Products of the year

Aussie shoppers have voted on their picks for the best products of 2020, and it seems plant-based and vegetarian choices are making big waves in this year’s awards.

Now in its 12th year in Australia, Product of the Year (POY) is the world’s largest consumer-based awards program. This year, more than 9000 shoppers voted for their favourite supermarket products.

Aussie-owned Coles had a record number of wins, scooping up a staggering 11 of the possible 29 awards, including top gongs in the bakery, coffee, body care and dessert categories.

While Coles was the big winner, vegetarian or plant-based alternatives stole the show this year, with eight of the top gongs.

The number of meat-free, vegan or natural health food alternatives selected as winners this year, sitting in the ‘vegetarian/vegan’ and ‘health food’ categories, may suggest that shoppers are becoming more conscious of their diets, seeking more plant-based foods and products and a healthier lifestyle.

Recent Roy Morgan research shows that nearly 2.5 million Australians have either completely moved to a vegetarian diet or are close to doing so, and industry experts predict meat-free sales will exceed $25 billion by 2030.

Pharmacy and skincare products took out eight of the 29 awards on offer in the beauty, oral care, and skincare categories.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems consumers “became more risk averse and have been seeking products and services that deliver value, quality and peace of mind”, says Nielsen, the creators of the POY awards.

More than eight in 10 (82 per cent) consumers’ shopping experience was impacted during COVID-19, and disruptions to product ranges and shopping habits meant that many consumers tried new products and brands, with nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of voters purchasing unfamiliar products in the past year and one in five (21 per cent) saying they’d continue to buy the new products.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of shoppers could not purchase the products they needed or wanted due to panic buying – particularly among older Australians (52 per cent).

This, too, may have contributed to the increase in meat-free and plant-based products.

“This is the first time in our Product of the Year awards history that we’ve had this many meat-alternative and vegan products participate and successfully win an award, especially from surprising new brands such as 7-11 and V2 foods,” said Product of the Year director Sarah Connelly.  

“This year we are also seeing our first ever Alcohol-Free alternatives category, with Lyre’s taking out the top spot for their non-alcohol spirits range.

“COVID-19 definitely impacted all areas of our lives, with shopping experiences taking a massive hit in the early stages of the pandemic, but we have been truly impressed to see the way brands have adapted and expanded their offerings to give consumers more options across a wide range of categories to suit all tastes and lifestyles.”

While Coles may have taken home more awards, rival Woolworths was voted by shoppers as the best retailer for a range of attributes including ‘cleanliness,’ ‘best/widest range of fresh produce’ and having the ‘best online shopping experience.’

Overall, the survey showed that shoppers were happy with how retailers handled the pandemic, with 70 per cent claiming Woolworths and Coles showcased the best management across the board.

Product of the Year category winners undergo rigorous testing which, in theory, should give shoppers more confidence when purchasing POY products.

The judges, including various industry experts, test all products for quality, credibility, and innovation.

The finalists are then reviewed and voted on by 9000 Australians (8000 for the main competition and 1000 for the ‘Ones to Watch’).

Winners are evaluated by six key innovation criteria, including:

1. Relevance – Is the product fulfilling a need or addressing a problem?

2. Uniqueness – Does is stand out and bring something new to the category?

3. Excitement – How excited are they to use the product? Would they spread the word?

4. Likeability – Does it deliver what you want?

5. Distinctiveness – Does it add something new to its category?

6. Innovation – Is it an innovative product?

The awards are increasing in popularity, with shoppers’ likelihood of purchasing a new product with a POY logo the highest it has ever been.

“We are very honoured to be able to showcase these winners for 2021 and continue to partner with smaller businesses across Australia to offer a platform to promote their brands during these uncertain times,” Ms Connelly concluded.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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