A near-record number of total votes in our 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest made for an exciting race in March to separate the top-five winners from 26 worthy finalists. We spoke with each of the victorious brands to find out how their products were created, packaged and brought to market, and why those products resonate with consumers today. We also get a sneak-peek at each company’s future plans.

A quick note about our 2021 contest: we’ll have separate frozen and refrigerated new products contests for the first time. Voting for new frozen products will be online from March 1 to March 31, 2021, while voting for refrigerated new products will be from August 1 to August 31, 2021. All eligible frozen products need to be on store shelves starting in March 2020, and refrigerated products starting in July 2020. The window is already open to submit nominees, which you can do by sending a hi-res photo and description of the product HERE. Check our website for frozen finalists in February, and refrigerated finalists next July, and then vote for your favorites!

#1 – Devanco Foods’ No MSG Gyros Kits

Devanco Foods Gyro Kits

First Place: Devanco Foods' No MSG Gyros Kits with 25,573 votes.

Devanco Foods

Total Votes: 25,573

Q&A: Liz Vanderhoef, marketing manager, Devanco Foods

R&FF: Congratulations on being the overall winner of our 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest. Devanco Foods’ No MSG Gyros Kits had one of the highest vote totals ever for a product. What does this recognition mean to Devanco Foods?

Vanderhoef: It means a lot to us as we continue to grow our retail side of the business. Our customers give us great feedback and tell us what they want, and we take that and run. This award really goes to our customers for telling us what they wanted.

R&FF: What innovative features do your No MSG Gyros Kits have that helped it finish first out of 26 finalists?

Vanderhoef: Our Gyros Kit has a cleaner label than traditional gyros, and there was demand for that on the market. Kids love to get involved and they make for a great tasting meal. The success of this kit tells us families want a quick, easy and healthy meal solution that the whole family can participate in making, and can also be customized to add your own personal flair.

R&FF: What is unique about your product’s packaging?

Vanderhoef: The packaging was designed to catch a customer’s eye when they walk past it in the deli or the freezer section, with more colorful packaging than most meal kits. The contents are all in one small package that’s easy to store in the fridge or freezer. We also make sure that our packaging materials are recyclable.

R&FF: What’s on the horizon for Devanco Foods the rest of 2020 and into 2021?

Vanderhoef: We’re adapting to the changes in demand for retail products due to COVID-19. We’re working to create more meal kits that are easy, fun and healthy to make. We also just rolled out a brand-new burger line, which includes Premium Angus Beef Hamburgers, Bacon & Cheddar Beef Patties, Seasoned Hamburger Patties, and all-natural, white meat Turkey Burgers. We’ll continue to clean up labels for healthier options and keep our ears open to all customer feedback. 

#2 – Bell & Evans’ Chicken Meatballs

Chicken Meatballs

Second Place: Bell & Evans' Chicken Meatballs with 12,941 votes.

Bell & Evans

Total Votes: 12,941*

Q&A: Scott Sechler, owner, Bell & Evans

*including 7,549 votes the final three days to move from #3 to #2

R&FF: Congratulations on finishing second in our 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest. What does this recognition mean to Bell & Evans?

Sechler: Bell & Evans feels very grateful that consumers are enjoying the new chicken meatballs as much as we anticipated. Our whole team worked really hard on the new product line, and we’re very proud of the quality and fantastic flavor profiles we developed.

R&FF: What innovative features do your Chicken Meatballs have that helped it finish second out of 26 finalists?

Sechler: They’re uncooked and nitrogen frozen to lock in the freshness and natural juices. When you cook them at home, they taste homemade because they are being cooked for the first time. They’re made from whole-muscle dark meat which is 100% air chilled, meaning the natural chicken juices are retained, not chlorinated water. Real quality practices result in premium quality products, and you can taste the difference. All three varieties of meatballs have simple, real ingredients.

R&FF: What is unique about your product’s packaging?

Sechler: We have exceptional food photography that was applied to these boxes to really show off the product and appeal to customers. The meatballs are also packed in a folding carton that holds up to freezing. By using a box versus a bag, we ensure clean merchandising. Each retail box is 12 ounces net weight and is in line with our other products in pricing and size.

R&FF: What’s on the horizon for Bell & Evans the rest of 2020 and into 2021?

Sechler: We’re introducing a new chicken meatball flavor, and a new line of gourmet chicken burgers made of whole-muscle dark meat chicken mixed with real, chunky pieces of flavorful ingredients including fruit, vegetables and natural cheeses, packed into hearty 6 ounce patties. They bite like a beef burger but with fewer calories and less fat. The line includes Roasted Portabella & Swiss; Granny Smith Apple & Gouda; and Chicken Bacon & Sharp Cheddar. We also reinvented our packaging with this new product line, using clear flavor profile banners, easy-to-read product benefits and added air fryer cooking instructions.

#3 – Fresh Cravings’ Plant-Based Dips

Plant-Based Dips

Third Place: Fresh Cravings' Plant-Based Dips with 12,853 votes.

FoodStory Brands

Total Votes: 12,853

Q&A: Jay Whitney, president, FoodStory Brands

R&FF: Congratulations on finishing third in our 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest. What does this recognition mean to Fresh Cravings and FoodStory Brands?

Whitney: We’re incredibly proud of this recognition for Fresh Cravings, as it was such a significant category expansion for the brand to launch into plant-based dips. Being named among the best further validates the high-quality nature of our product and the innovation behind it, which is a badge of honor for our team and the entire company.

