Global consumer insights powerhouse Nielsen launched a new awards program this year to honor products that have succeeded in retail over a three-year period.
The Breakthrough Innovation Award program named natural yogurt maker Chobani and Silk PureAlmond Milk as winners, which is great affirmation for naturals.
And then you look at the rest of the winners and begin to wonder exactly what the Nielsen judges are thinking.
That's because Chobani and Silk are sharing the stage with Bud Light Lime, Oscar Mayer Selects and Lean Cuisine Market Collection and Kraft's Trident Layers, to name a few.
It's this last award winner that takes the cake for me. How does a gum that has "real" fruit flavor sandwiched in the middle of an artificial sweetener stand for innovation?
Let's take a look at the ingredients for the Wild Strawberry + Tangy Citrus flavor, shall we? Stand outs include maltitol, natural and artificial flavoring, partially hydrogenated coconut oil, red 40, red 40 lake and sucralose.
What innovation should mean
Innovation can simply mean introducing something new to the market. But its more useful definition, and the one companies should be focused on during our nation's health crisis, is the creation of healthier products that solve a consumer need in a positive way.
According to Convenience Store News, "Nielsen analyzed more than 11,000 new products in the United States between 2008 and 2010. Of the products evaluated, only 34 met the award criteria. These products compose less than 0.5 percent of all new product introductions during that timeframe."
That's some criteria if only .5 percent of all new products in three years are considered innovative. (Also, we're doomed if those who win are mostly big corporations with huge advertising budgets.)
Nielsen sums up their criteria into four parts:
- Category Impact
When you put your natural products industry hat on, it's hard to see the longevity in a product like Trident Layers, much less its relevance to our current health crisis. My bet was the judges paid more attention to the fruits of expensive marketing campaigns than a product's social and health-driven good.
It's heartening to see Chobani and Silk up there playing with the big guys. Now, if only we could change the definition of what makes a truly innovative food product. My proposed criteria: It contains real fruit.
What do you think are the most innovative food products on the market? Share in the comments.