New Products

New U.S. food and beverage product introductions in retail outlets, as tracked by Mintel’s Global New Product Database (Mintel GNPD), have followed an upward trend since the late 1990s and a relatively flat trend since 2004.

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During the Great Recession of 2008–09, the number of new food and beverage products in retail outlets fell from 20,198 in 2008 to 14,411 in 2009. The 2008–2009 decline marked the first consecutive year-to-year reduction in new food product introductions since 2000.

Consumers sought familiar products and avoided impulse buying during the Great Recession. To appeal to bargain-seeking customers who wanted to simplify their shopping trips, as well as purchase familiar products, retailers reduced the number of products introduced; and, in response, some manufacturers reduced their product lines. However, in 2016, the number of new food and beverage products reached their highest level since the last peak in 2007. New food and beverage product introductions had consecutive year-to-year declines in 2014–2015 and 2017–2019, presenting a slight increase in 2020. Nonfood items decreased each year from 2013 through 2015 and increased each year from 2016 through 2019. In 2020, nonfood items decreased by 12 percent.

In 2020, the three food categories with the largest shares of overall new product introductions were beverages, snacks, and sauces and seasonings—accounting for 41.9 percent of new products. These three categories have been in the top 5 new product introductions for the entire 2015–2020 period, with a 7.9 percent reduction since 2015 (from 45.5 percent to 41.9 percent).

Percentage of new food and beverage product introductions, by product type, 2015–20
Product type 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
New products* 17,156 21,466 21,060 20,354 20,064 20,341
Beverages 22.3 18.6 18.2 19.0 17.1 16.5
Snacks 14.3 14.9 14.3 12.3 14.8 13.2
Sauces and seasonings 8.9 8.9 9.8 10.7 8.7 12.2
Bakery foods 11.6 12.6 11.4 10.2 10.7 10.7
Dairy 7.2 7.2 7.3 7.0 7.9 8.4
Processed fish, meat, and egg products 5.8 6.3 7.9 7.9 7.3 8.3
Candy and gum 7.2 8.7 7.1 6.1 9.3 5.3
Meals and entrees 4.9 5.5 5.6 7.0 6.5 5.2
Fruit and vegetables 2.6 3.2 3.9 4.6 3.2 4.1
Sweet and savory spreads 2.6 2.8 2.9 2.5 3.1 4.0
Side dishes 2.8 3.1 3.6 3.9 3.7 3.6
Desserts and ice cream 4.1 3.2 2.8 3.3 3.0 3.0
Breakfast cereals 3.0 2.8 2.9 2.2 2.4 2.7
Soup 1.2 1.2 1.5 1.5 1.1 1.4
Baby food 1.0 0.8 0.6 1.4 0.8 0.8
Sweeteners and sugar 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.3 0.5
*Total number of new products.
Source: Prepared by USDA, Economic Research Service, using data from Mintel's Global New Product Database.
Data as of May 2021.

Advertisements touting products' attributes are displayed on packages and in supporting literature. Based on new product tags or claims (such as "organic") tracked by Mintel GNPD, more than 90 U.S. food and beverage new product claims or tags were identified in 2020. Among the top 10 claim categories, presented in the table below, the top 8 claims have ranked in the top 10 every year since 2015.

Number of new product introductions in the top 10 product claim categories for 2015–20
Tag or claim* 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Kosher 7,427 8,997 8,797 8,543 8,474 8,385
Low-allergen or no/reduced allergen 4,924 6,588 6,130 6,010 6,678 6,373
Gluten free 4,542 6,150 5,743 5,578 6,157 5,876
No additives/preservatives 3,478 4,602 4,810 4,994 4,909 4,685
GMO-free** 2,689 3,735 4,054 4,330 4,738 4,557
Ethical—environmentally friendly packaging 4,244 5,059 4,498 4,520 4,249 3,999
Ethical—recycling 4,036 4,834 4,277 4,317 3,999 3,701
Social media 2,872 4,006 3,696 3,341 3,774 3,454
Organic 2,314 3,005 3,091 2,928 2,884 3,302
Free from added/artificial preservatives -- 2,637 2,710 2,779 3,041 2,668
Total new product claims 70,523 95,149 91,976 92,768 94,261 90,512
Notes: *A new product may have multiple tags or claims. **GMO=genetically modified organism.
Source: Prepared by USDA, Economic Research Service, using data from Mintel's Global New Product Database.
Data as of May 2021.
Percent of new product introductions in the top 10 product claim categories for 2015–20
Tag or claim* 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Kosher 10.5 9.5 9.6 9.2 9.0 9.3
Low-allergen or no/reduced allergen 7.0 6.9 6.7 6.5 7.1 7.0
Gluten free 6.4 6.5 6.2 6.0 6.5 6.5
No additives/preservatives 4.9 4.8 5.2 5.4 5.2 5.2
GMO-free** 3.8 3.9 4.4 4.7 5.0 5.0
Ethical—environmentally friendly packaging 6.0 5.3 4.9 4.9 4.5 4.4
Ethical—recycling 5.7 5.1 4.7 4.7 4.2 4.1
Social media 4.1 4.2 4.0 3.6 4.0 3.8
Organic 3.3 3.2 3.4 3.2 3.1 3.6
Free from added/artificial preservatives -- 2.8 2.9 3.0 3.2 2.9
Notes: *A new product may have multiple tags or claims. **GMO=genetically modified organism.
Source: Prepared by USDA, Economic Research Service, using data from Mintel's Global New Product Database.
Data as of May 2021.

In 2018, "microwaveable" claims replaced "free from added/artificial preservatives" products in the top 10 claim categories, but this reverted in 2019. “Low-allergen or no/reduced allergen” claims have ranked in the top 5 claims since 2012. In 2020, 6,373 “Low-allergen or no/reduced allergen” products were introduced, compared to 4,924 product introductions in 2015. This reflects an increase concern of food allergies in children, such as peanut and tree nut allergies. “Gluten free” product claims have been among the top 5 claim categories since 2013, also reflecting a concern for allergens, as well as other health concerns. "Genetically modified organism (GMO)-free" claims ranked among the top 10 claims for the first time in 2015 and are among the top 5 claims in 2020. In 2020, 4,557 "GMO-free" products were introduced, compared with 2,689 in 2015. This reflects consumers' concern about the possible effects of genetically engineered (GM) food on their health. "Organic" product claims have been among the top 10 claim categories since 2014.

Products bearing logos that promote a company’s social media site (for example, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter) reached the top 10 claims for the first time in 2013. Promoting new products using social media platforms was practically nonexistent before 2012. Products with social media logos increased 13 percent from 2018 to 2019, but decreased 9 percent in 2020 and ranked 8th among all new product claims, accounting for 3.8 percent of new product launches. This increase suggests that more food companies deem networking and promoting their products and business via social media to be an essential component of their overall marketing strategy. Social media platforms are quickly overtaking traditional media formats such as print and TV ads, brochures, flyers, and email campaigns. Advantages to advertising via social media (rather than advertising via traditional media) include lower cost, minimal effort, increased opportunity to interact with customers in real time, global coverage, adaptability, and ability to measure impact. Food companies are now putting QR (Quick Response) codes on products so that consumers can access the company website or online services through their smart phones. Companies may use QR codes to facilitate consumer interaction with products by linking the code to product information, such as the presence of allergens or GMOs.