By The Grocer 2021-12-17T13:11:00+00:00
Each of the 48 categories covered in our Top Products report features a Top Launch – the product most significant to its respective category in 2021. Here we list every Top Launch and why we chose it.
This article is part of The Grocer’s Top Products survey 2021. Click here for the main feature, or click on any of the category headings to read about its performance this year
Lost Lager this year made an extra £5.2m in grocery, after BrewDog unveiled a new recipe in January. It claimed the reformulated brew was the “world’s first carbon negative lager”, made using wind power, a third less water than the industry standard, and waste bread that would otherwise be discarded. Sales were buoyed by a spike in demand for larger multipacks and BrewDog’s Buy One Get One Tree offer, which allows shoppers to plant a tree via the Eden Reforestation Project.
First, Gordon’s got a 0% abv gin (in December 2020). Then its posher sister brand got one too. Diageo bills Tanqueray 0.0 as an “exceptional, juniper-heavy, alcohol-free spirit”. Added in February (rsp: £17/70cl), it’s already a hit, racking up almost £1m in under seven months – despite missing out on Dry January 2021. It seems Diageo, which has a majority stake in the premium Seedlip brand, is working to create in booze-free spirits the same ‘good, better, best’ tiering that exists in regular spirits.
With the wine category struggling to attract younger adults, this coffee-infused Australian red may be just the sort of innovation that’s needed. Launched in March, The Deported (rsp: £10/750ml) is aimed at tapping interest in “wine-fusion” products among drinkers under 35, says Treasury Wine Estates. The tipple – made with Colombian cold brew coffee – has helped to drive a 124.6% surge in value sales for 19 Crimes, making it the fastest-growing wine brand of the year.
Kendamil’s Ready to Feed liquid formula proved such a hit that the first batch of 40,000 bottles sold out in 45 minutes, the brand says. Launched in October, it’s the result of five years’ development. Instead of using palm oil and fish oil – both common in baby formula – it’s made with oil from marine algae and “natural nutrients from mammals milk”. Which makes the product the “most sustainable liquid baby milk in its class” Kendamil claims (rsp: £23.95/24x70ml).
The impending HFSS clampdown has inspired some high-tech innovation in healthier crisps. Take Simply Roasted, a range from Mindful Snacker. The startup – developed by VC firm Pilot Lite at a cost of over £20m – uses a proprietary process involving three ovens to remove moisture from spuds before they’re seasoned and bagged. The resulting snack provides just 99kcals per 21.5g pack, with 50% less fat than typical potato crisps. And yet, all six variants still pack plenty of flavour.
Duracell played a blinder with the launch of the Optimum range in July. Not only do the 1.5-volt AA and AAA batteries offer “up to 200% extra life”, they also promise better performance in the appliances they power. That means torches shine brighter and radio-controlled cars go faster, says the batteries leader, which has shifted an extra 1.1 million units through the mults in the past year. Optimum’s rsps range from £5.50 for a four-pack to £13 for a 12-pack.
The UK’s second-biggest biccie brand this year joined what is surely the nation’s biggest food and drink trend. The plant-based Kit Kat V – unveiled in February and rolled out in June – features cocoa blended with rice syrup to emulate the texture and taste of milk chocolate. There’s “a quiet food revolution underway” said Nestlé confectionery marketing director Alex Gonnella at time of launch. “We want to be at the forefront of that, championing the discovery of plant-based food and beverages.”
Is this the future of wrapped bread? Superloaf is the world’s first ‘smart bread’, claims Modern Baker. It’s a hi-tech seeded loaf that promises to promote gut health and support normal immune function. Plus, it’s lower in calories. The result of five years’ R&D in partnership with several scientific organisations, the sliced loaf (rsp: £2.50/800g) contains 208kcals per 100g – about 23% fewer calories than standard seeded bread. Superloaf launched in March exclusively via Amazon Fresh.
The pending clampdown on HFSS goods poses a big obstacle for cakes. Enter Urban Legend. In August, the high-tech brand – brainchild of former Graze CEO Anthony Fletcher – unveiled non-HFSS doughnuts. Providing under 160kcals each, they’re ‘set’ by steam and sweetened by “alternatives to sugar” from fruit & veg. Urban Legend’s healthier treats are available via the brand’s bricks-and-mortar store in Brighton, with four London sites planned. Could a grocery rollout be next on the cards?
