The market researcher's 'Top 10 New Product Pacesetters,' currently in its eleventh year, ranks the most successful new consumer packaged goods, based on fist-year sales.
In order to qualify for the list, which this year includes 132 food brands, products must have been introduced between February 2004 and January 2005, and must have achieved at least $5.7 million in first-year retail sales in food, drug and mass outlets, excluding Wal-Mart.
Top of the list this year came Unilever's Slim-Fast Optima diet line, which achieved $166m in sales. The line includes shakes, meal bars and breakfast bars that claim to contain "50 percent less sugar" while providing consumers with "approximately one-third of your daily nutrition."
Next in line was Budweiser Select beer, from Anheuser-Busch, with $123m in sales. The manufacturers claim this is "a new kind of beer," with a "crisp taste that finishes clean."
Pepsi Co's Frito-Lay Light Salty snacks brought in $112, while Kraft subsidiary Nabisco's 100 Calorie Packs came fourth in line with $107m sales.
According to IRI, the success of the Nabisco line was based on its offering portion and calorie control through single-serve packages filled with lower-fat 'crisps' versions of the company's popular cookie and cracker brands, such as Oreo and Cheese Nips.
"The '2005 New Product Pacesetters' in food and beverage categories reflect the evolution of consumer demand for foods that meet higher nutritional standards, taste better than the early versions of 'better-for-you' products, and are more convenient," said the IRI.
The results of this year's ranking were presented by IRI's Valerie Skala Walker at the company's Reinventing CPG & Retail Summit 2006, a presentation detailing trends driving new product success.
"The difference between a trend and a fad is how long it lasts," said Walker. "We're talking about the same trends this year as last year, but what's different is how those trends are evolving and playing out in the marketplace. For example, consumers keep raising the bar on the definition of convenience, and manufacturers keep responding."
In ready meals, two multi-serving frozen dinner products topped this year's list. Unilever's Bertolli launched Dinner for Two, a line of chef-inspired Italian dinners that go from the freezer, to the skillet, to the table in 10 minutes. ConAgra launched Banquet Crock Pot Classics, which take five minutes preparation in the morning and are ready to eat in the evening.
IRI also pointed out that "while the low carbohydrate fad is considered by most to be over, some of the mid-year 2004 launches were large enough to make the pacesetter list."
Other best-selling products that made it to the top ten include Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper soda, Kraft Carb Well multi-category line, Gatorade Lemonade and Coke C2 mid-calorie cola.