Fall can be a hectic season, with kids going back to school and many businesses laying the groundwork for the winter holiday rush. Yet despite being busier than summer, many people look forward to autumn, with fall flavors playing a contributing role.

As the weather turns crisp and the leaves start to change colors, people often find comfort and warmth in everything from flannel shirts to the return of football to pumpkin-flavored everything. All seasons have their flavors, but arguably no flavor has come to define a season the way pumpkin spice has. At this point, pumpkin spice lattes have become synonymous with fall, and pumpkin spice has extended into everything from cream cheese to lip balm.

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But the ubiquity of pumpkin spice isn’t a bad thing. On the contrary, it exemplifies the power of seasonality and limited time offers (LTOs) that strike a balance between familiarity, novelty and scarcity.

Even though coffee brands roll out pumpkin spice lattes and other pumpkin-flavored coffee drinks year after year, consumers still get excited for these treats. At the same time, food and beverage brands have opportunities to cash in by introducing LTOs that draw on other familiar yet somewhat less prevalent fall flavors like apple, maple and sweet potato. Brands can also tie fall flavors into holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Mixing the Old With the New

Successful seasonal launches and LTOs can mix the old with the new. You don’t have to get rid of popular pumpkin creations, but you can pair them with new flavors or complementary offerings.

For example, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf’s fall 2020 menu includes both returning seasonal favorites and new creations. As Trend Hunter reports, the coffee and tea chain’s fall menu includes past LTOs like the Pumpkin Iced Latte and Maple Iced Blended®, as well as new creations like a Dark Chocolate Chai Tea Latte. Chai flavors can evoke similar feelings to pumpkin spice, as both tend to have sweet, warm notes.

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Other brands also draw on pumpkin spice flavors in an even more indulgent way. Dairy Queen, for instance, has launched a new pumpkin cookie butter shake, which includes cookie butter, pumpkin puree, whipped topping and nutmeg, according to Trend Hunter. Thus, consumers get a taste similar to what they might find in an iced pumpkin spice latte, but they also get the decadence of the cookie butter.

Dairy Queen, reports Trend Hunter, also has debuted another fall treat, the Caramel Apple Pie Blizzard®. So consumers can get an early start on apple pie flavors before Thanksgiving.

Other brands like Krispy Kreme also mix the old with the new with their fall flavors. The doughnut brand has launched a pumpkin spice collection for 2020, according to Trend Hunter. These varieties include the Pumpkin Spice Original Glazed® Doughnut, the Pumpkin Spice Cake Doughnut and the Pumpkin Spice Original Filled Cheesecake Doughnut, along with a new flavor, the Pumpkin Spice Cinnamon Roll Doughnut.

Exploring Uncharted Territory


In addition to adding twists to popular fall flavors, brands can also dive into new but related areas, like incorporating different types of squash besides pumpkin into LTOs. Varieties like butternut squash, acorn squash and delicata squash evoke similar, warm, comforting feelings as pumpkin. They also have versatility and contain important vitamins and minerals.

While these types of squash might take a bit more creativity to turn into consumer-friendly products, different types of squash can be used in everything from fall beers to autumnal baked goods. Sustainability website One Green Planet shares a recipe for a butternut squash turmeric latte, which hits at the intersection of fall flavor trends and the demand for wellness-oriented beverages.

Ultimately, seasonality is about novelty, flavor, functional benefit, association, excitement and priming. It also reflects our vision of the 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.

Symrise’s Seasonality Initiative offers a framework to 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.

Image courtesy of Instagram (@thecoffeebean).

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