Imagine the People’s Choice Awards, except the applause and trophies go to breakout products rather than breakout celebs: The Product of the Year USA winners are those ingenious consumer goods—from a kid-friendly squeezable fruit snack to an all-in-one entertainment system—that make our lives a little easier and better nearly every single day. Now in its sixth year, the competition begins with a jury of industry professionals who identify submissions that show innovation in function, design, packaging, or ingredients. Then the real experts weigh in. A panel of 40,000 American shoppers, reflecting the diversity of our national population, choose the products they like best, from all aisles of the supermarket and beyond. Perhaps what’s most interesting is what the winners say about us. Read on to learn the shopping trends that the 23 items represent.
Back to Basics
Just as our grandmothers relied on baking soda and vinegar to make their homes sparkle, we’re once again turning to the pantry for cleaning aids.Lemon Oxi Complex dishwasher pacs from Sunlight, for example, use a lemon scent to evoke the tried-and-true grease-fighting power of citrus.
Mint-X, a company that makes trash bags, employs another familiar botanical: “People plant mint in their gardens to deter rabbits, mice, and deer,” says COO Jeff Dussich. Why not use the herb to keep rats and raccoons out of the garbage? After nearly a decade of research, Dussich’s team infused plastic bags with a mint fragrance that’s EPA-registered to safely repel rodents. (Click here for a coupon.)
For The Vintage Soap Factory, the secret to their new glass and surface cleaner wasn’t new at all. “We decided that instead of making a better mousetrap, we should concentrate on what works,” says founder Elizabeth Attie. That turned out to be a simple, 600-year-old recipe from southern France. In 2013, the company launched Le Savonnier Marseillais All-Purpose Soap with three main ingredients: water, olive oil (a streak-free cleanser), and essential oils (which have antifungal and disinfectant properties). (Click here for a coupon.)
Another soap maker, Dial, has applied this trend to personal care products, finding inspiration in one of the decade’s biggest beverage crazes. At the Fancy Food trade show several years ago, the company’s research and development team noticed an explosion of coconut products. According to VP of marketing Chris Sommer, “Coconut water is totally refreshing, totally hydrating”—two physical sensations you’d always want to feel after showering. Last year, Dial introduced Coconut Water Body Wash made with coconut water and bamboo extract. (Click here for a coupon.)
As Good as New
Since the Great Recession, consumer spending on food, health care, and transportation has seen a spike—but our apparel budgets haven’t budged a whole lot. We’re taking better care of our clothes so they last longer, and laundry brands are looking for ways to help.
To attack tough stains, Resolve outfitted its Max Power Gel bottle with “scrubnubs”—small bristles that help evenly distribute the concentrated solution. Meanwhile, Woolite tweaked its formula in Woolite Everyday (launching nationally in April) to preserve the elasticity of clothing by adding coconut fatty acids to nourish fibers. “We wanted a detergent that would let consumers wash a garment 20 times or more without the garment losing its shape,” says brand manager Kevin Truong. (Click here for a coupon.)
Sweat stains and odors can be wardrobe killers as well, which is where Right Guard Xtreme Fresh deodorant comes in. The new formula aims to block perspiration for up to 48 hours and prevent odor for 72 hours. (Click here for a coupon.)
Beyond our clothes, we’re also looking to extend the life spans of our mattresses, sofas, and other furniture.Adams Flea & Tick Home Spray protects the household against all the usual pests (from ants to roaches to mosquitoes to spiders) as well as arguably the most dreaded one of them all: “We wanted to combat the problem of bedbug infestations,” which have been on the rise from coast to coast in the past few years, says senior brand manager Josh Nelson.
See the complete list at Parade.