Progressive Grocer's focus on the best recently released nonfood products brings well-deserved attention to some real gems.
For the first time since we began running our Editors' Picks feature celebrating the best in consumer products introduced over the past year, we separated the judging into two divisions: food and nonfoods. This allowed us at Progressive Grocer to deepen our focus on nonfood products, which, sad to say, were in prior years often overshadowed by their edible cousins when vying for editors' attention.
Our new judging procedure has remedied that unfortunate tendency. In fact, this year's exclusive crop of nonfood entries has brought home to us more forcefully than ever the full variety and creativity of such products on grocers' shelves. We were also gratified by a healthy number of entries: more than 60.
Rating submissions according to innovation, functionality and value, we were able — not without considerable difficulty — to winnow the standouts to a lean 31. Among the trends we noted were all-natural and eco-friendly products; those offering improved treatments for such medical conditions as sensitive teeth and poison ivy; items with frankly delicious, food-grade fragrances; more SKUs for pets, many of them promising health benefits; and refinements of existing products to make them work even better, as well as a few out-of-the-ballpark inventions that could well change consumer habits going forward, including the Micro-Steamer for steaming vegetables quickly in the microwave oven, and elegant yet disposable Aspen-ware cutlery.
As you read through PG's favorite nonfood products of the past year on the following pages (food products will follow in the August issue), along with our editors' sometimes breezy, but always on-target, assessments, keep in mind that these items, great as they are, represent just the tip of the iceberg. As retail channels continue to blur and consumers seek to save time by combining shopping trips, the nonfood sections of the supermarket are poised for explosive growth, and with such products as these to lead the charge, nonfood gains look set for the long term.
AcneFree 2-in-1 Acne Wipes and Gentle Cleansing Bar
SRP: $5.99 each
Since maintaining clear skin is an ongoing struggle even for some Progressive Grocer editors, they were excited to try these products from Bridgewater, N.J.-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals Inc. The oil-free disposable wipes contain 0.5 percent salicylic acid to help prevent breakouts and keep pores open and free of impurities, and with no rinsing necessary after use, they're perfect for on-the-go treatment. Meanwhile, the non-comedogenic, moisturizing bar cleans and exfoliates acne-prone skin on the face and body, without causing irritation. The results of PG's test of both items were, in a word, glowing.
SRPs: $4.99, 50 ounces; $8.99, 100 ounces; $11.99, 150 ounces
The latest addition to the Al product lineup, All Stainlifter now contains In-Wash Pre-Treaters for better stain removal, and, as proof of its cleaning power, is also the Official Detergent of Little League Baseball and Softball. PG was duly impressed by a spotless load of laundry washed in the new and improved product, which is manufactured by the Wilton, Conn.-based Sun Products Corp.
Artik Aromatic All Purpose Cleaner
Artik Aromatic All-Purpose Cleaner features a biodegradable, nontoxic formula with the degreasing power to remove smudges from a wide range of surfaces, leaving them clean and shiny. Equally impressive is the packaging: a clear PETE bottle sporting a see-through front label with holographic details, a printed inside panel and a metallic back label, along with a reusable sprayer. And yes, its three fragrances — Mandarin Obsession, Icy Fresh and Lemon Love — all smell great.
SRP: $3.49 for a case of 12
This premium, 100 percent compostable, all-natural, single-use wooden cutlery from Arlington Heights, III.-based National Importers US Inc. strikes the right balance between form and function, without sacrificing performance or environmental responsibility. The spoon is strong enough to dig into hard ice cream, the fork will pierce raw veggies without bending, and the knife can slice with equal ease through a ripe tomato or a plastic storage bin. After all of that, they can be thrown away with the knowledge that in a maximum of 49 days, they're gone for good.
Offered by Chicago-based Closet Scent Inc., these disposable fragrance sheets for hangers keep clothes smelling fresh between washes or dry cleanings for up to two months or longer, and are particularly suitable for items that will be stored for long periods of time. Not only is this a great idea that works, but the two scents, Sweet Cottton Blossom and Honey Blossom, are pleasant without being cloying.
Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy Daytime/Nighttime QuickMelt Tablets
Formulated with pharmacist-recommended, clinically proven zinc gluconate, Cold-EEZE QuickMelts from Doylestown, Pa.-based ProPhase Labs reduce the duration of the common cold and severity of common cold symptoms. The Daytime version of the items is nondrowsy, while the Nighttime tablets contain a natural, non-habit-forming sleep aid. Both dissolve quickly in the mouth without water and provide convenient dosing — a particular selling point for those of us at PG who dis-like swallowing pills.
Designed to look like a traditional aluminum can, the 16-ounce reusable Coolgearcan from Plymouth, Mass.-based Cool Gear International has a wide-mouth opening for easy filling, a spill-proof slider
lid, and double-wall construction that keeps beverages cold for up to six hours. Consumers can choose from a large variety of bold, trendy and colorful designs, each featuring a whimsical "cantrition" fact and drink recipe playing off the graphic theme. In its combination of good looks, functionality and value, PG found this item hard to beat.
CoverGirl Clump Crusher by Lashblast
Clump Crusher by Lashblast mascara from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble delivers 200 percent more volume (versus bare lashes) with zero clumps. The product's innovative curved brush features a lash-loading section to saturate lashes with mascara, as well as fine-tooth comb bristles to evenly distribute product. PG judges who applied the mascara received numerous compliments on their lovely lashes.
CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss
Offering up to seven days of color, CoverGirl Outlast Stay Brilliant Nail Gloss features a built-in topcoat for glossy shine. The product from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble also provides expertly chosen shades in premium packaging — a particular boon for PG editors who like to match their nail polish to their outfits, although it's long-lasting enough that it still looks fresh several days after application.
Febreze Car Vent Clips
Febreze Car Vent Clips add a welcome note of freshness to any vehicle, eliminating odors and replacing them with an invigorating fragrance. The items attach easily and act instantly by gradually releasing scent for up to 30 days on a low setting and under ambient conditions. Since PG was introduced to this product from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, long car trips have certainly become a lot more enjoyable.
Finish Quantum with Power Gel
Available in three varieties, Finish Quantum with Power Gel from Parsippany, N.J.-based Reckitt Benckiser employs a unique three-chamber capsule design and the new Power Gel formula to deliver clean, shiny items straight from the dishwasher, even in the hardest water. Quantum's Power Max Bleach works on tough stains such as tea and coffee, the soaking Powerball breaks down and washes away 24-hour dried-on food remnants, and the Power Gel eliminates spots and residues. Anything that saves tedious kitchen cleanup time is a winner in PG's book.
Fresh Pet Dog Joy Turkey Bacon for Dogs
Made in the U.S.A. from just six all-natural, simple ingredients, foremost among them real wood-smoked turkey, refrigerated Dog Joy Turkey Bacon from Secaucus, N.J.-based Freshpet joins the company's line of fresh and healthy treats. Encouraged by the product's better-for-bowser profile, PG's doting dog parents felt good about feeding the morsels to their pampered pooches, all of whom sat up and begged for more.
Hutzler Celery & Dip To-Go and Carrot & Dip To-Go
SRP: $5.99 each
Taking healthful snacking to a whole new level, these BPA-free receptacles from Canaan, Conn.-based Hutzler Manufacturing Co., which resemble a fresh carrot or a celery stalk, provide space for cut fruit and veggies, along with a sealable container for dipping sauce, allowing for countless combinations. One PG editor was particularly taken with the lunch-and snacktime possibilities the products presented for his school-age daughter. Hutzler also offers an attractive floor display to showcase the items.
Ivy-Dry Continuous Spray Poison Ivy Treatment and Soap
SRPs:$11, spray; $9.60, soap
Convenient, easy-to-use Ivy-Dry Continuous Spray can be applied at any angle — even upside-down — while the Fairfield, N.J.-based company's soap removes poison ivy up to one week after exposure. The out-doorsy types among PG's editors were particularly grateful for the products' fast-acting efficacy.
