There's something even technology won't change in 2013: our basic needs.
When shoppers cruise store aisles in 2013, they'll discover common bonds between many new products: the need to stroke egos in a make-it-snappy, keep-it-healthy digital age.
Sure, it's still 2012. But USA TODAY got its nose under 2013's new products tent early. And, for the third consecutive year, we are sharing with readers projections for some of 2013's most compelling new product trends - and some upcoming household products behind those trends.
USA TODAY reached out to the biggest consumer packaged goods companies - from Procter & Gamble to Nestle to Unilever to Kimberly-Clark - with one request: Let us know the coolest new products on tap for 2013. We also spoke with some of the nation's top new product gurus about the trends behind the products and asked them to rate some upcoming new products.
With few exceptions, most of 2013's new packaged goods products somehow make life easier, give a nod to cultural hot buttons and, in many cases, relate one way or another to a society that seems to spend as much time online as off.
"Consumers want it all - right now," says Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Datamonitor, a new products research firm. "And they're unwilling to compromise." That trend will only ramp-up in 2013, he projects.
Even then, new product rollouts will likely be flat in 2013 - just as they were in 2012, projects Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at research specialist Mintel. Some 38,372 new products hit the shelves in 2012, down from 39,096 in 2011. Still hobbled by the recession's back draft, most product makers continue to play it conservative and bolster existing brands, she says, "rather than risking truly new product innovation."
Among top trends projected for 2013:
• Feel-good tech. Looking good shouldn't hurt. That's a must that the personal-care product giants all know. So why does it often hurt to use something as basic as an electric shaver - particularly when 40% of men claim to have sensitive skin?
Enter Braun CoolTec. It's a dry electric shaver that actually makes the skin feel cool, not hot. It has a special aluminum cooling bar - modeled after a technology used to cool spaceships and mini-bar fridges - that decreases skin temperature that shaving typically increases. The shaver, whose price has yet to be announced, will roll out sometime in fall.
During test marketing in Germany, consumers were asked to come up with a metaphor for the shaver's cooling system, says Austin Lally, president of P&G global Braun and appliances. This one, he says, nails it: "Like the first beer out of the fridge on a hot summer's day." Price: To be determined.
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs sideways."How 'cool' this product is with consumers will be directly related to if they actually feel a difference," Dornblaser says.
• Smart charging. We are slaves to our smartphones - particularly when they run out of juice. So, what happens when you need to recharge your phone, but have no place to plug in?
Duracell thinks it has an answer: the Duracell Powermat 24-Hour Power System. It has a wireless charging mat - and back-up battery - so you can bring it along with you. No more being tethered to electrical outlets. And it even senses when your phone is fully charged.
To get consumers used to this new from of wireless charging before it rolls out in April, Duracell is linking with partners from Delta Sky Club to Madison Square Garden to Starbucks, says Scott Eisenstein, global vice president of external relations for Duracell Powermat. Price: $99.99
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs up. "If battery makers can tap into even a modest percentage of the smartphone market, the potential will be huge," says Vierhile.
• Pets as people. Over the past decade, many folks have revamped their own lifestyles - from what they eat to how they exercise. Now, they're doing the same with Fido.
Nestle is all over this trend. That's why in late January, it will extend its Purina Pro Plan line to be the first "sports" dog food line. That's right: "Active" (for everyday exercise) to "Performance" (for running and hiking)) to "Advanced" (for competition). Sorry, cat lovers, no plans for sports line for cats.
After the line rolls out in late January, get ready for this slogan: "Where sport meets dog." Purina also is creating an app to help owners nurture, train and track activities with their dogs, says Steve Crimmins, marketing chief for U.S. Pet Foods at Purina. "All dogs can achieve greatness," he says. Price: $13.99 - $43.99
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs up. "We've already seen sports drinks for dogs, so this makes sense," says Vierhile. "Everyone wants their pets to be fit."
• Smartphone infants. The line is getting increasingly fuzzy over just how young is too young to hand the baby your smartphone. After all, about 65% of moms have smartphones - and of those, some 74% let their kids regularly play with them.
While diaper-maker Kimberly-Clark knows there may not seem to be anything particularly high-tech about potty training, it has devised an app to turn the process into a smartphone experience for kids 24 months and up. Disney characters such as Mickey, Rapunzel and Buzz Lightyear come to life on the smartphone. Even surprise calls on the smartphone from Mickey and Minnie to motivate kids to use the potty.
Oh, and Pull-Ups tackled the big question: How to make sure tots don't toss smartphones in the toilet. The sticker used to activate the experience is placed on the toilet tank or the toilet lid. Either way, says Peter Sawin, Pull-Ups brand director, "You need to pull the seat down to make it work." Price: Free download of app.
