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IRI and BCG list CPG Growth Leaders

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CHICAGO — IRI and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a leading global consulting firm, released their 10th annual CPG Growth Leaders study on Wednesday. Findings revealed that the total U.S. CPG industry grew roughly 3% in 2021, versus an expected sharper slowdown from 2020 — a year in which pandemic-driven shifts in consumer behavior drove over 10% CPG growth. The report also revealed 2021’s growth leaders among large, medium, and small CPG companies, and included key priorities and themes for driving CPG growth in 2022 and beyond.

“The results of our study demonstrate the beginning of a return to historical consumption trends and behaviors, though demand is elevated from the pre-pandemic period,” commented Dr. Krishnakumar (KK) S. Davey, president of Client Engagement for IRI. “Findings also highlight that across large, midsized and small CPG companies, the 2021 growth leaders won by navigating the continued pressures of the COVID-19 consumer behavior and operational environments, while also responding to strong consumer trends. Our ongoing research with BCG is representative of IRI’s dedication to identifying and distilling actionable insights to support our CPG clients in achieving growth.”

Key Findings 

• 2021 U.S. CPG sales growth of 2.7% was driven by increased pricing, inflation and reduced promotional activity. On a volume basis, overall U.S. CPG sales decreased roughly 2% compared to the explosive 10.6% dollar growth in 2020 driven by the pandemic.

• Two-year trends show growth over pre-pandemic periods. Compared to 2019, overall CPG volume sales grew 4.3% in 2021, quite elevated over historical norms.

• Large and small CPGs took share from midsize players, with different tactics. While large CPG companies used pricing actions in 2021 to gain market share for the first time in over five years, small CPGs capitalized on continued supply constraints impacting competitors to expand their market share.

• Branded CPGs took share from private label. While both branded CPGs and private labels grew significantly in 2020, branded CPGs were able to sustain growth in 2021.

• 2021 growth leaders capitalized on key consumer trends. Self-care, convenient meals, indulgence, and home care were the four main themes of the 2021 CPG winners.

• Operational capabilities were critical for 2021 success. Following the peak of pandemic disruption in 2020, pricing, supply chain fulfillment, and omnichannel reach/execution were critical operational enablers for growth leader success in 2021.

Growth Leader Rankings
With over 20% growth, Red Bull was the 2021 growth leader among large companies with over $6 billion in 2021 sales, after moving up from the top 15 in the midsize category in 2020. Red Bull was followed by Procter & Gamble, Constellation Brands, Unilever, Hershey, and Reckitt.

 Among midsize companies with $1-$6 billion in 2021 sales, BODYARMOR led the list with 51.9% sales growth from volume and distribution gains. Alani Nutrition was the growth leader among small companies with less than $1 billion in 2021 sales, delivering $137 million of sales growth in measured channels.

“One of the most interesting trends we saw emerge in this year’s growth leader lists was that large CPG manufacturers grew share for the first time in five years — and nine out of ten large growth leaders grew volume despite lapping significantly elevated volumes from 2020,” said Aman Gupta, managing director and partner at Boston Consulting Group. “Looking forward, we expect that CPGs with flexible and dynamic supply chains, strong omnichannel capabilities, enhanced productivity solutions, and the ability to adapt their portfolio to respond to consumer trends will be best positioned to win in 2022 and beyond.”

 The results of the study will be discussed on Feb. 16 at 1 p.m. CT in a webinar featuring BCG and IRI, as well as representatives from select companies from the growth leaderboards, including senior executives from PepsiCo, Reckitt, and Unilever. The webinar can be accessed here.

 A copy of “2021 U.S. CPG Growth Leaders” can be downloaded here.


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