The Product of the Year awards program has appointed Nielsen to conduct its consumer survey next year, electing not to re-employ incumbent research provider TNS.

Under the new arrangement with Nielsen, the awards program will expand to interview 10,700 Australians about their favourite new FMCG products and broaden the scope of questioning.

Director of Product of the Year Australia, Sarah Connelly, says with the awards having grown 30% year on year it was time to up the ante. “Since launching in Australia in 2009, Product of the Year has grown enormously so it was timely to review the size, scope and methodology of the consumer research used to decide winners,” Connelly says.

“We spoke to Nielsen and they came up with some other ideas we hadn’t thought of and a new way of looking at the questionnaire. TNS have done an amazing job over the past three years, but we’re about innovation and about companies evolving so we thought let’s give Nielsen a try.”

The awards, which will be presented in February 2013, will re-design its survey questions to have a greater focus on new product performance, with an expanded consumer preference index as a key measurement area.

Before nominated products are submitted to the Nielsen survey, a jury panel of industry experts will review each entry to ensure it meets key criteria. The panel will be led by Ian Alwill, Chairman of the Advertising Standards Bureau and former Executive Director of Group Marketing for Nestle, who will be joined by Today Show‘s Lisa Wilkinson, CEO, Natalie Mactier, IGA’s Peter Love and Foodworks’ Middhat Massoud. Woolworths and Coles representatives were not invited to be on the panel this year, due to the higher number of private label entries the supermarket giants have begun to enter in the awards.

To be eligible for entry, products must launch between January 2011 and August 2012 and be either a completely new type of product or represent a useful innovation to an existing product or brand. This year winners were chosen from 28 supermarket categories, with notable winners including Sunbeam’s vacuum pack food saver, V8 vegetable smoothies, McCAIN’s sweet potato fries and Woolworth’s private label deli style chips.

Entries for the 2013 awards are currently open with an early bird discount of $500 available until 6 July 2012.