Sharpen your pencils and pack your lunchbox – it’s ‘back to school’ season! From pre-school to PHD programs, mid-August marks the time to start thinking about school shopping lists. National Retail Federation (NRF) calculates that this year American families will spend over $80.7 billion on back to school items!

Food and beverage items make the list. 72% of students and parents in the "back to college" segment plan to spend a portion of their back to school budget on food items (NRF 2019). As a growing subset of Millennial and Gen Z populations, the college demographic is an essential group to target with stand-out food and beverage products. Barnes & Noble College enforces this, highlighting that in 2015 college students had an estimated $163 billion in discretionary income, making them a key target as early adopters and trendsetters.

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As students wave goodbye to summer and prepare to hit the books, your food and beverage brands can bring excitement and fun to what may be a nerve-racking time of the year. Under our Seasonality and Limited Time Offer (LTO) Initiative, we’ve identified back to school as an emerging occasion for themed food and beverage offerings.

When most folks think of seasonality it’s normally in preparation of Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall; but when consumers, more specifically foodies, think of seasonality it is usually in anticipation of pumpkin spice lattes or breast cancer pink cookies. At Symrise we are constantly looking for ways to innovate and that means going beyond the scope of normal. It also means not only looking for inspiration within, but outside of the box — our box being the food and beverage space.

Our seasonality brainstorming framework is structured by associations, functional, and emotional dimensions to identify key concepts and flavors for successful food and drinks. We partnered with Brand Genetics to ideate examples of back to school themed food and beverage products.

Here is a brief look into what our ideation session looked like:

Identify overarching associations of back to school: As an occasion that influences a vast range of consumers, associations linked to ‘back to school’ range from recess to syllabus week and coloring books to textbooks.

Determine the emotional associations: The start of a new school year can spark feelings of nervousness for some while others may find excitement in the experiences to come.

Imagine the functional benefits: The busy lifestyle of elementary and college students alike calls for simplifying the daily rush with easy grab and go packaging.

Finally, ideate flavors positively associated with this occasion: Flavors associated with the return to school can range from the classic peanut butter and jelly combination to a fresh apple.

RELATED: Inspiration for Summer Festival Food and Drink LTOs

Here are some products on the market to spark some back to school inspiration for your brands:

BEVERAGE | Honest Kids’ Organic Thirst Quenchers are kid focused juice drinks that come in a variety of flavors like goodness grapeness, berry berry good lemonade, and tropical tango punch. On theme with the back to school season, Honest Kids has partnered with Terracycle to teach children the importance of reducing waste by donating $0.02 to a school or organization.

SAVORY | Fruit Bowl’s Blackcurrant School Bars are snack packs made with real fruit and the naturally occurring sugars from apples making them great for school. These kid-friendly snacks fill the functionality of simple and pre-packaged grab-and-go snacks for both parent and student packed lunches.

SWEET | What would back to school be without the peanut butter and jelly staple? Meijer Brand’s Purple Cow played on this lunch-time classic with a back to school special edition of PB&J flavored ice cream. This fun treat taps into emotions of excitement for those anticipating the return to class as well as nostalgia for those who aren’t.

The biggest takeaway is that seasonality is all about novelty, flavor, functional benefit, association, excitement, and priming. It is also a reflection of our world — weather, time of year, ingredients, locales, cultures, etc. Seasonality can be a good product development tool with the right balance of market curation and experimentation. At the same time, it can be expensive and hard to pull off without a healthy balance of change and stability.

Now your brands can reduce back to school nervousness with simple products and treats that fill students with confidence about their year of study ahead. Whether it’s going in a lunchbox or a dorm mini-fridge, back to school themed food and beverages can appeal to all and make a lasting impression. To learn more about our Seasonality and LTO initiative and framework, reach out to our team!

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