CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- It was a good year for beverages, as the two most successful new brands in 2008 were Gatorade's G2 and Dunkin' Donuts coffee. The pair topped Information Resources Inc.'s annual Pacesetters list of most successful brands, surpassing the elusive $100 million benchmark for a hit new product.
G2 sales totaled $159 million, while Dunkin' coffee drew $115 million in sales as measured by the Chicago-based market-research firm, which compiles sales from grocery stores, vending machines and convenience stores excluding Walmart and club stores.
"These brands are truly remarkable," Anne Berlack, IRI's exec VP-consumer and shopper insights, said in a statement. "Even in the best of times, approximately 75% of new products fail to earn more than $7.5 million during the first year of availability."
The particularly high grosses for the top new products can perhaps be attributed to price increases and consumers doing more grocery shopping, as many people dine out less frequently than they did a year ago. Last year's top two sellers, Campbell's low-sodium soup and Birds Eye Steamfresh frozen vegetables, grossed $101 million and $87 million, respectively.
Substantial marketing support
G2, a low-calorie version of Gatorade, got substantial marketing support at launch with Super Bowl ads and an unprecedented push in social and digital media and event marketing. "After launching G2, we felt it was our Rookie of the Year and MVP all rolled into one, and now we're happy to add IRI Pacesetter brand to the list," said G2 spokesman Jill Kinney. "G2 was our biggest new-product launch ever and allowed us to begin to broaden our appeal to a wider range of athletes and active people."
G2 was also named one of Advertising Age's Marketing 50 in 2008. According to Beverage Digest, G2 grabbed an 8.4% share of the sports-drink category in its first year, enabling Gatorade to lift its overall share 0.6%. G2 was initially handled by Omnicom Group's Element 79, but it was moved in April to sibling TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles.
As for Dunkin', its coffee is distributed through a partnership with J.M. Smucker Co., and is sold in more than 40,000 retail outlets throughout the country. The company said its 12-ounce Original Blend is the No. 1 selling item in the premium-coffee category, according to ACNielsen.
On the non-foods side, Zyrtec topped IRI's Pacesetter list, with $316 million in sales. GlaxoSmithKline's weight-loss drug Alli -- which prevents absorption of fats and can cause "treatment effects" including loose stool -- came in second, with $160 million. Charmin Ultra Strong rounded out the top three, with $144 million in sales. The surprise fourth-place finisher was the PedEgg, most recognizable for frequent infomercials promising smoother feet. It scored $69 million in sales.
Two common themes
Lynn Dornblaser, director-consumer product group insight at Mintel International, noted two common themes in IRI's Pacesetter list: strong brands and big ad budgets. "It's always interesting to look at the Pacesetter list every year, because to a certain degree, it's what you can do for a brand with unbelievably significant amounts of advertising," she said. "You're bound to get that level of sales when you're spending $20 million in advertising." Ms. Dornblaser added that all of the top products seem to represent value for the money.
Supermarket expert Phil Lempert said strong brands, particularly with new products, tend to do better in a downturn. "People don't want to take a chance on wasting money, so they will look to name brands," he said. "They're going to look to Healthy Choice, to Dunkin' Donuts. They feel safer than with an unknown brand."
Still, the trick isn't so much making the list but staying there. Ms. Dornblaser said a number of IRI's top-10 product launches haven't made it through a second or third year on the market, once ad dollars are diverted to new items. "It's the second year that's the actual measure of success," she said, "because it means that people are buying it more than once."