Kinder Bueno and Reese’s THiNS are among the Top 10 2020 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters by IRI.

The Chicago-based research firm has released its 26th annual report revealing the top new product launches across food and beverage and nonfood sectors.

Despite significant hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, many new products managed to beat the odds and emerge as winners, making their way into shoppers’ carts during unprecedented times and resulting in multiple $100 million launches. 

More than a quarter of the New Product Pacesetters launched in the fourth quarter of 2019 or January 2020 saw big performances, accounting for 51 of 200 Pacesetter products, with 27 in the food and beverage sector.

“The top New Product Pacesetters of 2020 accomplished a unique feat by achieving success in circumstances never before seen in the history of Pacesetters,” said Joan Driggs, v.p. of content and thought leadership for IRI. “Many shoppers made the leap to new products because their go-to brand was unavailable, but many also actively sought out innovation for new experiences, measured not just by dollars earned, but also by the ability to reach the intended audience.”

Similar to previous years’ Pacesetters, less than a quarter of launches came from large companies, yet they accounted for 50 percent of Pacesetter dollars in 2020. Median launch sales got a bump from COVID-19, reaching $21.5 million compared to $19 million for 2019, outpacing overall CPG industry growth rates for 2020 and reinforcing the value consumers place on innovation.

Kinder Bueno, which launched in the U.S. market in November 2019, took eighth out of the Top 10 Food and Beverage Pacesetters and 18th overall, earning $61.7 million in its launch year. IRI reported 14.75 million households tried Kinder Bueno, and 48.9 percent bought it again.

Introduced in March 2019, Reese’s THiNS followed in ninth of the Top 10 food and beverages and 20th overall, earning $56 million in its launch year.


Confectionery New Product Pacesetters

Overall rank F&B rank Product name Launch year sales (millions) Company
18 8 Kinder Bueno $61.7 Ferrero USA
20 9 Reese's THiNS $56 The Hershey Co.
36 22 Kit Kat Ice Cream $35.5 Froneri
37 23 Kit Kat DUOS $35.2 The Hershey Co.
47 30 Lily's Chocolate Baking Chips $30.1 Lily's Sweets
49 32 Extra Refreshers $29.7 Mars
112 66 Starburst Duos $15.2 Mars
119 70 Twix Cookies & Creme Ice Cream $14.7 Mars
148 83 KIND Bark $12.3 Kind

Source: IRI New Product Pacesetters Report


One trend in this year’s Pacesetters is a notable consumer interest in carbonated beverages, including sparkling waters and hard seltzers. Of the Top 25 food and beverage Pacesetters of 2020, 10 are beverages. Bud Light Seltzer, which launched in January 2020, took the No. 1 spot, followed by Truly Lemonade and Mtn Dew Zero Sugar. All of the Top 3 food and beverage Pacesetters generated more than $100 million in sales in IRI’s measured multi-outlet markets.

Alcohol products accounted for eight of the 27 beverage Pacesetters and generated a massive $547 million, compared to last year’s six that brought in $198 million. In 2020, beer, wine and spirits reigned supreme as consumer celebrations and entertaining moved in-home. New product launches in this space made a huge splash, generating a combined 44 percent of Pacesetter beverage dollars compared with 17 percent last year.

Another central theme of 2020 was balancing indulgence with self-care, a trend IRI expects to continue in CPG and retail. The popularity of good-for-you products has been on the rise since before the pandemic, and this trend has held strong in terms of new product launches. Some categories have increased in sales as people opt for products that boost their health in an effort to ward off illness.

Like beverages, ice cream and frozen novelties also offered the comfort and enjoyment that people looked for to elevate their at-home experience. Leading brands Rebel Ice Cream and Talenti Gelato Layers boast pure, clean ingredient lists, but still come in decadent flavors that offer a sense of indulgence. 

Rebel Ice Cream came in at No. 5 on the food and beverage New Product Pacesetters list, and was just shy of earning $100 million at $96.7 million, while Talenti Gelato Layers came in at No. 12, and My/Mochi Ice Cream at No. 15.

2020 Top 10 Food and Beverage New Product Pacesetters

  1. Bud Light Seltzer
  2. Truly Lemonade
  3. Mtn Dew Zero Sugar
  4. Starbucks Creamers
  5. Rebel Ice Cream
  6. Reign
  7. Cheetos Popcorn
  8. Kinder Bueno
  9. Reese’s THiNS
  10. Beyond Sausage

“Understanding consumer demographics and why certain products succeed is imperative for brands, both big and small, as innovation strategists work to respond to the continuously shifting marketplace,” said Larry Levin, executive v.p., market and shopper intelligence and thought leadership, IRI. “IRI’s 2020 New Product Pacesetters and its consumer attitudes survey about new products tell a story of people staying at home, but still seeking out products and brands that offered indulgence and comfort amid the chaos of COVID-19.”