Stores will face a glut of new products in early 2021 as suppliers reformat brands and bring out planned launches originally postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wholesaler sources told betterRetailing the spree of early-2021 launches from major suppliers would continue well into the year. Some even claimed the influx of activity had overwhelmed their promotional calendars, making it a challenge for even major launches to get the space and support they would normally receive.

The rise is predicted to be most prevalent in impulse products such snacks and soft drinks, according to retailers who are part of supplier panels.

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Unitas Wholesale sales and marketing director John Kinney said: “Many suppliers delayed some launches in 2020 due to Covid-19, especially in the impulse categories, and we are starting to see many launches now in 2021 of products deferred from last year as well as products that were always planned for 2021.

“It is understandable why suppliers in impulse and food-to-go categories especially have delayed their investments until they can reach those consumers their product is aimed at.

“This will pose a challenge for retailers as to which products to back and accommodate in a short space of time as suppliers play catch-up.”

Shruti Senapati, marketing executive at wholesale group Sugro, agreed, saying: “Suppliers are launching products across all impulse categories in the first three months of the year, particularly within the confectionery and soft drink categories.”

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Another senior wholesale source told betterRetailing: “Impulse suppliers have lots of activity planned. Wholesalers are reluctant to promote them because their focus is on core range that sells well.”

Specialist wholesalers such as Epicurium also confirmed the trend was wider than the major convenience brands, with new ranges of crisps and pasta products from more niche brands planned over the coming weeks.

Raaj Chandarana, of Tara’s Londis in High Wycombe, told betterRetailing: “Suppliers such as Ribena and KP Snacks are at the forefront [for the rest of the year].

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“KP is bringing out different varieties of McCoy’s, and Pladis has got six new products. There’s been a backlog, so maybe it has a load of ideas to release. I know there’s a lot planned for this year from the presentations I’ve sat in.

“Suppliers might also be taking existing products and presenting them in different ways. For example, Ribena has a recyclable bottle, and it has changed the packaging.”

Advice for stores

Sam Coldbeck, of Premier Wharfedale in Hull, said she has noticed a number of symbol group exclusives. “We’re getting a few exclusives, such as gins from Whitley Neill. Posting about launches on social media is a good way of judging how much space to give them.”

Ketul Desai, of The General Store in London, advised testing launches with placement at the till in a four-week cycle before deciding whether to give it a permanent home.

Asked how stores should plan for the added challenges created by a higher-than-usual volume of launches, Senapati said: “Retailers could accommodate new products using FSDUs, endcaps, box display units, cross-merchandise products with multiple high-margin products and use space based on planograms.”

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Similarly, when asked how wholesalers are going to respond to the challenge of managing the extra volume, Senapati said: “We build a national promotional plan with all Sugro suppliers for 17 promotional brochures that we run in a year. We feature new products in the promotional brochures ensuring they stand out with ‘new’ flash labels so retailers cannot fail to notice the launch.

“We also ensure each launch is activated on Sugro social media platforms and the Sugro sponsored member app within a bespoke new-product section of the app.”

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In August, Pete Martin, regulatory affairs director of product compliance authority Ashbury, told betterRetailing planned product launches had been put on hold at the start of the pandemic as suppliers and retailers focused on filling availability gaps.

Asked whether this had changed, Martin said: “We’re hearing it’s a bit quiet on product launches. In a situation in which the backlog does clear and there are more launches than usual, you’d go for the brands that are the bestsellers.”

Pladis, KP, Mondelez and SBF GB&I all confirmed they will launch more products this year.

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