Every year, Progressive Grocer’s editorial staffers convene to review the hundreds of products sent to us for consideration in our Editors’ Picks program. Although our legendary marathon sampling sessions are now a thing of the past — thanks not only to a worldwide pandemic, but also to a geographically far-flung staff that would make scheduling such an in-person event a logistical headache — we still take our duties as product reviewers seriously.
To that end, we carefully peruse the submissions and evaluate the described products according to innovation, functionality, value and packaging design. As happens every year, we encountered plenty of wonderful items released in the past 12 months, with the daunting task of choosing those products that we feel excel in these areas. The below 82 products, selected from more than 200 submissions, are those that checked all of the boxes for us.
As far as trends go, plant-based and other items positioned as better for you are still going strong, with a particular emphasis on healthy indulgence, since shoppers are increasingly unwilling to sacrifice taste for nutrition. Private label also made a respectable showing once more, with several products being the first own-brand entry in a particular segment, offering comparable quality to their name-brand counterparts, but at a value price. Additional attributes to arise often among the successful entries were clean-label, low-carb/keto, organic, natural and sustainable, this last descriptor a bid to appeal to consumers’ growing desire to improve the state of the planet along with their bodily health.
While not every submission becomes an Editors’ Pick, we are still grateful to all who sent in their products and enabled us to become better acquainted with the wide range of great items available at grocery — many of which we can’t wait to seek out on store shelves. After all, we’re not just editors, but also dedicated grocery shoppers, an all-consuming pastime — or is it a calling? — that we suspect is shared by many of our readers, too.
Brave Good Kind Tender Chicken Bars
SRP: $2.99 per 0.8-ounce bar
The meat snack category, still on a roll as high-protein diets remain popular, welcomes a lot of new entrants every year. These stood out for a particularly tender eating experience and healthy profile: They’re made from antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed chicken. The chicken bars have sustainability appeal, too, since they’re derived from a species with a smaller carbon footprint. Brave scored points with female meat snack consumers who are seeking a less-chewy product and an earth-friendlier option, but the items have also resonated with men. First launched in the e-commerce channel, the chicken bars have been continually added to retailers’ inventories and are now available in more than 4,000 stores. According to the company, sales data shows that these unique protein snacks have brought new consumers — i.e., first-time jerky buyers — to the category.
Catalina Crunch Keto-Friendly Crunch Mix
SRP: $6.99 per 6-ounce pack
With the same delicious taste and crunch of traditional party mixes, this better-for-you mix features a crunchy blend of nuts, chickpeas, pretzels, cheese crisps and Catalina Crunch Cereal pieces. Keto-Friendly Crunch Mix delivers on the brand’s mission to make healthier foods that are accessible and convenient for a variety of lifestyles, while simultaneously delivering on taste and satisfaction. With the use of innovative and versatile ingredients such as chickpeas, this snack mix delivers a nutrient-dense, satiating crunch. The keto-friendly party mix also includes nuts high in protein and healthy fats, such as cashews, pecans and almonds, as well as naturally low-carb chickpea pretzels. According to a ketogenic diet market report by Grand View Research Inc., the keto snack market was valued at $9.57 billion in 2019, with anticipated growth of more than $5 billion across an eight-year period, and the demand for low-carb snack varieties continues to skyrocket.
Good Planet Foods Snackable Plant-Based Cheese Wedges
SRP: $4.99 per package of six 19-gram wedges
First-to-market Snackable Plant-Based Cheese Wedges from Good Planet Foods are crafted with real allergen-free, eco-friendly ingredients such as coconut oil and plant starches and proteins. Available in Pepper Jack, Smoked Gouda, and Original varieties, the creamy, individually wrapped wedges boast a texture and flavor profile similar to their dairy counterparts. The product is also versatile enough to be melted into consumers’ favorite recipes. Good Planet Foods is supporting its Snackable Plant-Based Cheese Wedges through various marketing channels, among them public relations efforts and social media. The company also worked with key retailer partners as well as shopper programs to promote trial of the snackable wedges, which are packaged in a recyclable cardboard container that uses 90% post-consumer material and sports bright, cheerful primary colors to make it easily shoppable for consumers.
Koe Tropical Organic Kombucha
SRP: $2.49 per 12-ounce can
Considering that health-oriented consumers haven’t soured on the kombucha trend, this functional beverage has really hit the mark. Taste is a differentiator, as the fruit-forward drink is palate-friendly and available in six flavors: Tropical (the latest flavor), Watermelon, Strawberry Lemonade, Raspberry Dragonfruit, Mango and Blueberry Ginger. Koe kombucha is organic, non-GMO and naturally sweetened with a touch of organic sugar, and it contains 200% or more of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. The vibrantly hued, recently redesigned packages are shelf-stable and recyclable, and sell at a price point that’s 25% less than traditional kombucha per serving. Shoppers can find it at grocery, club and c-stores around the country, and it’s already grown more than 16 times faster than the kombucha category, according to Koe.
Spudsy Sweet Potato Fries
SRP: $3.99 per 4-ounce bag
Reimagining classic comfort foods with a healthy, sustainable twist, Spudsy offers its Sweet Potato Fries in Hot Fry, Cheese Fry, Vegan Ranch and Sea Salt flavors, with each variety upcycled from imperfect sweet potatoes that would otherwise end up in landfills. The zesty snacks are also vegan, gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO and free of the top nine allergens. Product giveaways on social media platforms have proved successful in generating consumer excitement, and Spudsy has also been featured in regional segments in key markets with well-known lifestyle contributors to drive retail sell-through and boost the product’s availability. Additionally, each bright, inviting bag, with its prominent mission to #savethespud, is sure to be spotted on retailers’ shelves. Spudsy plans to keep up with consumer trends by exploring the possibility of new flavor expansions.