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S.C. Johnson & Son has scored two of the hottest new products of 1997, according to an annual ranking by researcher AcuPOLL Precision Research.

Johnson's Windex Outdoor, a window cleaner that attaches to a garden hose, and Shout Wipes stain treater towelettes, used to keep stains from setting on clothes, were given an "A" rating by consumers surveyed on both innovation and purchase probability.

Johnson was the only company cited more than once in this year's list of the top 10 products, which also include Benckiser Consumer Products' Electrasol automatic dishwasher detergent tabs; Pillsbury Co.'s Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers; NewLund Labs' Exclaim 2-in-1 detergent/softener sheets; Borden Products' Eagle brand Creamy Chocolate sweetened condensed milk for baking; Mars Inc.'s Uncle Ben's Calcium Plus rice; DowBrands' Ziploc Double Guard freezer bags; CCA Industries' Hair-Off Mitten (a shaving device for women without a razor edge); and Mead Johnson's Tempra Quicklets tablets, a children's acetaminophen.


The winning products were culled from 400 of the most interesting products of 1997 as tested by AcuPOLL, a company that has evaluated 12,000 new products in the last six years. In compiling its list, AcuPOLL uses quantitative research with a nationally predictive sample of women who are the primary shoppers in their households. The women vote for their preferences with a keypad, ranking a product's uniqueness, value and purchase probability on a 1-to-10 scale.

"This year, the choices seemed to be convenience-driven," said Steve Phelan, AcuPOLL VP. "Consumers are looking for a better mousetrap, a better way to answer a need and a solution no [marketer] has thought of before."

But while innovation is important for consumers in evaluating new products, that's not necessarily a compelling reason for them to buy. The six products ranked by AcuPOLL's panel as the "least likely to buy" also received "A" ratings for innovation. Those are Laclede's Pete & Pam Kids Premeasured Toothpaste Strips; Yohay Baking's Cookie Straws; Nutz Beverages' Nutz nut-flavor soft drink; Diehard Beverages' Juiced OJ+Caffeine; Noah Products' LumaDent ChewBrush; and Graham Webb International's Back to Basics Beer Shampoo.

There appears to be one common thread among products in the least-likely-to-buy category, Mr. Phelan said.

The marketers "get an idea in their heads for a new product that makes sense to them. They have a vision and follow it as fast and far as they can without a reality check. They think it's a great idea and don't understand why everyone else isn't in love with it," he said.


Although the AcuPOLL results indicate the hot products should do well, it's tougher to quantify whether they actually have been a marketplace success. Several of them are still in limited distribution or test, including Uncle Ben's Calcium Plus rice, Old El Paso Tortilla Stuffers and Windex Outdoor.

Among the national products, Information Resources Inc. reports that Shout Wipes rang up $11.9 million in sales for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 26, following its rollout in February 1997. Benckiser's Electrasol, launched nationally in August, has turned up $3.6 million in sales through Oct. 26.

AcuPOLL's Mr. Phelan also cautions that interest in trying a product is only one factor in a product's success or failure. Awareness -- generated chiefly by advertising -- is also necessary, along with garnering sufficient distribution and satisfying consumers that the product actually lives up to their

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