Flavors Spotlight: Crafting Seasonal Flavors for LTO Success

by | Feb 29, 2024

Many of our seasonal associations link to specific foods or beverages. Take a moment to think about your favorite season. Is there a special treat that perfectly captures that time of year? Maybe it’s an orange creamsicle on a warm summer day, apple cider donuts in the crisp fall air, or sipping a chocolate gingerbread latte while you’re bundled up in a cozy sweater.

Flavors play a big part in the product development calendar, but keeping up with changing seasons and shopper flavor preferences can be challenging. The FlavorSum team looked at recent seasonal flavor trends to see how brands are bringing concepts to shelves and how you can craft a delightful LTO experience.

Why Do Seasonal Flavors Work?

What makes seasonal flavors and LTOs worth the time and resources it takes to develop a new product?

Seasonal flavors create excitement and elevate the taste experience. Many people associate seasonal flavors with freshness, nostalgia, and celebration. An Innova survey found about one in four North Americans say that a seasonal or limited-edition flavor affects the products they choose. Mintel notes that almost two-thirds of people who say they rarely try a new food will take a leap with an LTO.

Seasonal flavors attract attention and keep your brand top of mind. The scarcity of an LTO can entice shoppers to splurge on a unique flavor, making someone more likely to consider your brand in the future. According to Innova, 41% of North Americans are likely to make an impulse purchase when a food or beverage is limited edition.

LTOs present opportunities to trial new flavors and formats. Creating a product with a limited run is a great way to gauge people’s receptiveness to new flavors. Last year, Oreo brought back the fan-favorite Cotton Candy just in time for summer, and in January, Pop-Tarts revived the discontinued Cinnamon Roll flavor in a new bite-sized format.

Seasonal LTOs support retailers and encourage shopper engagement. LTOs add interest to grocery store aisles and support retailers in becoming a destination of choice for shoppers. LTOs may also help unlock more incremental space in the store, driving extra product sales.

How Are North American Brands Responding to Interest in Seasonal Flavors?

INNOVATION AROUND SEASONAL LAUNCHES IS GROWING

Seasonal launches represent a growing share of innovation since 2020. According to Mintel launch data, 73% of the tracked subcategories offered a seasonal or limited-edition flavor in the last five years.

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SWEETS AND HOT BEVERAGES HOLD THE LARGEST SHARE OF LTO INNOVATION

Some categories have more seasonal launches than others. Lollipops, hot beverages, coffee, gummies, and popcorn are the five subcategories with the biggest share of innovation.

MOST LTOS LAUNCH IN THE FALL AND WINTER

Most North American seasonal flavors or limited editions hit grocery store shelves during the fall and winter months.

Seasonal Flavor Launch Trends

LAUNCH SPOTLIGHT: FALL AND WINTER FLAVORS

Although seasonal flavors and limited editions can launch any time of the year, some categories are more likely to showcase LTOs in the fall and winter. The warmth of sweet baked goods and hot beverages is a natural fit for colder weather and cozy vibes.

Recent fall and winter seasonal launches highlight warm and toasty flavors that are perfect for enjoying in front of a cozy fire or helping you kickstart your day during the colder months.

Loblaws Spiced Pear Greek Yogurt

Canada, January 2024

A limited-edition classic Greek yogurt filled with pears and sprinkled with cinnamon. This “toasty-tasting” treat is made with skim milk, real cream, and natural flavors and has 8 grams of protein.

GNC Layered S’mores Lean Bar

United States, January 2024

This bar has 16g of protein “working to help you feel fuller longer.” The layered s’mores flavor doesn’t get in the way of eating well and sticking to your health goals.

Shanky & Shireman Irish Coffee Mug Gift Pack

United States, December 2023

This gift set has “your favorite Black Liqueur and Whiskey Blend” packaged with a drinking mug. Perfect for Shanky’s Whip Irish Coffee.

SToK Peppermint Mocha Creamed Cold Brew Coffee

United States, January 2024

This gourmet cold coffee is flavored with a delicious seasonal twist of peppermint mocha. This cold brew is available for a limited time and is “gone when the snow melts.”

LAUNCH SPOTLIGHT: SPRING AND SUMMER FLAVORS

Categories associated with hydration or refreshment see more seasonal flavor innovation throughout the year, with slightly more launching during the spring and summer months.

Recent spring and summer seasonal launches highlight bright and zesty flavors that evoke long days of sunshine.

Private Selection Peach Crisp Ice Cream

United States, May 2023

This limited-edition ice cream is naturally flavored with a spiced peach swirl and is “perfect with coffee or tea.”

