Every year, a few innovative products and services capture the public's imagination, they find a unique niche and become runaway hits.
Here are 10 hot products of 2010 -- some of which may surprise you.
1. Five Finger Shoes
Man is a bipedal creature, with a complex set of bones, muscles and tendons in his feet to support his weight. Some runners believe that it is healthier to run barefoot, allowing these parts to do their natural thing, rather than coop them up in conventional running shoes. That's where shoes with individual toe pockets come in.
These shoes, like the Vibram FiveFinger, allow users to come as close as possible to running barefoot. Runners claim that this allows them to run farther and suffer fewer injuries. Despite the shoe's creepy appearance, the concept was so hot in 2010 that stores had trouble maintaining their inventory.
2. Board games
In the era of all-encompassing video games, it might come as a surprise to learn that one of the hot products of 2010 was the board game. Yes, the same old Monopoly, Scrabble, Mah-Jongg, and poker games that you may have played as a child are now being played in coffee houses and at home game nights.
Why? Market expert Gail DeGiulio, founder of SimplyFun, told WalletPop that the recession is to blame, as people look for more affordable fun.
3. The Groupon Coupon
The challenge for small businesses is to entice the public to visit and shop in their stores. The challenge for customers is finding a way to convince the shop owner to cut a special deal for them. The solution in 2010 is Groupon.
Groupon convinces store owners to offer a special deal, say $5 for a coupon worth $10 off a meal. Groupon sends the offer to its members (40 million strong); if enough of them buy the coupon, the deal is activated. It's proven to drive traffic for store owners and save users some dough--always a hot combination.
4. Huggies Blue Jean Diapers
How young is too young to wear blue jeans? Thanks to Kimberly-Clark, that answer is when a baby is under 16 pounds, the low end of the range of sizes offered in its Huggies Little Movers Jeans.
The denim-patterned diapers have been on sale in other countries since 2007, but didn't become available in the U.S. until this year. Too bad the commercial offered up perhaps the least appealing tagline of all time: "The coolest you'll look pooping your pants."
5. Four Loko
Of the 2010 hot products, Four Loko is the one that won't be around on Jan. 1. This drink, which combined alcohol and caffeine, has been widely vilified as a "blackout in a can." Depending on the regulations of the state in which it was sold, Four Loko contained either 6% or 12% alcohol by volume.
The maker of Four Loko, Phusion Projects, pulled the product off store shelves after receiving a warning from the Food and Drug Administration that the caffeine added to an alcoholic drink was an "unsafe food additive." Three other manufacturers of similar products also were warned. Phusion Projects stated that it plans to bring back Four Loko, this time without the caffeine.
6. Domino's New Pizza
It takes some guts to admit publically that your product used to suck, but that's the approach Domino Pizza took in 2010 in a bold new ad campaign. After closing 108 stores in 2009, the company was forced to confront what had become a wretched public impression of its product.
Now, it has not only improved the product, but is spending millions to reshape public opinion. And it's working. According to the The Detroit News, Domino's is experiencing a sharp upturn in business, with sales running over 10% above 2009 for the first three quarters of 2010, while the overall pizza market remained flat.
7. Knock-offs of Kate Middleton's Engagement Garb
In our egalitarian society, how do we explain the fascination of the public for Prince William of England's betrothed, Kate Middleton? When the prince popped the question this fall, one surprising outcome was a sudden spike in sales of dresses similar to the sapphire-blue one that she wore in public after the engagement was announced.
Sapphire was also the central stone in her engagement ring, and sales of look-alikes of this ring also boomed after Prince William popped the question.
8. Ford Fusion
After years of complaints that Detroit's cars were not up to the quality of some imports, it seems that at least some domestics have caught the public attention. One of Car and Driver's 2010 10 best cars is the Ford Fusion Hybrid, a sedan directly competing with tops sellers--including the Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. In November, the Fusion was the No. 7 selling vehicle, according to Autos.aol.com. It also was named a top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Fusion is also available with a conventional engine, with four or six cylinders, and with front-wheel or all-wheel-drive.
9. Mark Twain's Autobiography, Part 1
One has to believe the candor in an autobiography when the author stipulates that it shan't see the light of day for 100 years after his death. The fact that this author was Mark Twain, the master of sardonic wit, leads the reader to expect something more fulsome than the usual "hurray for me" autobiography.
What the publishers didn't expect was the strength of interest in the first half of the 500,000-word memoir, published this fall. Since its release it has nailed a place on the New York Times' bestseller list. Good luck finding a copy for a Christmas present, though; it's been back-ordered by many vendors due to the strength of sales.
10. NERF N-Strike Stampede ECS
With the popularity of single-shooter video games, movies that feature outrageous firearms, and the NRA, it's only reasonable to expect that a child's version of a sci-fi assault rifle would be among the most popular toys this holiday season.
The Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS shoots NERF darts on full automatic, meaning that parents who bought this toy for their child should expect, and deserve, a strafing of 18 darts to interrupt their morning paper reading. Die, Los Angeles Times!
10 Hot Products of 2010