Namedropper: Product of the Year

Product of the year all winners

Product of the Year celebrates all the essential products and brands that help us get through our daily lives.

Whether it’s the mattress we wake up on, the toothpaste we use, or the drinks we’re chilling with, companies are constantly innovating to make sure we keep trusting in and using their products. 

It’s never been a more important time for innovation.

The global pandemic alone has meant more of us than ever have been working at home, which has brought us into ever closer contact with the brands we have in our homes.

It’s also caused many changes in our habits and brought new brands into our lives.

So we asked Helga Slater, Managing Director of Product of the Year UK, to take us behind the scenes of the annual award that celebrates the shop shelf heroes of the everyday, as the first in our new Namedropper series about top brands and products… 

Helga Slater, MD, Product of the Year.

What is Product of the Year?

Product of the Year is the largest survey of product innovation in the UK. Every year, brands enter products that are innovative in some way. 

And that could be a new piece of packaging that solves a problem or tackles sustainability. 

A product that has been adapted to meet the changing needs of the consumer – such as healthy food on the go or a brand new product that ingeniously finds a gap in the market and sparks a new trend. 

The possibilities are many and varied – but the common denominator is always innovation. We love it and we celebrate it! 

And possibly the most important part of Product of the Year and why it has remained so relevant and influential is that the winners are chosen by the consumer. 

We partner with the world’s leading insights and research company, Kantar, and we ask over 10,000 consumers to vote for the very best new products.

It’s a truly democratic process and whilst it has, over the years, thrown up some surprises, we believe that the people doing the shopping, buying the products are in the best position to decide on the innovations that resonate and make a difference – and which ones, ultimately, should win.

What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation is often misconstrued or misinterpreted as invention. Often the winners of Product of the Year are brands that have made incremental changes to a product. 

Small, smart improvements with an often disproportionate impact. How do you make the everyday that little bit easier for the time-poor consumer?

What are the most memorable examples of innovation entered?

There have been many – and what’s most exciting is that we see them year on year. 

When Heinz flipped the ketchup category on its head (quite literally) – we knew that the upside down bottle was an innovation that would find its way into UK homes. So simple, so clever. 

The mattress in a box revolution, that kicked off with Caspar, was also a product innovation that richly deserved its trophy. One of the most awkward products to transport and handle – resolved with some clever invention and innovation. 

Casper mattress
Well rested: Caspar mattress innovation was a winner with everyone.

And it’s continued to evolve – sofa in a box anyone? 

We’ve also been able to track trends and lifestyle changes. The cereal in a bowl that became cereal in a bar that became cereal as a drink!.

What consumer trends have you spotted among last year’s winners?

Covid has had a huge impact on all our lives and thankfully brands were quick to react with products we needed, and continue to rely on, to keep us safe. 

We saw a lot of domestic and cleaning products come to the fore including Cif Anti-Bac and Shine range. Fit for purpose and Eco aware.

We also saw an increase in snacking and indulgence products – those small lockdown treats that we all needed.

Interestingly, and perhaps a reaction to the increased alcohol of the first lockdown, we had a number of no and low alcohol winners, including SMASHED Pale Ale No Alcohol and Echo Falls Blueberry & Hibiscus Rosé Seltzer – kinder on the calorie front and lower ABV.

DRYNKS Smashed Pale Ale - alcohol free category
Smashed it: DRYNKS’ was a winner as the hangover from the first lockdown gave way to sobriety.

What’s the best part of your job?

It’s extremely satisfying to be part of something that celebrates and supports innovation – in all its guises. 

We also get to witness, first hand, how brands react and respond to consumer wants and needs – a barometer of buying behaviour.

I also like running a business that is respected by both the brands and the buyers. 

Staying ahead of the curve is time consuming and expensive for brands – and when that time and effort is rewarded it’s a good feeling.

What impact does winning Product of the Year have on a brand?

Brands enter because they want increased awareness, sales and because it’s qualified by consumers. A vote of confidence from more than 10,000 consumers – is an invaluable endorsement. 

We also promote the winners with a combination of PR and social media exposure.

Winners also get to put the iconic red Product of the Year logo on their packaging. For shoppers in supermarkets and online, the logo is a beacon of credibility and innovation in an often saturated and crowded market place. 

Winners will see an average sales increase of between 10 and 15% – with some seeing sales rise by as much as 135%.

Tell us a little more about the awards night?

Every year, we bring in a celebrity host – often a top comedian such as Rory Bremner to make sure the night is full of fun. 

Last year, we had Sally Phillips hosting (known for Smack the Pony, Miranda, Bridget Jones’ Diary) but my lips are sealed for who we have lined up for the next event! 

Sally Phillips PotY
Phillips on Product: Actress Sally Phillips hosted last year’s event.

It’s a truly special night held at the glitzy Sheraton Grand Hotel on Pall Mall and everyone dresses up to the max – we want our winners to have a fun night and celebrate their win.

What do you predict will be trending in future years?

We’re seeing a steady increase in plant-based, sustainable and health-focused products – and this looks set to grow.

Packaging is also a key area of innovation with all sorts of interesting and necessary responses to climate change.

We’re excited to see which products will win Product of the Year Awards 2022.