Despite the latest buzz surrounding Starbucks adding the maple pecan latte to its menu, when it comes to flavor-oriented coffee drinks in the food service industry, it's still all about pumpkin flavors this fall.
"For coffee houses and QSRs, the buzz surrounding pumpkin-flavored beverages is starting earlier in an attempt to build consumer excitement," said Diana Kelter, foodservice analyst at Mintel.
Two in five consumers are interested in seasonal coffee drinks, and few seasonal drinks manage to create as much buzz as pumpkin
According to Mintel, a third of U.S. millennials have consumed a hot specialty coffee in the past three months and 13% of consumers overall add flavored syrups to their coffee or tea, according to Mintel’s 2017 Coffee and Tea Tracker. In addition, according to Mintel’s U.S. report on seasonal dining trends report, "two in five consumers are interested in seasonal coffee drinks, and few seasonal drinks manage to create as much buzz as pumpkin," the report noted.
Pumpkin consistently remains high in demand every fall, with 29% growth in menu mentions from Q4 2015-Q4 2016, according to Mintel Menu Insights. However, operators have a fine line to maintain when it comes to releasing pumpkin flavored products earlier and earlier every year, according to Kelter.
"With pumpkin season often lasting well into November, before holiday flavors take center stage, operators risk building up excitement too early without being able to sustain it through the fall season," she said. "In addition, the novelty of pumpkin being a true seasonal treat is a key component of the craving for it and operators have to maintain that seasonality without losing their edge to the competition."