Billed as a convenient way to maintain the cat litter box, Litter Genie promises to provide ultimate odor control while eliminating the hassle of daily trips to the outside trash — in just three easy steps. This was music to the ears of PG's resident cat owners, who enthusiastically reported their satisfaction with the innovative disposal system from Shelton, Conn.-based Energizer Personal Care.
Mark Feldstein & Associates 27-inch LED Light Branches
SRP: $19.95 per set
Three sets of 27-inch battery-operated LED Light Branches impart dazzle to dry floral arrangements or plants. Including a convenient timer for six hours on and 18 hours off, the item comes in "Try Me" packaging to enable shoppers to see what they're getting. To seal the deal, the manufacturer, Maumee, Ohio-based Mark Feldstein & Associates, provides a free 24-set assorted floor display including some of the company's most popular Light Branch styles.
Method Dryer Activated Fabric Softener
San Francisco-based Method's plant-based, dryer-activated fabric softener spray combines a fabric softener and dryer sheet in one elegantly packaged product. Featuring Smartsoft technology, the ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic formula softens fabric, reduces static and leaves clothes smelling fresh, all while preventing more dryer sheets from ending up in landfills. That's exactly the kind of eco-friendliness PG can get behind.
The Micro-Steamer from Los Angeles-based Range Corp. is an insulated microwave accessory that steams vegetables in seconds, eliminating bulky cookware or the use of gallons of water. The product employs the natural moisture from the vegetable, creating steam and redirecting the heat back into the food item. What's more, cleaning is a snap: Turn it inside-out, rinse it out under the kitchen sink tap and let it air-dry, or toss it in the washing machine after repeated uses. After a trial run, PG's editors found themselves wondering where this product had been all of their (veggie-preparing) lives.
Nature Made VitaMelts
Northridge, Calif.-based Pharmavite has made vitamin supplements more convenient than ever with Nature Made VitaMelts. As their name attests, they melt in the mouth, so they can be taken without water anytime, anywhere. Made with pleasant-tasting natural flavors, the line consists of VitaMelts Zinc (Honey Lemon), VitaMelts Vitamin C (Juicy Orange), VitaMelts Vitamin D (Creamy Vanilla), VitaMelts Energy (Mixed Berry), VitaMelts Relax (Green Tea Mint) containing the natural relaxant L-theanine, and VitaMelts Sleep (Chocolate Mint). PG editors were sorely tempted to pop them like candy.
Naturel Promise Fresh Dental Clean Teeth Gel
Boasting a proprietary blend of natural, holistic ingredients, Fresh Dental Clean Teeth Gel works fast to help reduce plaque and tartar in dogs and cats, with no brushing required. Administered on a daily basis to each side of a pet's mouth, the gel fights oral bacteria while soothing minor gum irritations, according to Troy, Mo.-based Naturel Promise. PG's pet-owning editors found that the minor inconvenience of application was amply rewarded by the outcome: healthier, better-smelling animals.
Already hailed by retailers and industry analysts as "a total game-changer in the tobacco category" and a "next-generation" product in the e-cigarette category since its December 2012 launch by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based NJOY, the NJOY King is the top-selling electronic cigarette. Unlike comparable products, the NJOY King is the same size and weight of a traditional cigarette, with a soft paper feel, a squeezable filter tip and a real tobacco flavor.
Olay Total Effects CC Cream
The top-selling product of its kind in the United States, Olay Total Effects CC Cream from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble instantly provides light, even coverage and maintains youthful skin over time, at a great value. So now if you encounter PG editors with noticeably healthy complexions, you'll know their secret.
Pantene Expert Collection
SRP: $7.99- $18.99
Expert Collection from Pantene, a brand of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, features breakthrough technology to address the complex needs of demanding hair. The premiere introductions are Age Defy and Advanced Keratin for women in need of an elevated level of care. One PG editor noticed thicker, healthier hair after just one shampoo, and your shoppers will, too.