Heinz unveiled new brand Plant Proteinz in October, with the aim of making “plant-based eating accessible for all consumers”. It debuted with a trio of canned soups: Mediterranean Tomato & Bean, Coconut Curry & Jackfruit and Moroccan Chickpea & Bell Pepper (rsp: £1.50/400g). Each providing at least 14g of plant protein, they were backed by a £2.5m marketing spend – and were part of Heinz’s concerted efforts to increase plant-based offers across its product portfolio.
As HFSS restrictions loom, Kellogg’s has been busy making its portfolio healthier. Most notably, it’s added three non-HFSS variants to its Wheats range. Plain, Apricot and Blueberry (rsp: £1.90/500g) are all low in fat and salt, high in fibre, and contain at least 74% wholewheat. The cereal giant has been careful to make sure the new recipes still hit the mark on taste, though. Unveiled in October, the wheaty bites were “carefully developed” to offer “just the right balance of flavour” it says.
After causing a sensation in Australia a couple of years ago, Cadbury Caramilk finally arrived in the UK in June. It’s a caramel-flavoured white chocolate, which Mondelez is targeting at younger shoppers through in-store, sampling, OOH and social media activity. Promising a “smooth, silky texture that melts in your mouth”, Caramilk is available as a countline (rsp: 69p/37g) and a tablet (rsp: £1.50/90g). It was followed in October by the two-strong Cadbury Plant Bar range of vegan chocolate.
These posh gummies are designed to satisfy “grown-up palates” says the fast-growing Candy Kittens. Orchard Apple & Dragon Fruit, Sweet Raspberry & Guava and Blood Orange & Pomegranate (rsp: £2/125g) come as the adult-oriented confectioner is seeing “novel and hybrid flavours gaining popularity”. Sold in recyclable packs, each Gourmies variant is made with real fruit juices – and will “put Candy Kittens toe to toe with the category’s big boys” the brand insists.
This is more than just another healthier block butter. Most others are blended with rapeseed oil, meaning they suffer from the perception that they’re not quite the real thing. Not so with Lurpak Lighter (rsp: £1.95/250g), which contains just three natural ingredients: butter, water and salt. Plus, it offers contains 25% less fat than the brand’s standard version. Arla says the butter took several years to perfect ahead of its March launch, but it’s now confident the NPD tastes just as good as full fat.
This is Proper is a “purpose-driven” brand, says owner Butlers. And one purpose is to offer UK supermarket shoppers a more accessible alternative to small batch, pricey farmhouse cheeses. Launched in September into the likes of Asda, Tesco and M&S, the range comprises Creamy Lancashire, Crumbly Lancashire, Double Gloucester, Tasty Lancashire, Red Leicester and Goat’s Cheese (rsp: £3/250g). All are made with locally sourced milk and are packed in 100% recyclable packaging.
Nestlé jumped on the milk alternatives bandwagon in June with the UK launch of Wunda, following a successful rollout across Europe earlier in the year. Made from yellow split peas, the drink is available in two ambient variants: Original and Unsweetened. Pitched as versatile and “the closest thing to milk”, Wunda is also certified carbon neutral by the UK Carbon Trust. Not bad for a product that was developed in just six months, as part of Nestlé’s R&D Accelerator initiative.
The Collective’s big pot Blended range (rsp: £1.75/450g) landed in September, claiming to be the UK’s first carbon neutral dairy yoghurt. Available in Strawberry & Vanilla, Peach & Mango and Blackberry & Blackcurrant, it’s made possible via a carbon offsetting arrangement with sustainability consultancy Climate Partner. The lineup – which contains about 11% less sugar than PHE recommendations – is the first step in The Collective’s plan to become a fully carbon neutral business by 2025.
OK, so punters may not be baking as much banana bread as they were in the early days of lockdown, but people of all ages and dietary needs are still spending more time in their kitchens. Enter Doves Farm’s new range of gluten-free and vegan speciality flours, comprising oat, coconut, chickpea, quinoa, teff and brown rice-based variants (rsps: £2.10/260g & £4.20/500g). With bakers getting more adventurous, the range has so far picked up listings with Tesco and Ocado.
Launched into Co-op in October, Root Zero is the UK’s first carbon neutral potato brand, claims Puffin Produce. That’s achieved through a combination of carbon offsetting and use of “sustainable farming practices to remove carbon dioxide, create healthy soil and increase local biodiversity” the supplier says. It intends to further reduce the carbon intensity of Root Zero spuds (rsp: £2.50/2kg) by 51% by 2030, covering emissions across the entire supply chain.
