While private and national consumer packaged goods brands launched fewer new products in 2020 and 2021, a report from TraceGains, published April 2023, predicted a rise in new product development (NPD) this year.
Among the respondents, 64% said they planned to invest more into NPD over the following 12 months, with 67% planning to modify multiple recipes.
Driven by a raft of new technologies, food and drink producers now have more capabilities than ever to innovate. So what notable launches did we see this year?
January: The month of meat-free
Well-known meat-free brand, Quorn, kickstarted the year with the addition of ‘Mini Sausage Rolls’ and three new frozen bag SKUs.
Quorn ‘Vegetarian Steak Strips’ (500g) and ‘Swedish Style Balls’ (30 balls in a pack, 501g) joined the brand’s new-look bigger bags range in retail freezers back in January 2023.
Gill Riley, marketing director at Quorn Foods UK, commented at the time: “January is the highest penetration month in meat free, meaning that we see more and more new people choosing to try a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet.”
Timing its launch for Veganuary, Squeaky Bean – which is part of The Compleat Group – also rolled out its vegan Heat & Eat range, which included its ‘Seasoned Chicken Style Pieces’ and ‘Squeaky Bean Tandoori Chicken Style Pieces’.
This followed the brand’s first ready-to-cook product, ‘Cooking Chorizo Style Sausage’, which launched in December 2022.
While the first range can be eaten cold, the Heat & Eat range was specifically developed to be cooked and added to dinners, for example.
Bisto also extended its meat-free offering in the new year, with the addition of a meat-free ‘chicken’ gravy flavour.
According to Premier Food’s (which owns Bisto), there’s been a 33% increase in meat-free main meal occasions in the last five years – and this is set to continue growing.
The ‘Bisto Best Meat Free Chicken Flavour Gravy’ followed the launch of the ‘Meat Free Beef’ flavour back in October 2022.
Meanwhile, a team-up between The Cookaway and Yondu Vegetable Umami saw the release of a new recipe kit – the 'Vegetarian Umami Ramen Kit’.
The box from The Cookaway offers Yondu as the ‘hero ingredient’ and enables customers to create authentic one-hour broths. The broth also includes shiitake mushrooms, miso paste and sake. This, alongside crafting hand-rolled noodles, makes the ramen kit a ‘unique opportunity to push the boundaries in the kitchen’.
January also saw AB Mauri launch its new healthy bread mix range – Pure ProGrains.
The four mixes were specially designed to make it simple for craft and medium size bakeries to produce breads and deliver on the rising health trend.
Each new Pure ProGrain mix was developed to a specific recipe which allows on pack claims for fibre, protein and digestive health.
April: King’s coronation NPD
Back in April, we saw a range of NPD inspired by the King’s coronation – from a royal trio of Krispy Kreme doughnuts which played on classic British flavours, such as lemon shortbread, berry Bakewell and a strawberry and custard trifle; to salted caramel and Bakewell tart flavoured popcorn from Joe & Seph’s.
In the beverage space, Pimm’s toasted King Charles with a limited-edition design of its Pimm’s No.1 bottle, temporarily replacing its standard packaging. While Premier Foods celebrated with rebrands and limited editions of some of its best-known brands, including a limited edition Mr Kipling Victoria sponge cake mix.
Commenting at the time, Yilmaz Erceyes, chief marketing officer at Premier Foods, said: “We know shoppers enjoy limited-edition products and packaging to mark certain occasions and due to their popularity for the Platinum Jubilee last year, we are re-introducing the Mr Kipling limited edition mixes and icing and on-pack takeovers across some of our iconic and much-loved brands to help retailers and shoppers celebrate the King’s coronation.”
Walkers also celebrated the coronation with a regal release of two new flavours in its Sensations crisp range – King Prawn Cocktail, and Regal Lamb and Mint – following value growth of +16% for the premium range in 2022’s Platinum Jubilee year.
June: Father’s Day inspired NPD
In June we saw an array of NPD just in time for Father’s Day, with an amalgamation of snacky bits and desserts leading. Among the rollouts was Piglet’s Pantry’s Father Day Afternoon Tea Box, which included Nduja flavoured sausage rolls and mixed pie boxes.
Speaking on the launch, its managing director Jo Hunter, said that Father’s Day is always a popular time for the brand, with its pies and sausage rolls having a particular loyal following.
Mr Kipling’s saw another release just these few months later, with new additions into its Deliciously Good range. The new range included three loaf cakes in lemon, banana and caramel apple flavours which boasted non-HFSS compliance.
