Larry Levin of I.R.I. discussed how to win — and how to fail — in a competitive marketplace.

CHICAGO — Three key themes separate highly successful launches from the thousands of products that debut each year. Of the 12,000 new brands launched in 2016, only eight achieved more than $100 million in sales, said Larry Levin, executive vice-president of consumer and shopper marketing and thought leadership at Information Resources Inc.

“It’s a fractured market out there, really difficult to break through,” Mr. Levin said during a presentation at the Sweets & Snacks Expo, held May 23-25 in Chicago. “Unless you’re a big brand with big opportunity … $100 million launches are a thing of the past.”

To resonate with consumers today, particularly in the candy and snack categories, products must tap into prevention, personalization and pizzazz.

Of prevention, Mr. Levin noted, “Thirty-seven per cent of consumers tell us food is a better medicine than medicine.”  Consumers are seeking products with simple, recognizable ingredients and healthful attributes.

He also warned against ways to fail in new product development.

“You have to make sure your ideas are very clear because when a concept is misunderstood it’s a ticket to death,” Mr. Levin said. “Avoid being a wannabe of something already out there.”

He added, “Don’t be elusive. It’s not about perfect distribution. It’s about being distributed perfectly. Make sure you get your product in front of the right people.” 

Top innovations in the candy and snack segments were highlighted at the Sweets & Snacks Expo. Winners of the 2017 Most Innovative New Product Awards were selected from nearly 370 submissions across nine categories. A first-ever Small Business Innovator Award was presented to Buddha Brands Co. for Hungry Buddha Coconut Chips in Cheeky Chocolate.


In the $25 billion candy category, which grew 0.8% last year, Mr. Levin said, “Growth is coming from small companies. David is beating Goliath. The little guys are innovating at the same rate as the big four manufacturers. Less than a half per cent of growth coming from big companies, but the upstart companies are growing at 2.5% and contributing 82% of our growth.”

Read on for more winners of the 2017 Most Innovative New Product Awards at the Sweets & Snacks Expo.