PIC Flameless Pyramid Mosquito Repellent and Fruit Fly Trap
SRPs: $4.99, mosquito repeller; $5.99-$6.99 fruit fly trap
Since judging for Editors' Picks Nonfoods coincided with the start of the outdoor grilling season, PG had the perfect opportunity to try these two insect-control products from Linden, N.J.-based PIC Corp. Glowing with a battery-operated tea light that adds ambiance to any nighttime event, the pyramid repels mosquitos for up to 200 hours of continuous use within a 10-foot radius, using a DEET-free, family-friendly Citronella Plus formula. Meanwhile, the discreet fruit fly trap, featuring a patented 90-day, water-activated lure — no pesticides or poisons — is safe to use in the kitchen and around food. With these items, PIC fulfills its vision to provide customers with solutions that extend their kitchens and living rooms into the outdoors.
Premium dog chews made from expanded, baked pork skin, 100 percent rawhide-free, easy-to-digest Pork Chomps are available in such varieties as Bacon Twists and Pepperoni Knotz. The manufacturer, Rockville, Ind.-based Scott Pet, cites a recent university study finding that dogs that ate Pork Chomps had reduced triglyceride and cholesterol levels. All PG's pooches know is that they like them, and when they're happy, we're happy.
The Roll-It Tube Roller
Answering a need so basic that it's usually overlooked, The Roll-It is a high-quality plastic twist device available in assorted colors that gets the most out of any toothpaste or ointment tube by rolling up the empty portion and extracting the remaining contents via roll-up pressure. PG views this ingenious little item from Vancouver, Wash.-based New Science Industries as the ultimate in impulse purchases when merchandised in the oral care and HBC sections alongside the very products it's designed for.
Senzzzzz Away Tooth Desensitizer
Instantly alleviating tooth sensitivity to cold, sweets and heat, dentist-developed and -recommended Senzzzzz Away contains enough gel to treat all 32 teeth, and a single application is clinically proved to provide up to six months of relief. Before South Fallsburg, N.Y.-based Majestic Drug Co. introduced the product, the available remedies for this common problem were toothpastes that often take up to four weeks before they start working and require daily use. Over at PG, our tooth sensitivity sufferers detected an immediate improvement in their condition.
SheaMoisture Bath and Beauty Products
Presenting a wide range of cruelty-free, all-natural bath and beauty products, Amityville, N.Y.-based Sundial Brands combines performance with sensory delight in particularly wondrous fashion. Items include body scrub; body butter; bath, body and massage oil; conditioning cleanser; and kids' hair care products, in such heady, good-enough-to-eat scents as Coconut & Hibiscus and Mango & Carrot. You can take PG's word for it, or you can order the products and watch them fly off the shelves with your own eyes.
Swiffer Out of the Box
SRPs: $8.99, duster extender handle and base sweeper; $19.99, wet jet; $34.99, vac
Not a brand-new product per se, Swiffer Out of the Box from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which presents the product line's components as a fully assembled entity, is a revolutionary marketing initiative that provides in-store education for shoppers who are looking for better ways to do things, but are unsure of how to incorporate the brand's products into their cleaning routines, or whether the items are appropriate for their floor types. This also improves shelf productivity for retailers. PG found it quite edifying as well.
Wisk Deep Clean PowerBlasts
SRP: $5.99, 24-count; $9.99, 48-count, $15.99, 84-count
The Wisk Deep Clean product line from the Wilton, Conn.-based Sun Products Corp. attacks hidden body oils and sweat, and the brand's new PowerBlasts clean beyond visible stains with powerful Micro-Cleaners that attack those two odor creators. What's more, the convenient, easy-to-use single packs dissolve in the wash and are safe for both standard and HE machines. After using the product, PG editors can now dress with even greater success.
ZzzQuil Nighttime Sleep Aid
Created for those who suffer from occasional sleeplessness, non-analgesic, non-habit-forming ZzzQuil from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is conveniently available in berry-flavored liquid and Liquicap forms. The item was formulated by the maker of Vicks NyQuil purely as a sleep aid, a purpose that PG found it achieves admirably.