Elsewhere, Just Love Food Company launched a new vegan vanilla celebration cake in Asda stores nationwide. The sponge cake is free from nuts, milk and egg, and contains no artificial colours or flavourings.
Meanwhile, popular oat drink brand Oatly rolled out four new oat drink lines in the UK across chilled and long-life formats.
New Oatly Light, Oatly Semi and Oatly Whole were all designed with improved recipes to work better in drinks, cooking and baking.
June also saw Italian premium organic dessert brand Rachelli break into the UK chilled dessert market with the roll-out of two new tiramisu products, following big demand for Italian cuisine in the UK.
August: Sweet treats and upgraded recipes
In August, bakery ingredients manufacturer Dawn Foods developed a non-sticky icing aimed at products such as iced buns, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts and muffins.
Dubbed ‘Dawn Pak Perfect’, the product was made using a proprietary formulation that is exclusive to Dawn Foods. The icing is also vegan and gluten free and is said to contain 50% less calories than fat-based alternatives.
The same month also saw Lipton extended its line to include a canned version of its iced tea. Classic lemon and peach are both available in 330ml cans that come in six-packs, with the brand predicting that these multipacks could help unlock 3.1m at-home opportunities.
Meanwhile Natural Balance Foods expanded its Nākd brand with the introduction of three new granola products. The range is non-HFSS, vegan and made with 100% natural origin ingredients; it also follows the release of the Nākd protein bars.
This is the first brand extension outside of bars for the brand, with its marketing director highlighting granola as a key growth category.
Sticking with cereal, Quaker Oats welcomed a new flavour to its Oat So Simple range with its caramelised biscuit flavour available in sachets and on-the-go pots.
According to Kerry Marketing Insights, ‘Caramelised Biscuit’ was one of the top 20 fastest-growing flavours over the last three years.
Later in August, British gluten-free oats manufacturer Glebe Farm launched its “new and improved” granola range with a revamped recipe and new packaging.
The upgraded recipe includes greater oat content in the maple & banana and strawberry packs, while the inclusion of vegan chocolate in its choco chip flavour sees an accessible favourite added to the range.
Confectionery brand, Barratt, part of Valeo Snackfoods, launched a new offering under its Wham brand – the Wham Sour Squad.
Available in the traditional rocket shape, the new squad comes in four, tangy flavours of raspberry, apple, cherry and lemon.
September: A month of ‘firsts’ for NPD
September meanwhile saw Homegrown launching its first range of products exclusively through Asda – a vertically grown salad.
The Homegrown collection includes three SKUs – ‘80g Mixed Salad’, ‘60g Rocket’ and ‘80g Hot & Peppery Cress' – and is entirely British grown.
Elsewhere, Coca-Cola announced a limited edition AI beverage – Y3000 Zero Sugar.
The idea behind the new roll-out was inspired by how coke fans might imagine the future.
Commenting on the drink, senior director of global strategy, Oana Vald, said: "We challenged ourselves to explore the concept of what a Coke from the future might taste like – and what kind of experiences would a Coke from the future unlock.”
September also saw Bristol-based sweet treat manufacturer, Spellbound, unveiling its debut collection of four vegan chocolate products.
Designed with a focus on wellbeing, the gluten-free range has been branded as ‘botanical delicacies for the body and mind’, with no artificial additives.
Founded by naturopath Alex Fraysse in 2020, Spellbound secured £18,000 in funding in March 2023 courtesy of SWIG Finance to support ingredient sourcing, transportation and marketing.
October: Spooky Halloween NPD
Ahead of Halloween, Mr Kipling and Krispy Kreme were innovating again with some ‘spooktacular’ NPD.
The former expanded its range of Halloween products with the addition of chocolate & orange slices.
The sale of chocolate and orange flavoured cakes have grown by more than 11% in terms of value year-on-year, with Toluna research revealing that 66% of consumers are looking to try new seasonal flavours of existing products.
Premier Foods also brought back a number of seasonal ranges in Cadbury and Mr Kipling, including ‘Cadbury Pumpkin Patch Cakes’ and Mr Kipling Terrifying Toffee Whirls’.
Meanwhile, Krispy Kreme celebrated Halloween with four new limited edition products, including the raspberry flavoured ‘Bite n Delight’, the chocolatey ‘Howl-o-ween’, the toffee apple and orange ‘Pumpkin Patch’, and the apple and sprinkles ‘Spooktacular’.
Speaking with Krispy Kreme UK and Ireland’s Emma Colquhoun – the company’s chief marketing and digital officer – earlier this year, she explained that limited edition offerings are an important part of providing consumers with a “little bit of indulgence” during one of the brand’s biggest trading moments of the year.
