When the weather turns cold and windy, it’s time to pull out the woolen layers, ready the snow shovel, and enjoy seasonal flavors like gingerbread, cranberries, cocoa, and more. For consumers, changing seasons can become an event that spurs purchases if businesses innovate and capitalize on the familiar flavors and traditions that speak to different holidays, cultures, age groups, and more.

Coming up with limited-time offers (LTOs) that take advantage of the winter holidays is a great way to boost end-of-year sales, but with so many businesses taking the same tack, it can be difficult to grab attention. The good news is, this holiday season could create a lot more opportunities for businesses to connect with consumers who missed out on holiday celebrations in 2020 due to COVID-19.

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Despite the surge of the Delta variant, more than half of the population is now fully vaccinated, and reports point to vaccine availability for kids as young as age five before the end of the year. With families and friends looking to make up for lost time this holiday season and people starting to feel safer socializing, those in the food and beverage industry need to start thinking about how to reach consumers and help them make the most of the season.

Clever LTOs for sweets, savory snacks, and beverages that bank on holiday flavor profiles (and cater to gifts and gatherings) supply a solid strategy for reaching consumers, especially when positioned as a remedy for over a year of missed holidays and events. What types of LTOs should those in the food industry focus on during the holiday season?

Sweet Indulgences

Whether people are stressed about not seeing family and friends for months on end, or they’re anxious about emerging from imposed hibernation, feel-good confections, pastries, and baked goods can serve as a tempting draw, especially when imbued with a balance of traditional and innovative elements. It doesn’t take much to excite someone who’s been trapped in the house for nearly two years. Still, going above and beyond is sure to help you stand out from the pack.

Related: The Next Big Seasonal Flavor Push: Healthy January

This year, the focus on food revolves around making it fun, especially when it comes to indulgent sweets. Desserts should embody an air of whimsy, whether that means adding over-the-top decorations or creating concepts that give patrons a much-needed laugh, like adding smiley faces to cupcakes and cookies or turning a cup of cocoa into a hot tub for marshmallow snowmen.

Typical flavor trends like peppermint and gingerbread abide, but consider adding unusual upgrades like cardamom or citrus, and make sure to remain conscious of variety. With consumers looking to reconnect with extended family and multiple friend groups, providing bundles and customized opportunities is sure to go over well.

Delectable Delights

While sweets are the most popular items to bring to gatherings, savory snacks and appetizers aren’t far behind. Charcuterie plates have been a big hit for 2021 so far. Last year saw a growing trend in charcuterie houses (think gingerbread houses but stacked with crackers, meats, and cheeses, like savory Lincoln Logs), so offering kits or finished products will undoubtedly garner attention.

Even well-planned cheese boards are sure to be a hit. You can also offer packages complete with the board, cheese knives, and all the fixings (pre-packaged, artisanal meat logs, cheese wedges, gourmet crackers and spreads, and so on) to be used as host gifts or outright holiday gifts.

For restaurants, a focus on comfort classics for appetizers and entrees is ideal as people find the familiar amid the new normal. Locally sourced and seasonal items from small farmers and artisanal producers have become popular. As patrons have watched small neighborhood businesses fold during the pandemic, many are keen to support locals.

It’s easy to spice up traditional fare like meat, potatoes, squash, and even sandwiches. Turmeric, curry, ginger, amba, and spices that add a lot of flavors (and some color, to boot) have been popular this year, and many are incredibly versatile. You can add these smacks to meats, sauces, soups, and even savory baked goods.

Trendy Bevs

Food is a major part of holiday celebrations, but nothing greases the squeaky wheels of social gatherings after a long hiatus like adult beverages. While wine and craft brews are always popular (especially since they’re so portable and easy to take to parties), one of the biggest trends for cocktails in 2021 is spiked holiday beverages like cocoa and cider. Bevs that warm both belly and heart speak to the sentimental pleasures people are looking for post-pandemic.

Another big hit is ready-made cocktails, or alternately, mixer kits. When attractively arranged, they make for easy additions to any holiday gathering, as well as a great gift. With a focus on making holiday faves more exciting and accessible, the food and beverage industry has the best opportunity to get patrons in the door and drive online orders.

To learn more about seasonal flavor trends and our Seasonality Initiative and Innovation Framework, Contact us HERE

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