Limited Edition Frosted Lemon Cheerios

United States, June 2023

“Get off to a sunny start” with this limited-edition Frosted Lemon Cheerios. This gluten-free cereal has 22g of whole grains per serving and no artificial flavors or colors from artificial sources.

Market District Raspberry Lemonade

United States, July 2023

Made with real cane sugar and 5% juice, this limited-edition beverage is naturally flavored for a summery, caffeine-free taste.

Coconut Pineapple Bubly

Canada, June 2023

This new flavor of sparkling water is a “tropical delight that combines the flavors of coconut and pineapple in a bubbly drink.”

For flavorful insights into specific categories, download our 2024 Seasonal Flavor Guide. We cover the top flavors associated with each season, emerging flavors from the latest menu trends and social media conversations, and more!

Seasonal Flavors for Fall and Winter

Fall and winter are comforting seasons, punctuated with the return to familiar routines and looking forward to annual holiday traditions. People gravitate toward warmer, spicier flavors and the taste of fall fruits. Of course, pumpkin is a staple for autumn LTOs, but brands are also incorporating apple, pear, maple, and churro flavors. Bolder flavors like peppermint, gingerbread, and spiced apple tend to take center stage during the winter months.

Popular seasonal flavors for fall and winter:    

5

Chocolate

5

Peppermint

5

Pumpkin Spice

5

Gingerbread

5

Sugar

5

Sugar Frosted

5

Caramel

5

Strawberry

5

Cherry

5

Peanut Butter

5

Vanilla

5

Caramel (Salted)

5

Marshmallow

5

Pumpkin/Squash

5

Cocoa

5

Hazelnut

5

Candy Cane

5

Raspberry

5

Sweet Orange

5

Red Velvet

5

Lemon

Based on North American launch data

Ordered by frequency, 2019-2023

Fall and winter flavors to watch:

5

Spiced Apple              

5

Candy Cane  

5

Red Velvet

5

Almond

5

Cola

5

Nougat

5

Grape

5

Maple Pecan

5

Caramel Pumpkin Spice

5

Churro

Based on launch change 2023 vs 2022        

Fall/Winter season, North America   

Seasonal Flavors for Spring and Summer

Spring is a time to shake off the weight of winter and begin enjoying sunnier, longer days. Light, bright, and exciting tastes like lemon, berry, and coconut work well during these months. During the longer, hotter days of summer, people look for flavors that refresh and delight. Fruit flavors are perfect for a beach trip or backyard barbeque and can be sweet (blueberry, strawberry) or tart (black raspberries, cherries). Formulators might incorporate shopper’s cravings for new taste experiences with refreshing yuzu or floral lavender.

 Popular seasonal flavors for spring and summer:

5

Sugar Frosted

5

Pumpkin/Squash & Spice/Spicy

5

Strawberry

5

Chocolate

5

Watermelon

5

Lemon

5

Berry

5

Raspberry

5

Apple (Green)

5

S’mores

5

Caramel

5

Peanut Butter

5

Cherry

5

Pumpkin/Squash

5

Peach

5

Cola

5

Apple

5

Blue Raspberry

5

Vanilla

5

Sour

5

Maple/Maple (Syrup)

5

Cookies & Cream

5

Blueberry

5

Cheese

5

Sugar

5

Marshmallow

Based on North American launch data

Ordered by frequency, 2019-2023

Spring and summer flavors to watch:

5

Peach

5

Sugar

5

Apple

5

Raspberry

5

Maple

5

Coconut Pineapple

5

S’mores

5

Citrus

5

Chocolate Marshmallow

Based on Launch Change 2023 vs 2022

Spring/Summer Season, North America

Bring Your Seasonal Flavor Concept To Life!

Seasonal LTOs often start with an idea or emerging trend, but knowing how to bring that idea to life requires a “recipe” of science, insights, and delicious flavors. Whether you’re working on a new ice cream idea or an RTD cocktail, FlavorSum’s experts can help you formulate a seasonal flavor that fits your application. Download our 2024 Seasonal Flavor Guide for specific flavor insights for seven food and beverage categories.

Contact us if you have a specific project in mind and want help navigating the LTO journey!

Author

Phil a’Becket

Phil a’Becket is the Senior Consumer Insights Manager for FlavorSum. He has eight years of experience in food ingredient market research, focusing on both primary research and secondary data analysis. He earned his MBA from Clemson University, and joined FlavorSum in 2022.

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