London-based American-style cookie manufacturer Blondies Kitchen were also marking the pumpkin season with a special range that included a giant Halloween cookie.
November: The Festive launches begin
From Halloween to Christmas, Dawn Foods returned with another icing launch. This time the bakery ingredients manufacturer revealed two limited edition, ready-to-use fudge icings.
Inspired by traditional Christmas flavours – mint chocolate and chocolate orange – the icing flavours are available in 10kg pails and will be on sale until early 2024.
While chocolate mint is a mainstream flavour in desserts and ice cream, it is now moving into bakery too, with Dawn’s new ‘Mint Chocolate Fudge Icing’ designed to deliver a rich chocolate flavour with an aroma of mint. Dawn’s ‘Chocolate Orange Fudge Icing’ on the other hand, contrasts rich dark chocolate with the sweet citrus of orange.
Free-from brand, NOMO, also celebrated the festive occasion in November, with the roll out of two new reindeer-inspired products.
The 30g Choc Fudge Reindeer and the 100g Reindeer Hollow join its Christmas collection, which already includes a 30g cookie dough reindeer and an advent calendar.
Looking at the meat sector, Wild and Game has launched its Christmas hampers in two sizes. The hampers include bird roasts, pigs in blankets, venison haunch, a festive buffet selection, Somerset cheeses, and a range of chutneys.
Hamper 1 is designed to feed three to four people over the festive season and is priced at £99, while Hamper 2 should serve six to eight people for £199.99.
Luxury chocolate manufacturer, Lily O’Brien’s, also unveiled its Christmas 2023 collection – 24 pieces with nine different flavours.
The assortment includes classic favourites from the Lily O’Brien’s signature range and four new limited-edition flavours for the season: Spiced Latte, Dark Orange, Triple Chocolate Shot and Berry Eton Mess.
In addition, Swizzles has updated its festive range with the addition of ‘Gift Drums’, larger packs filled with either ‘Love Hearts’ or ‘Drumstick Mini Chew Bar’s. Traditional favourites such as the Swizzels advent calendar, party mix and chew bars are also available.
Commenting, Clare Newton, trade marketing manager at Swizzels, said: “Christmas has established itself as one of the biggest retail events of the year and shows no signs of slowing down. It gives retailers a sales boost, especially when it comes to sugar confectionery.”
November also saw McCain’s biggest product launch in over 10 years, with its ‘Baby Hasselbacks’.
These skin-on, pre-sliced whole baby potatoes are targeted at consumers lacking ‘mid-week inspiration’ and come with a sea salt and cracked black pepper flavour sachet, allowing shoppers to season to their taste.
Meanwhile, Pukka Pies launched its latest pie offering in collaboration with Ladbaby – which was responsible for parody hits such as ‘We Built this City on Sausages Rolls’ – to help raise money for the Trussel Trust.
Available from Tesco stores for a limited time, the pie recipe features chicken pieces, sage and onion stuffing, chipolata sausages and smoked bacon in a roast chicken gravy. Pukka will donate 10p from the sale of each pie to the charity.
Elsewhere, Kallo made its debut in the crispbread market with the release of a new plant-based cracker.
Veggie Thins are crunchy snacking flatbreads made with chickpeas and are high in fibre and a source of protein. These baked snacks are gluten-free, suitable for vegans and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
The range is launching with three flavours: Rosemary & Sea Salt, Mixed Seeds and Beetroot & Mixed Seed. Veggie Thins joins Kallo’s stable of plant-based snacks, including its pea and lentil Veggie Cakes, which has garnered sales of £7.1m since launch.
Meanwhile, premium dessert brand Carte D’Or teamed up with Baileys, bringing the iconic ice cream and alcohol together just in time for Christmas.
Crafted with Baileys flavour vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate flavour pieces and Baileys flavour caramel sauce, ‘Carte D’Or Baileys’ will be available for over-18 consumers now and beyond the festive season as a permanent flavour extension.
The product has already generated significant interest in the lead up to its launch, according to the brand’s market research, which showed more than two-thirds of adult shoppers expressing ‘definite’ or ‘likely’ purchase intent.
Jennifer Dyne, head of ice-cream UK & Ireland, Unilever, said: “We are so excited to be launching this new iconic festive ice cream innovation. Bringing together the number one premium desserts brand with one of the UKs most loved festive drinks is guaranteed to drive excitement in the ice cream aisle throughout this busy season and creates a great opportunity for retailers to tap into a new premium dessert offering driven by two of Christmas’ most loved products.”
