It is February. It is still freezing outside. The recent polar vortex only reinforced that the bare trees I see out my window are going to keep depressing me with their nakedness for at least a few more months. The joy of the holiday season is over, the promise of my New Year’s resolutions long gone, and I’m left cold, bored, and grumpy in the seemingly never-ending darkness that is late winter.
The winter holidays bring me joy, of course. But winter itself? Winter does not bring me joy. Do you know what does bring me joy in any season? Food. And coffee. And alcohol.
As consumers, we are inundated with seasonal food and beverage offerings during the holidays. The indulgence, fun and nostalgia of pumpkin pie, peppermint mocha, gingerbread, and egg nog: we eat and drink and are merry. But what about now, the dead of winter? Our grocery stores, cafes, and cocktail bars have essentially left us in the cold! Where are those fun, new seasonal flavors that can bring us joy now when we need it most? How can we create excitement for food and beverage in this forgotten time of year with late winter seasonal offerings? Here are some ideas on where to start:
Sweet Cream was the only flavor in our Seasons research that was highly linked to both winter and spring but no other season. As a standalone flavor for something like ice cream, or offered in a pair like sweet cream and honey, coconut sweet cream, or sweet cream caramel for coffee, sweet cream is the simplest and easiest way to link food or drink to both winter and spring.
When I think of colors and winter, I think of WHITE! In our Seasons research, many of the flavors consumers liked in winter and spring were white in color. Some are obvious like white chocolate and coconut but others might have some flexibility to be white or very light in color, like cherry, pineapple, or melon.
White & Green
Nearly all of the flavors strongly associated with spring are green in color. Combining white-colored flavors with green-colored flavors could help cue the change in season. Think: vanilla and pistachio, marshmallow and mint, coconut and thai basil, sweet cream and peas, or white cherry and green tea.
Smart Seasonal Pairings
Flavors paired with terms like ‘frosted,’ ‘aged,’ and ‘sugared’ can help emphasize winter seasonality without necessarily skewing fall/winter/holiday and the term ‘blossom’ is strongly connected with spring. A combination like sugared Meyer lemon or frosted cherry blossom can help connect winter to spring.
Several flavors have high consumer appeal in both winter and spring, including: caramel, cherry, coconut, dark chocolate, honey, milk chocolate, peanut butter, pineapple, and white chocolate.
With flavors like these, there is such an opportunity to capture consumers in this late winter season. And who knows? Whoever does it first might just end up finding the next “pumpkin spice”. Until then, I’ll continue to look sadly out my window and wait impatiently for spring, wishing I had a steamy, frothy pistachio and white chocolate mocha to cheer me up.