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Since its inception in 2004, the annual HOT awards program has emerged as the industry's most candid view of product innovation in retailing today. Now in its third year, it has garnered nearly instant recognition as the industry's only open-ballot general merchandise product-of-the-year honor in which leading retailers are actively involved in both the nominating and voting process.
Furthermore, what helps winners stand out all the more is that the HOT process has no agenda. There are no politics. There is no lobbying. And no one comes in second place.
The following 20 profiles capture the innovative spirit of the HOT Awards, including descriptions of this year's winning products as well as the proactive corporate cultures behind each one. [See below for methodology.]
WINNER: ENVIGA GREEN TEA ENERGY DRINK, by Coca-Cola
When Coca-Cola developed Enviga it did so to combine many of the product attributes and benefits young people are looking for in beverages today, and the result was a sparkling green tea designed to burn, and not provide, calories.
The company acknowledged a shift in consumer attitudes toward diet and health and wellness as more consumers began looking at product choices that support active lifestyles, rather than dieting. Enviga was designed to support healthy, active lifestyles by providing energy through burning fat.
A limited launch of the product began in November 2006. The rollout in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia was supported by a major advertising campaign including lots of street-level ads on buses, phone booths and other outdoor vehicles. In February of this year, the product rolled out nationally.
Enviga was developed by Beverage Partners Worldwide, a joint venture of Nestle S.A. and The Coca-Cola Co. that was established to distribute ready-to-drink tea and coffee products at a time when those product categories have grown increasingly dynamic. Among the other innovative product lines launched by the partnership were Gold Peak, a premium iced tea developed to have a homebrewed taste, and the Nestea green tea line.
CATEGORY: PORTABLE ELECTRONICS & ACCESSORIES
WINNER: Q, by Motorola
At its annual MacWorld conference in January, Apple made headlines when it unveiled its long-awaited iPhone with plans to release it in June. But the sleek look and multimedia features were old news to Motorola, which had them all in its revolutionary Motorola Q that debuted last May.
Arguably the first real "smartphone," the Motorola Q was one of the first units to combine the look and features that are now smartphone standards. It features a sleek design--less than a half-inch wide--and a 2.4-inch color LCD screen that serves as a mini-computer monitor and TV screen. And it's a true multi-media device that allows users to download and play movies and music and work on the road by viewing spreadsheets, documents and PDF files.
Motorola Q was also one of the first phones to offer Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free use and incorporate all the elements of a BlackBerry. And the system allows users to set up eight different e-mail inboxes to send and receive messages through multiple accounts.
CATEGORY: HEALTH & BEAUTY CARE
WINNER: FUSION FIVE-BLADE RAZOR, by Gillette
When Gillette decided it needed to go nuclear on the shaving category, it developed Fusion, the product that ended the tit-for-tat advance in blade additions at five. So far.
Not that it was a big deal for Gillette; the company only debuted …