Known for its field to bowl goodness, popular soup brand Crosse & Blackwell is stepping into the growing condensed soup category for the first time with the launch of a new range.
The brand, which is currently seeing a value growth of +71.8%, is now offering the same ‘superior quality of soup’ in a new condensed format, as consumers look for value amid the cost-of-living crisis.
The company notes this as an especially important new product development as winter approaches and higher energy prices, food shopping and other rising household bills are top of people’s minds.
Jeremy Gibson, marketing director at Princes which owns Crosse & Blackwell, said: “This is exactly the right time for Crosse & Blackwell to make its move into the condensed soup category, especially given the growth it’s experienced in the last year.”
Crosse & Blackwell has seen an impressive volume growth (+35%) as a result of the brand attracting more shoppers (+31%) and securing further listings.
The condensed soup category, which is currently valued at £12.6m, has traditionally been driven by the older demographic. However, recently it has benefitted from strong growth among younger, pre-family shoppers due to the trend of using it as a cooking ingredient, which is particularly evident across social media.
Hames Chocolates, the Lincolnshire-based private label chocolate supplier, expanded its hot chocolate range in time for this winter’s peak sales season, to cater for the growing demand for self-treating and affordable luxury.
The private label expert, which has seen a nearly fourfold (+ 260%) annual increase in value sales of its real hot chocolate flakes, unveiled a selection of new and indulgent Hames Chocolates Hot Chocolate Stirrers, Hot Chocolate Bombes and Hot Chocolate Pouches in November.
The new additions have joined Hames’ existing line-up of premium products delivering real hot chocolate, to which you just add to hot milk. Ideal for multiple and high street retailers, tourism and leisure operators, as well as specialist chocolate shops and gifting – Hames Chocolates is also offering retailers, customer-branded (private label) hot chocolate pouches, for orders over 1,000 units.
December: As the ho-ho-holidays approach, the NPD festive launches continue
Sticking with alcohol, Synergy Flavours has announced its new natural whiskey flavour range and a whiskey cocktail flavour.
This has been designed for both alcoholic and low- and no-alcohol ready-to-drink (RTD) products and created to support manufacturers amidst growing demand for cocktail bar-quality RTD options.
The range includes bourbon, Tennessee, fruity, and peaty whiskey flavours, as well as a traditional ‘old fashioned’ cocktail flavour. This flavour range offers manufacturers flexibility in developing authentic RTD products and allows customisation due to each flavour’s carefully crafted sensory profile.
Each whiskey flavour has a sensory description highlighting the key flavour attributes, so developers can select the right profile for their beverage using this information. Partnering with Synergy allows manufacturers to use the whiskey flavours alongside other Synergy solutions, including natural flavours, extracts and essences, to develop complex and premium cocktail bar-quality RTD products.
“RTD cocktails are becoming increasingly popular and, interestingly, we are seeing more activity in both non-alcoholic categories and beverages at 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) and above,” said Vicky Berry, senior European business development manager at Synergy Flavours.
“For low- and no-alcohol products, the new portfolio helps our customers create drinks with flavours reminiscent of alcohol, replicating the sophistication of whiskey-based options that consumers enjoy. In beverages at 8% ABV and above, our whiskey flavours help manufacturers to reduce the amount of whiskey they require in their RTD cocktail, perhaps opting for a less expensive alcohol instead, while maintaining a premium flavour at a lower price point.”
The supermarkets meanwhile have been innovating in Christmas with their own ranges of pigs in blankets.
Both Asda and Tesco have rolled out NPD in this category, with the former recently announcing a 12-strong range of flavoured options.
Asda’s new range includes its ‘Extra Special Brown Butter & Spiced Rum Stuffing Wreath with Brûléed Pigs in Blankets’ and ‘Frozen Maple Pigs in Blankets’, among others.
Tesco on the other hand has 10 different variations, including plant-based options, plus a brand new showstopper in the form of the ‘Tesco Pigs in Blankets Topped Steak Pie’.
Asda anticipates it will sell over 28m of the festive favourite this year, while the 2023 Tesco Christmas Report revealed that the nation consumes an average of 4.5 individual pigs in blankets over the festive period!
Finally, CRAVE will be ending what it describes as ‘a successful 2023’ with the launch of a free-from, ‘dunkable’ cookie sandwich.
Dubbed ‘Bisco’s’, the product is a golden biscuit sandwich with a vanilla cream filling and sprinkles. The new product is set to debut in Sainsbury’s from 31st December 2023.
This will be the first new product in a series of NPD for 2024, the company said.