Thumb-o-meter:Thumbs sideways. "Plugged-in moms will embrace this with a vengeance," says Dornblaser, "but the fad will likely be gone in five years."
• Greek goes young. Just when you thought there was no market on the planet left untouched by Greek yogurt, well, you're wrong. Think young.
Parents who want tweens 8 to 12 to keep eating yogurt - but with lots more protein and less sugar - will have a Greek option in 2013: Yoplait Pro-Force Greek yogurt. The line will offer Strawberry Blast and Mixed Berry Burst flavors.
"Tweens are the next to be Greek'd," says Maureen Brenner, vice president of Yoplait Kid. The brand will make sure kids find out about it: It will be a partner of the X Games Aspen for the launch in January. Price: $2.99 (four pack)
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs down. "Tweens tend to eat what their older siblings eat," Dornblaser says.
• Look younger, cheaper. Looking younger ain't cheap. Nor simple. While some well-to-do folks can turn to plastic surgeons or costly beauty spas and salons, others just look in the mirror and shake their heads.
But Pantene in January will roll out its own fountain of youth: Pantene AgeDefy Advance Hair Thickening Treatment.The brand claims it will not only thicken hair, but make it feel like you have 6,500 more stands of hair, because it increases the diameter of hair fibers and the amount of hair exposed. (Never mind that a typical head has something like 100,000 stands.)
Most women hear the phrase anti-aging and associate it with skin care, notes Walter Geiger, vice president of North American hair care at Procter & Gamble. But like skin, he says, hair "visibly changes" as women age - particularly hair that thins. During the two-year test period, he says, hair-thickening samples had to be kept under lock and key "because it would disappear if left out in the open," he says. Price: $18.99
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs up."Hair is about the only thing that looks better fatter," Dornblaser says.
• Junkless snacks. A nation of snackers has one serious problem: all the calories and junky ingredients that come with so many snacks.
Even healthy snacks, such as carrots, often are lathered in ranch dressing before consumption. But Campbell's has another idea. Its Bolthouse Farms brand is rolling out Baby Carrot ShakeDowns. Each pack of baby carrots contains a second packet of powdered flavoring (ranch, chili-lime or salsa) to shake over the carrots. Voila: instant health and flavor.
The idea, says Todd Putman, marketing chief at Bolthouse, came from a 16-year-old consumer, who asked, during a focus group: "Why don't you season these like potato chips?" They'll roll out in fall 2013. Price: 99 cents
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs sideways."It's unlikely that consumers will switch from chili-lime tortilla chips to chili-lime carrots," Dornblaser says.
•Conveniently clean, but cute. Americans love clean. But we hate clutter. In many kitchens and bathrooms, there's only so many places to hide the cleaning stuff.
So SC Johnson figured out a way to get folks to use its new Windex Touch-Up Cleaner: Put it in a small, attractive bottle. That way folks won't be so hesitant to keep it out on the counter, basin or sink.
"Our greatest challenge was delivering a product design that consumers were willing to leave out," says Kelly Semrau, senior vice president of global corporate affairs. Some consumers who tested it balked about returning the prototypes, says Semrau. It hits store shelves in January. Price: $3.99
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs up. "Terrific idea," Dornblaser says. "Now, can we have nice-looking bottles of toilet cleaner?"
• Odd mixes for good reasons. Americans love to mix flavors. While milk may mix well with sweets such as cookies and cereal, it's been a no-no with frozen fruit bars.
Until now. Unilever in May will roll out in the U.S. a new line of frozen novelties it's already selling in 15 other countries: Fruttare. It's a creamy blend of milk and pieces of fruit in a novelty bar. Strawberry and milk. Banana and milk. Peach and milk. Even coconut and milk.
The line is targeted at Millennials, who tend to prefer health snacks and who eat 35% of their "meals" as snacks, says Alfie Vivian, vice president at Unilever Ice Cream & Beverages. Price: $4.29 (four pack)
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs up. "We call this '3-D' flavor - mixing new sensations, textures and flavors," Vierhile says. "This is a huge trend."
• My-way grub. The digital generation won't settle or compromise on anything - particularly what it puts in its mouth. It wants what it wants, when and how it wants it. Even in silly snacks.
Which explains why Pepperidge Farm, in February, will roll the Goldfish My Way e-commerce site. It lets folks personalize Goldfish packages by adding photos (say, of your dog eating some) or custom messages (Happy 80th Birthday, Grandma!), and even select favorite Goldfish color combos. And, no, they're not the first to do this. M&M's is years ahead of them.
There are also plans to seasonalize the Goldfish, says Jared Konstanty, general manager of snacks at Pepperidge Farm. Like a personalized box with the Goldfish dressed as Cupid for Valentine's Day. Price: $14.95
Thumb-o-meter: Thumbs sideways. "Next step for this product: being able to choose the expression on the goldfish's face," Dornblaser says.