Press Release

NielsenIQ BASES Announces 2021 Menu Innovation Awards Winners

Press Release

NielsenIQ BASES Announces 2021 Menu Innovation Awards Winners

Awards showcase continued importance of restaurant innovation during the pandemic

CHICAGO, IL,  February 15, 2022—NielsenIQ BASES announced the winners of its first Menu Innovation Award. The awards were created to showcase standout menu innovations in the restaurant industry in the U.S., according to restaurant guest feedback. These innovations were impactful successes which kept guests engaged and returning during a difficult year because of the pandemic. 

After reviewing more than 100 menu items launched in 2020, 14 met the requirements of being truly relevant (items that guests say they need or want), or truly unique (items that guests find to be truly distinctive) to the restaurant industry.  

In its inaugural year, the BASES Menu Innovation Awards identified several themes underlying restaurant success in a difficult year. Four winners delivered on taste, the top driver of new menu items, by offering a mash-up of existing favorites. For example, Taco Bell’s Grilled Cheese Burrito and Little Caesars Slice-N-Stix are two examples of this successful trend. 

Some winners found success by tapping into new occasions. One of these is the huge incremental growth of meal delivery – according to Rakuten Data, in 2020, US restaurants saw a 144% dollar sales increase in delivery sales compared with the same period in 2019. As part of that trend, family meals became more important. Chick-fil-A’s Build Your Own Family Meal, was a winning testament to that trend. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 32% of customers admitted they are snacking more and items, such as Jack in the Box Loaded Tiny Tacos are a winning example of this trend.  

NielsenIQ also saw that restaurants are winning over guests with celebrity partnerships. The successful partnerships are taking existing menu items and working with celebrities to promote their own orders. McDonalds Famous Orders is an exemplary item of how this approach can drive incremental sales and guest engagement. 

Lastly, as part of the growing wellness trend, guests were looking for more plant-based options. Two examples of this are the Burger King Impossible Crossan-wich and Dunkin Planet Oat Oatmilk. 

“For many restaurants, 2020 was a long toil, with economic hardships and reduced guest count,” said Matthew Luff, Vice President, Global Lead of NielsenIQ BASES Restaurants. “In light of this extraordinary year, we have seen a surprising number of innovations, that enabled some to not only persevere, but start to see a regular cadence of guests seeking out those menu items. What was similar among winners was seeing the right idea with the right activation strategy. We are encouraged to see such vibrant innovation on menus around the nation.”  

The winners of the 2021 NielsenIQ BASES Menu Innovation Award:  

  • Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich 
  • Burger King Impossible Croissan-wich 
  • Chick-fil-A Build Your Own Family Meal 
  • Dunkin Planet Oat Oatmilk 
  • El Pollo Loco World’s First Keto Burrito 
  • Jack in the Box Loaded Tiny Tacos 
  • Little Caesars Slices-N-Stix Pizza 
  • McAlister’s Deli Cinnabon Bakery-Inspired Cheesecake 
  • McDonald’s Famous Orders 
  • Panera Broccoli Cheddar Mac and Cheese 
  • Pizza Hut Big Dipper 
  • Shake Shack Korean-Inspired Chicken Sandwich 
  • Taco Bell Grilled Cheese Burrito 
  • Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Pub Cheeseburger and Chicken Sandwich Duo 

The inaugural 2021 BASES Menu Innovation Awards winners are wonderful examples of how restaurants can truly connect with their guests and create disruptive and innovative menu items. 

For more information on how you can replicate this on your menu, visit

About NielsenIQ

NielsenIQ BASES is a leader in helping companies build brands through innovation, renovation, strategy, and go-to-market optimisation, and is a trusted partner globally, and across industries. BASES helps maximise brand success end-to-end through advanced predictive analytics, behavioural science, proprietary databases, expert advice, and agile, digital technology platform.

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