie. These marketers also did a phenomenal job in building brand equity and excitement in the marketplace, catalyzing growth that stations them ahead of the competition.”

“During the past year, successful innovation has relied heavily on the clear communication of benefits,” notes Susan Viamari, editor, Thought Leadership, IRI. “Today’s consumers expect more from their favorite CPG brands. They want products that save time and energy; products that offer better and longer-lasting results. CPG manufacturers that highlighted and delivered on the expectations for bold and authentic taste and top-notch power and performance were rewarded with sizable launch-year returns.”

For the top 100 food and beverage champions, average year-one dollar sales were $35 million. Not surprisingly, products catered to consumers’ need to meet nutritional goals, while satisfying their desire to indulge. The strongest food and beverage launches of the year really underscore consumers’ passions for bold and authentic flavors, homemade or hand-crafted quality and, of course, solutions that are quick, easy and portable.

Greek yogurt launches continue to reap sizable year-one sales, capturing four top-10 spots. Top performers also demonstrated an ongoing appetite for restaurant brands crossing over to the CPG aisles, empowering the untrained to serve restaurant-quality cuisine in the comfort of their homes without the restaurant price tag. In 2014, five restaurant crossovers achieved New Product Pacesetter status, including Starbucks Discoveries and Starbucks Iced Coffee, Olive Garden Signature Salad Dressing, Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee creamer.

In the convenience-store arena, average year-one sales across the top 10 IRI New Product Pacesetters were an astounding $123 million, driven by five brands that surpassed $100 million in year-one revenue. Consumers are clearly continuing to turn to the convenience store channel for everyday indulgences, and c-store innovators are rising to the occasion, delivering exciting experiences in convenient packages.

Excluding non-foods, the top 10 first-year food and beverage new products in convenience stores were Red Bull Editions ($238.9 million), Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita ($159.9 million), Mountain Dew Kickstart ($120.7 million), Rockstar Pure Zero ($72.6 million), REDD’S Apple Ale ($70.2 million), Muscle Monster Energy Shake ($55.4 million) and Angry Orchard Hard Cider ($48.3 million).

“Despite market challenges, best practice innovation strategies are allowing CPG marketers to break through,” concludes Viamari. “Careful execution throughout the product development cycle produces consumer-centric products that are engaging and exciting to consumers. These products will spur volume growth without sacrificing margin, and they will protect and grow brand equity today and in the future.”