If you want to invest in industry leaders, then you need to take a look at IRI's "New Product Pacesetters" list for consumer packaged goods in the food category.

This list indicates what companies are innovating and setting new trends, which leads to market leadership and strong sales. In a few months, we'll know the Top 10 products for 2013, but first let's take a look back at the Top 10 for 2012 along with 2012 sales numbers. A one-year difference doesn't mean much. This is more about recognizing which companies have been innovative enough to make the list. Companies capable of innovation that drives consumer demand are companies you want to consider investing in. Some of these companies are private, but you never know what the future holds, so you might want to keep an eye on them as well. 

No. 10: Daily's Frozen Pouches

Wouldn't it be nice if you could reach into your freezer, squeeze a pouch, and have a margarita at the ready? Thanks to American Beverage Corporation, which is owned by Dutch company, Royal Wessanen, this is now a possibility with Daily's Frozen Pouches.

First-Year Sales: $89.2 Million

No. 9: Orville Redenbacher's Pop Up Bowl

Microwave Popcorn Bowl

It's the bag that needs no bowl. Put your popcorn in the microwave and it will form into a bowl while popping. Remove the popcorn bowl from the microwave and you're ready to eat. Orville Redenbacher is owned by ConAgra Foods.

First-Year Sales: $92.1 Million

No. 8: Nature Valley Protein Bars


This is self-explanatory, but the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate protein bar seems to be very popular, with 100% natural protein, roasted peanuts, peanut butter, and rich dark chocolate. Nature Valley is owned by General Mills.

First-Year Sales: $95.7 Million

No. 7: Sparkling Ice

The company, Talking Rain Beverage Company, has been around for more than 20 years. However, they didn't have much success until recently, with Sparkling Ice, a fizzy water with zero calories.

First-Year Sales: $122.7 Million (Note: Sparkling Ice was introduced in 1992, but it has only been recognized recently)

No. 6: MiO Water

MiO Original. What is MiO?

MiO is a liquid water enhancer. Think of SodaStream, except you can alter water with a small pouch of liquid. It's basically customizable water, or flavor on demand. You can choose Berry Blast, Black Cherry, or a multitude of other flavors, catering to everyone from those on the go to those working out. MiO is owned by Kraft Foods (UNKNOWN:KRFT.DL).

First-Year Sales: $127.6 Million

No. 5: Breyers Blasts

Birthday Blast

If standard ice cream doesn't seem exciting to you anymore, then Breyers Blasts can change that, offering bursts of your favorite candies and/or cookies within the ice cream. Breyers is owned by Unilever (NYSE:UL).

First-Year Sales: $147.3 Million

No. 4: TruMoo Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

Now you can give your kids healthier chocolate milk. TruMoo Chocolate Milk is blended with pure cocoa and sugar. No growth hormone or high fructose corn syrup is added. TruMoo Chocolate Milk is also made with eight essential nutrients, including calcium, protein, potassium, riboflavin, phosphorus, and vitamins A, D, and B12. TruMoo is owned by Dean Foods (NYSE:DF).

No. 3: Bud Light Platinum

Triple filtered, smooth finish, top-shelf taste, all in a cobalt blue bottle. Bud Light is owned be Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD).

First-Year Sales: $162.2 Million

No. 2: Starbucks K-Cups

Pike Place® Roast K-Cup® Packs

A long-awaited move by Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) fiends who desired Starbucks coffee at home. Starbucks was doing very well without the addition of K-Cups. But the winners know how to stay ahead of the pack.

First-Year Sales: $189.9 Million

No. 1: Dannon Oikos

What is Greek Yogurt?

Greek Yogurt is hot, and Dannon (or Danone outside of the United States) was wise to go along with industry trends. Dannon Oikos offers a creamy-thick, real fruit, fresh taste, and twice as much protein as a regular low-fat yogurt.

First-Year Sales: $233.8 Million

From an investing standpoint
The five public companies toward the top of this list are Starbucks, Anheuser-Busch, Dean Foods, Unilever, and Kraft Foods. With the exception of Dean Foods, they all pay a dividend. Therefore, the chart below combines stock appreciation with dividend payments over the past year. While the past doesn't guarantee future results, the winners usually keep winning:

SBUX Total Return Price Chart

SBUX Total Return Price data by YCharts

All five companies have been impressive, but as is often the case, Starbucks is the most impressive. In other words, if you're looking to invest in one of these companies, it would be difficult to go wrong, but you might want to consider looking at Starbucks first.