Seasonality Interview Series: Alex Talbot

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. To do that, we teamed up with Brand Genetics to interview eleven experts spanning several, very different industries to get their take on seasonality in hopes of guiding you on your path to being informed, inspired, and innovative.

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Alex Talbot and Aki Kamozawa are the duo that make up Ideas in Food — a blog, book, and culinary consulting business. They also co-own an artisanal doughnut shop, Curiosity Doughnuts. We sat down with one half of the power couple, Alex, to talk all things seasonality.

What does seasonality mean to you?
It is a reflection of what we’re surrounded by: weather, time of year, ideas, experiences, ingredients, etc. It is also about constantly paying attention to your surroundings. Our brains are so saturated that we don’t pay attention to a lot of things, but it is necessary to step back and view things without bias and with fresh eyes.

How do you think “novelty” plays into seasonality?
People are always trying to sell what’s next, so you need to release early/before everyone else — Starbucks launched their Pumpkin Spice Latte at the beginning of Fall. The specialness gets diluted when everyone else starts offering the same thing. Sometimes you need to look backwards to move forward. Seasonality is about creating new experiences that are based on previous experiences. So let’s look at pumpkin spice again, if you’ve had pumpkin pie before you recognize some of that in the flavor, it is all about tradition with a twist.

How do trends play a part in seasonality?
The Unicorn trend for example was just trying to add specialness to everyday life. The problem is that if each one of the colors in that rainbow had an amazing flavor attached to it, it would be an amazing experience, but it was not about the flavor. There was no functional benefit, in this example it is style over substance, food as a piece of design. With Instagram, everyone is an advertiser — fake news and fake food. The reveal and the magic are now instant and that removes some of the specialness. For example, what is great about Christmas is that it only comes once a year so there’s a singular focus.

Related: Chef Phillip Lopez Explores the Artistry Behind Ingredients, Seasonality and Cooking

What are some tips you’d like to share on ideation?
Have conversations with people. Start improvising with the people and things around you. There are no new tunes, it is all about how you put things together. Create things that make you happy. If you create the products and ideas that make you smile and that you want to eat repeatedly, then you will have created something truly remarkable.

What are your thoughts on the future of seasonality and where it is headed?
I think we will see more people begin to express different experiences through flavor, but in a clear and honest way rather than a mass and diluted way. More singular focus too, we’re going to start to see people sell less, but sell better. If you want to be seasonal you need to assume you have a small batch.

The biggest takeaway from this series of interviews is that seasonality is about about novelty (think charcoal ice cream), flavor (pumpkin spice latte), functional benefit (plant-based everything), association (gingerbread cookies during Christmas), excitement (unicorn frappe), and priming (marketing). 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.

This series is backed by our Seasonality Initiative where we help our customers develop pipelines of new concepts and flavor ideas for the seasons and major holidays. If you have questions or would like to learn more about our initiative please contact us.

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