R&FF: What innovative features do your Plant-Based Dips have that helped it finish third out of 26 finalists?

Whitney: We believe consumers want comfort food flavors like queso and creamy garlic, but without extra calories, saturated fat, or common allergens. Our product is purposely placed in the refrigerated produce section, as we’re reaching a more health-conscious shopper along the perimeter of the grocery store, yet we’re still competitively priced compared to dairy-free and conventional dairy-based dips. Plant-based foods have grown by 11% over the past year, outpacing the 2% growth seen across total food [Plant Based Foods Association, December 2019]. Data shows 9 out of 10 consumers who buy plant-based alternatives also purchase traditional dairy items [NPD Group, November 2019]. Thus, if a retailer has a traditional dairy item on the shelf and adds a plant-based version, their sales will grow.

R&FF: What is unique about your product’s packaging?

Whitney: The black lids and labels, with their high-contrast font stand out among the pack. We also emphasize the product attributes like preservative-, dairy-, and gluten-free on the lid. The 8 ounce plastic tubs are the ideal weight, size and shape for the cold chain and have a strongly reinforced lid to prevent accidental openings before it reaches the consumer.

R&FF: What’s on the horizon for Fresh Cravings the rest of 2020 and into 2021?

Whitney: We just added two new flavors to our plant-based dips lineup: Spinach Artichoke Cashew Dip and French Onion Cashew Dip. Looking ahead, we continue to actively invest in R&D and are considering other category expansions and flavors for this year and next, as well as growing our retail footprint for plant-based dips and Fresh Cravings’ flagship line of salsas.

#4 – Mikey's Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Pockets

Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Pockets

Fourth Place: Mikey's Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Pockets with 3,154 votes.


Total Votes: 3,154

Q&A: Michael Tierney, founder & CEO, Mikey’s

R&FF: Congratulations on finishing fourth in our 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest. What does this recognition mean to Mikey’s?

Tierney: We’re thrilled to place among the top products in the contest. Our goal is to provide great tasting and nutritious products that everyone can enjoy regardless of allergy or dietary restrictions. We’re so happy to be recognized for the hard work that went into creating our line of pockets and glad that our delicious Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar flavor was chosen as a winner.

R&FF: What innovative features do your Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Pockets have that helped it finish fourth out of 26 finalists?

Tierney: They’re new to our existing line of seven pizza pockets, and are a combination of broccoli, cauliflower, and plant-based cheddar cheese wrapped in a gluten- and grain-free crust. We use recognizable ingredients that follow paleo-friendly standards and leave out any unnecessary preservatives or fillers. We want to make these options available to the growing number of consumers with allergy or dietary-specific needs by making them gluten-, grain-, dairy-, and soy-free.

R&FF: What is unique about your product’s packaging?

Tierney: Our Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheddar Pockets can be found in our distinct black packaging stamped with the bright green Mikey’s logo. The image of the pocket stands right side up communicating to consumers that it’s a hand-held, grab-and-go option.

R&FF: What’s on the horizon for Mikey’s the rest of 2020 and into 2021?

Tierney: We’re continuing to innovate our line of pockets as well as launch new products that follow the same standards of using high-quality ingredients and being accessible to allergy-sensitive shoppers. We hope to continue recreating childhood classics to give people convenient and delicious options they can feel good about.

#5 – Wellshire Farms' Sugar-Free, Dry-Rubbed, Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces

Bacon Ends & Pieces

Fifth Place - Wellshire Farms' Sugar-Free, Dry Rubbed, Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces with 2,539 votes.

Wellshire Farms

Total Votes: 2,539

Q&A: Jessica Colameco, VP sales & marketing, Wellshire Farms

R&FF: Congratulations on finishing fifth in our 2020 Best New Retail Products Contest. What does this recognition mean to Wellshire Farms?

Colameco: We’re honored to be recognized and provide transparent, quality products for our consumers. We’ve worked hard to add new products over the years that fit the lifestyles and needs of our customers, so placing in this contest means they’re responding well to our products and what we stand for.

R&FF: What innovative features do your Sugar-Free Dry-Rubbed Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces have that helped it finish fifth out of 26 finalists?

Colameco: Wellshire bacon is dry rubbed with sea salt and spices, and we use simple, transparent ingredients so families know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase our bacon. We also don’t pump our bacon full of water or add any preservatives. Our bacon is also paleo friendly and gluten-free, helping to fit customer lifestyles and dietary needs. All of our animals are humanely raised in stress-free environments and are free to roam on family-owned farms. These priorities separate our products from others on the market—consumers want all-natural products and we provide them.

R&FF: What is unique about your product’s packaging?

Colameco: Our packaging provides clean labeling with vibrant colors that stand out to consumers as Wellshire. The label contains our paleo-friendly callout while including that the product is gluten free, has 37% less sodium, and that the pork is raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet. It’s important to Wellshire for our packaging to display exactly who we are and what goes into our products. Complete transparency is a way that helps us stand out.

R&FF: What’s on the horizon for Wellshire Farms the rest of 2020 and into 2021?

Colameco: We’ll keep moving forward with new, innovative products. We’re always looking for interesting ways to meet customer needs, whether it’s creating new flavor profiles based on current trends or coming up with ways to fit ever-changing diet restrictions. We’re a company that will continue to provide families with all-natural new products they’re excited to bring into their homes.