2020’s Top trending CPG product attributes

By Chelsea Stone

6 min read

January 8, 2021

If you’re looking to innovate your product or product line for the new year, one good place to turn for inspiration is what product attributes were trending as we closed out the previous year. 

Thanks to COVID, we saw some strange trends in 2020, but many of these trending CPG characteristics will stick around long past the pandemic. Clue your product team into these nine trends to set your CPG brand up for success in 2021.

 

“Carb conscious”

As more diets and lifestyles shifted to ketogenic (“keto”) and diabetic-friendly, and low-carb trends like Whole30 swept the nation, CPG manufacturers innovated their products to meet growing demand for lower-carb options.

“Carb conscious” proved to be a big winner in 2020. Total retail sales for products labeled “carb-conscious” grew by well over $600M. These categories saw the largest increase in sales for products labeled “carb conscious”:

Baking Mixes 

Desserts 

Salty Snacks 

Wraps & Tortillas 

Many “carb-conscious” labeled products are also by their nature gluten-free, another trending product attribute. Foodstirs has helped themselves even further by incorporating “Non-GMO” and “organic” into their product positioning.

 

“Cruelty-free”

As a product characteristic, “cruelty-free” grew over $57M in sales last year, perhaps in part because so many different verticals could leverage this attribute. Everything from cosmetics to household cleaning products could be labeled “cruelty-free”, so which categories grew the most?

Baby Treatments 

Diapering Needs 

Household Cleaners 

Air Fresheners 

Since late 2019, “clean” baby care brand pipette has brought cruelty-free, safe and sustainable products to the category.

 

Vegetable presence

We’d like to be healthier, but we still want to indulge in our favorite vices. So if we buy something a little heavy on the calories, but it contains vegetables, we can all feel a bit better, right? Apparently we all shared this logic in 2020, when sales of Baking Staples containing vegetables soared. Sales of products with this attribute clocked a $27M increase in sales in 2020. What other categories saw an increase in this kind of label?

Dough and Batters 

Sweet Snacks 

Baking Mixes 

No one can say we didn’t try to squeeze in our five a day!

Caulipower is another great example of overlapping trends – their cauliflower pizza crusts are carb-conscious, gluten-free, and contain vegetables.

 

“GMO-free”

Despite some controversy, this product characteristic has continued to grow as consumers increasingly seek to make the safest decision for their health and the health of their families. In 2020, sales of GMO-free products grew by over $5.5B, especially in the following categories:

Sour Cream 

Fresh Meat 

Baking Supplies 

Processed Meat 

Pet care brand Open Farm has created a line of non-GMO dog food that also ships directly to consumers – a business strategy that proved smart in 2020.

 

“Gluten-free”

Gluten, our age-old enemy! This product attribute trended the hardest of all, growing $9.5B in retail sales since 2019. Even as many bakers homebound by COVID renewed their love for gluten, many continued to eschew this in their diets, and these categories were especially happy to oblige:

Dough and Batter Products

Baking Mixes 

Beer & Cider 

Pasta, Rice, Beans and Grains 

The takeaway here seems clear: Just because you don’t want to eat gluten doesn’t mean you don’t want to enjoy products that traditionally rely on gluten. Brewers and bakers – take note! It may be time to innovate.

Don’t say it can’t be done: Long-time craft beer innovator Stone Brewing sells one of the only gluten-reduced IPAs on the market. They’ve also recently released a carb conscious IPA called F+B (Features and Benefits).

 

“Natural”

“Natural” followed not far behind gluten-free, growing $6.4B in sales since 2019. We demanded Baking Supplies and Alcoholic Beverage Mixes with a “natural” label to indulge in our cakes and cocktails. 

Beverage brand Fever Tree’s variety of flavors, premium positioning and “all-natural ingredients” have made it a favorite of gin & tonic drinkers everywhere.

 

“Organic”

Though more strictly defined than “natural”, organic as a product characteristic still grew over $3B in sales in 2020, led by Baking Supplies, Alcoholic Beverage Mixes, and even Household Cleaning Products.

Rebel Green’s line of laundry detergent is certified organic – and cruelty-free, too.

 

Stevia

Calorie-free sweetener stevia grew $99M in sales in 2019, perhaps due to the popularity of characteristics like “natural” (stevia is plant-derived) and “no added sugar” (stevia is a natural sweetener). Categories that saw the largest increase in stevia-labeled products include:

Nut Butters, Jams & Jellies

Beer & Cider 

Sweets 

Alcoholic Beverage Mixes 

Chocolate brand Lily’s is one of the earliest adopters of stevia to sweeten products more healthfully. Their products are also organic and non-GMO.

 

If you’re beginning to sense an overall trend here, you’re not the only one. Clearly, consumers want to enjoy the same things they’ve always loved with the promise of a product that offers a more nutritious and healthful option. If 2020 was the year we struggled to protect ourselves from the threat of COVID, we could at least control the nutrition of the products we chose to consume.

COVID might also explain one other trending product characteristic from 2020: 

 

“Sleep aid”

Products carrying this characteristic grew $208M in sales in 2020 as we did our best to relax amidst the chaos. And CPG manufacturers met demand with some interesting innovations: Oral Hygiene products, Bath & Shower, Vitamins & Supplements, and Air Fresheners all endeavored to give consumers the sound night’s sleep they were craving.

Oral hygiene brand supersmile touts toothpaste that helps you sleep with ingredients like valerian, melatonin, chamomile and more.

Data source: Nielsen total FMCG retail, 52 weeks ending 12/14/2020 vs YA

 

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