Whitby capitalised this year on lockdown-led demand for in-home ‘fake-aways’ with a battered version of its popular breaded scampi. The frozen SKU represents a category first, according to Whitby. Made with British langoustine tails, Battered Scampi (rsp: £2.50/220g) came in response to a “rise in demand for comfort food, nostalgia and need for provenance” the supplier said at time of its launch in February. The product is listed by Tesco, Morrisons and Farmfoods.
Frozen pizza doesn’t have to be unhealthy. That was the message from Dr Oetker in September as it rolled out The Good Baker – a four-strong range of non-HFSS lines. The likes of Margherita Multigrain with Flaxseeds and Veggie Mix with Sourdough (rsps: £3.69 to £4.19) are meat-free and provide no more than 768kcals per pizza. (Veggie variants of Dr Oetker’s core Ristorante pizzas start at 898kcals.) The supplier’s aim is to “unlock category growth with a new positive health brand” it says.
Instant coffee got posher in February with Azera Craft – “the first ever instant craft coffee to launch in the UK and Ireland” according to Nescafé. Made in partnership with Manchester coffee roaster Grindsmith, it uses arabica beans from Brazil and Colombia to offer a “rich flavour with notes of chocolate and cherry”. Azera Craft (rsp: £5.49/80g) landed at the same time as its My Way Latte – a customisable instant latte that offers “quality and convenience”.
As its name suggests, Microban 24 promises 24-hour protection from bacteria. Vowing to kill “99.9% of bacteria and select viruses, including Covid-19”, the range landed in February to capitalise on the pandemic cleaning boom. It comprises Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Bathroom Cleaner and Disinfectant Spray – all in Fresh and Citrus scents. Featuring “active antibacterial ingredients to create multilayered protection”, it’s P&G’s “most significant launch in the UK for over a decade” says the supplier.
Unpredictable weather means drying clothes outdoors can be a gamble. Hence Lenor Outdoorable, an “ultra concentrated” fabric conditioner that promises “the freshness of drying outside, even when drying inside”. Packed in 100% recycled plastic, it comes in Spring Awakening, Pink Blossom and Summer Breeze (rsps: £3/504ml & £5/840ml). Unveiled in February, it was followed in July by news of a sustainable paper bottle for Lenor, which is set to be trialled in western Europe next year.
Own-label paper goods maker WEPA UK unveiled its first-ever brand in April: Feel Good. It’s eco-friendly toilet tissue made from only “the highest-grade recycled paper, including waste office paper, magazines and even retail catalogues” says the supplier. It’s “naturally soft” and “designed to meet the needs of today’s environmentally conscious consumer”. Each pack of nine rolls (rsp: £4.45) is wrapped in recyclable paper with the strapline ‘Kind to the planet & gentle on your bottom’.
Ice cream vans were a rare sight during Covid restrictions. So, Wall’s made sure shoppers could get a Mr Whippy-esque fix. This velvety version of Cornetto can be served straight from the freezer thanks to high-tech innovation, which ensures the ice cream remains soft “even at –18°C” says the supplier. The range, added in February, comprises Salted Caramel, Strawberry and Chocolatey (rsps: £1.60/140ml & £3/4x140ml). Each is served in a wafer cone with Cornetto’s “iconic” chocolate tip.
Fish alternatives are on trend, so no wonder Birds Eye extended its Green Cuisine range in June with Fishless Fingers (rsp: £2.50/336g). Having focused on plant-based ‘meat’, this marked something of a departure for the thriving brand. But it made sense. “With our established brand heritage and dominance in the fish finger category, we’re in the perfect position to create a plant-based alternative to our iconic fish finger,” said Birds Eye senior marketing manager Jess Ali at time of launch.
Cooking oil is not a category known for eye-catching innovation, but still Iliada managed to turn heads in March with the launch of two flavoured extra virgin olive oils. The Truffle variant is billed as the ideal pairing for pasta, risotto and salad, while Basil promises “vivid aromas of fresh green fruit”. Both are made with handpicked koroneiki olives – widely regarded as among the best in the world – from Kalamata, Greece. And at £5 for (an attractively canned) 250ml, they’re seriously premium.
Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High mascara caused a sensation in the UK in January, having landed three months earlier than planned due to massive demand. Already a smash in the US (and on TikTok), it was described by one user on Superdrug’s site as “holy grail mascara” – and received numerous plaudits for its affordable price (rsp: £9.99) and resistance to smudging. Its formula is infused with bamboo extract and fibres to add length and volume without weighing down lashes.
About 70% of chaps have facial skin issues but only 30% use skincare products, says Gillette. Hence the launch this autumn of Skin – the shave giant’s first major push into skincare. The six-strong lineup is “designed to prepare, protect and replenish”, adds the brand, while offering “diverse options to allow men to customise their personal grooming routine”. The “ultra sensitive” SKUs include Face Wash, Shave Mousse and Moisturiser, with rsps from £4.50.
Once aimed squarely at libidinous teenage boys, Lynx now wants to appeal to younger people in a way that “doesn’t rely on gender stereotypes”. Hence the brand’s revamp in May, with new-look packaging and reformulation of all lines to help deliver up to 72 hours of “enhanced freshness” and “superior fragrance”. Plus, there was the launch of Lynx Sport Recharge, which includes body spray and shower gel made with plant-based prebiotics (rsps: £2.84 to £4.50).
L’Oréal Elvive Dream Lengths Wonder Water conditioner promises to slake thirsty hair in just eight seconds. Designed to hydrate dry or damaged locks, the silicone-free, water-based formula offers “a weightless feel even on hair that’s ultra-fine”. Unveiled in February, Wonder Water (rsp: £9.99/200ml) has been a smash with beauty fans on TikTok. It’s illustrative of the trend towards haircare products that nourish and maintain the condition of the hair and scalp.
With millions of toothbrushes ending up in UK landfill each year, in June Colgate moved to help shoppers looking to cut down on plastic waste. It unveiled Link, a reusable toothbrush handle made from sturdy aluminium. Only its replaceable heads need be disposed of after use, meaning Link uses 80% less plastic than a regular manual brush. Available in blue and silver, it comes as a starter kit with two heads. Extra heads can be found in Deep Clean and Whitening (rsp: £7 for two).
Reclassification this summer by MHRA, the UK medicines regulator, meant the contraceptive pill could for the first time be available without prescription. So-called mini-pills – containing only desogestrel, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone – soon hit the OTC market. Most notable was Hana (rsp: £7.32/28 pills), supported by a £5m push aimed at the “haven’t got a moment” young female demographic. The brand is now in the likes of Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Boots.
On-the-go in grocery isn’t confined to food and drink. That’s proven by So Divine’s Finger Vibrator (rsp: £10) – a petite, single-speed device that is designed to be discreet. Having rolled into 600 Tesco stores in September, it promises “pin point stimulation” and “powerful vibrations”. It followed the Christmas 2020 launch of So Divine’s equally portable Amour Lipstick Vibrator. Disguised as an item of make-up, it’s rechargeable with three speeds and seven functions (rsp: £30).
Mars Petcare made a seriously green move in March with Lovebug – the first 100% insect-based catfood to be added in the UK by a major supplier. Created with sustainability business Futerra, these dry kibbles are made from black soldier fly larvae. Lovebug promises to be “nutritionally complete” with a smaller environmental footprint than other petcare brands. That’s due in part to the insects being fed on surplus veg on a farm powered solely by renewable energy. Its packaging is fully recyclable, too.
It’s an Italian ready meal, but not as we know it. Rana’s range of nifty kits have a novel cooking process: pour sauce over fresh egg pasta, microwave, and add parmesan and/or herbs for a finishing touch. Having originally launched with four variants (pictured, rsp: £4), their popularity prompted two more: Mushroom Linguine and Risotto Milanese. The kits are available in Waitrose, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Ocado, and generated nearly £2m in their first eight months.
Veetee’s Plants & Rice range, part of a larger swathe of NPD released by the brand in August, plays off two key factors. One is functionality, the other is the ongoing love affair with all things plant-based. The microwavable ready meals come in four flavours: Rich Beetroot Risotto, Smokey Chipotle Chilli Non-Carne, Spiced Chickpea & Sweet Potato and Chargrilled Vegetable & Squash Paella. At £1.99 per rice tray, each veggie-packed meal can stand on its own or be served as a side dish.
