Around this time of year, the question I get asked the most is: “What’s the next pumpkin spice?” Beginning as early as August and stretching through the holiday season, flavors such as pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha start popping up everywhere. It gets to the point where it seems like just about every brand and every restaurant chain has some token pumpkin spice-flavored item.
In an age where consumers are always wanting to try something new, it’s rare that a flavor is able to generate that much hype year after year. That’s why we get asked what other flavors might be able to capture the attention of consumers in the same way pumpkin spice has.
At this point, pumpkin spice is a pretty safe option in just about every category, including dairy; it’s achieved familiarity — and popularity — with a wide range of consumers. Love it or hate it, it’s a fall staple in many brands’ limited-time offering (LTO) programs. Due to the scarcity effect — you can have pumpkin spice only for a limited amount of time during a very specific time of year — consumers likely won’t get bored with it.
Now more than ever, however, consumers are looking for excitement in food items; they’re adventurers and will be attracted to new flavors to get hyped up about. There is an opportunity, therefore, to look beyond fall and holiday mainstay flavors such as pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha and offer consumers something different.
How do you find that next buzzworthy fall or holiday flavor? Let’s take a look at seasonal flavor trends that would translate well into dairy.
Hot-beverage LTOs have almost become synonymous with the holidays. They started with pumpkin spice, but now extend to a whole slew of warm, sweet and “cinnamony” drinks. Popular holiday beverage flavors such as gingerbread latte and spiced cider translate particularly well to dairy. Pay attention to what the national coffee chains are offering as LTOs, as these beverages receive a lot of buzz, making them craveable and the flavors more recognizable to consumers.
If you want to step outside of the beverage LTOs already being offered, consider taking popular fall flavors such as maple and cinnamon and combining them with coffee profiles. Think maple pecan cappuccino ice cream or cinnamon dolce latte yogurt. Or, look to up-and-coming warm ethnic beverages. These types of flavors will appeal to adventurous millennials who are driving ethnic flavor trends. For example, horchata, Mexican hot chocolate and masala chai would all shine in dairy products such as cream cheese, ice cream and dairy-based beverages.
Treats and sweets
When you think of the holiday season, a lot of the foods that come to mind are sweets. What better way to get consumers in the mood for the holidays than to offer flavors inspired by their favorite holiday sweets?
Flavors such as iced sugar cookie, gingerbread, red velvet cake with cream cheese icing, caramel apple and spice cake will get consumers in the holiday — and snacking — spirit. These flavors are well-suited for a range of dairy products, including yogurt, ice cream, dairy-based beverages, dips and cream cheese. The holidays are usually a time when consumers view indulging as permissible, so these types of flavors may help them ditch their diets until after the New Year.
Given that consumers tend to give themselves a bit of a free pass on indulging around the holidays, it is no surprise that comfort food flavors see a major spike around this time of year. Drawing on inspiration from home cooking, these flavors will begin to rise in popularity as fall rolls around. Warm, herby flavors typically begin picking up steam in the market around early September and continue to rise in popularity until after the holidays are over.
Don’t be surprised to see savory flavors inspired by dishes like pot roast, butternut squash soup, chili with cornbread, and chicken pot pie. Not only will dishes like these be offered on restaurant menus as LTOs, but they’ll also make appearances in frozen meals, canned soup and even snacks at the grocery store. These more indulgent comfort food flavors will translate well in sour cream dips, while warm, herby fall flavors would work well in cheese products.
Flavor trends are always changing and evolving. To stay in the know, follow Fuchs North America’s flavor trends blog.