Many traditional Indian dishes are plant-based by nature. But the British, milder versions often necessitate dairy products in Indian-inspired cooking sauces. Which, of course, excludes vegan consumers from the category. So, in July, Premier Foods added plant-based versions of Sharwood’s popular Tikka Masala and Korma variants (£1.79/420g). The Deliciously Vegan duo eschew yoghurt and cream in favour of coconut derivatives for creaminess.
Belazu’s premium take on the nation’s favourite table sauce features on-trend ingredients inspired by world cuisines. Having rolled into Waitrose in April, the three-strong range comprises Tomato & Balsamic (recommended as a marinade for pork ribs), Harissa (ideal in chilli, says Belazu) and Smoked Chilli (best with a “home-made winter pie” or a “baked potato with sour cream”). Each bottle contains 800g of Mediterranean tomatoes (rsp: £2.75-£3.15/300g).
Peperami’s meaty mascot, The Animal, found his plant-based side in June with the launch of this meat-free Vegerami sub-brand. Chick’nless Bites come in Pep’d Up and Smokin’ – each made from pea protein and promising no more than 134 calories per 40g pack (rsp: £1). Targeted at “nutritionally aware young adults”, Vegerami made its debut a month after Peperami overhauled the look of its core range’s packaging in an effort to attract “mainstream and younger” shoppers.
It’s about time. PepsiCo bought SodaStream in summer 2018 for £2.5bn, but the US soft drinks giant took until this September to add syrups of its biggest brands. Pepsi, Pepsi Max, 7up and 7up Free concentrates (rsp: £4.99/440ml) each make nine litres of soda when combined with water and then carbonated. It’s a big launch that befits the big money PepsiCo spent on SodaStream – and comes after a good few years of the home carbonation brand ramping up its presence in UK grocery.
Promising to “level up your gut game”, the fast-growing Moju says its Prebiotic Shot is scientifically proven to reach the lower gut, where it can ‘feed’ the good bacteria. The drink features green banana, golden kiwi, baobab and ginger root, with no added sugar or sweetener. It rolled out in March in Raspberry, Lemon & Baobab (rsp: £1.95/6oml) alongside a 500ml format (rsp: £6.99). Both packs are 100% recyclable and made of 50% post-consumer recycled material.
As on-the-go and impulse occasions almost disappeared during lockdowns, Highland Spring took aim at staycations and big weekly shops. The bottled water giant added this 10-litre pack (rsp: £4.75) in March, promising a longer shelf life than other formats. In fact, it stays fresh for around four weeks once opened – compared with the brand’s single-serve bottle, which has a seven-day shelf life. The big pack “has taken to the market well” notes NielsenIQ analyst Tom Newman.
Leon’s debut in grocery’s fresh soup fixture is bang on trend. This healthy trio of Curried Coconut & Sweet Potato, Pea & Pesto and Roast Tomato & Harissa soups (rsp: £2.25) are vegan, gluten-free, contain fewer than 300 calories per 380g serving, and provide two of the 5 a day. Rolling exclusively into Sainsbury’s in September, the soups were joined by three single-serve salads adapted from Leon’s restaurant menu – in a bid to provide “convenient, plant-rich, work-from-home meals”.
Pip & Nut’s July decision to ditch plastic and switch to 170g and 300g glass jars is a key step in its journey to becoming net zero, says the brand. The jars hit the shelves in the summer in a bid to support “a wider agenda set by supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s who have all made commitments to reduce plastic packaging in store”, said the brand’s founder Pip Murray. It seems to have hit the right note. Pip & Nut has realised growth of 5.1% to £7.9m in the past year.
The September launch of Juul2 could come to be seen as the moment vaping grew up. Rather than its style or flavour options, the device’s key selling point is deterring underage users. Its tech means it won’t work with counterfeit flavour pods – which are often sold without proper age verification standards. Plus, UK shoppers using Juul’s site are required to go through a rigorous age-verification process. A starter kit comprising a Bluetooth-enabled device, charging dock and two pods is priced at £9.99.
UK sales of heated tobacco used to be slow burning. Philip Morris’ Iqos was the only player for years, after its launch in 2016. That changed in June with the arrival of Ploom S (rsp: £89), designed to be used with separately sold tobacco sticks in full flavoured, smooth, menthol and menthol & berry variants. The device is available from two Ploom-branded lounges in London (Argyll Street and Westfield shopping centre), as well as pop-up shops and accredited retailers across the capital.
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