F&B brands: Step away from the gourds… and reach for the syrup.
For some, fall begins the day after Labor Day, when patio furniture and white shoes are ostensibly packed away for the year. Others point to the almanac, which proclaimed September 22 as the official first day of sweater season.
Here in Atlanta, though, those dates feel almost arbitrary. It was 89 degrees on September 22, and anyone browsing the sweater section is doing it a little wistfully. It’s often sweltering here until Halloween, so we rely on one sign that tells us beyond a doubt that fall has arrived: the annual advent of the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
PSLs used to be where the “pumpkin spice” trend began and ended (apart from pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, of course). Now, however, you can snack on pumpkin spice kale chips. You can chase your workout with pumpkin spice protein powder. You can even purchase pumpkin spice spray, designed to make anything you eat taste like pumpkin spice. (Exhibit A: Eater’s “65 Pumpkin Spice Foods That Have No Business Being Pumpkin Spiced.”)
All good things must come to an end, however. CNBC noted that, although dollar sales for pumpkin spice products reached a record high of $414 million in 2016, the hype may be slowing. Nielsen is projecting six percent growth for the last year, down from 10 percent the year before and 20 percent in 2013. It’s a good guess that, although the trend won’t evaporate overnight, pumpkin spice is on its way out.
What does that mean for brands in the food and beverage space? It’s time to look ahead.
To start, let’s look to the behemoth that brought us PSLs in the first place. Starbucks rolled out a new autumn latte in September: The Maple Pecan Latte.
And indeed, according to Refinery29 and the product development team at Whole Foods, maple-flavored-everything is the new trend to watch in 2017 and the years to come. Smart brands trying to speak to current pumpkin spice evangelists will soon start developing maple-infused products.
Being an early adopter of a new trend always comes with a risk, but the rewards are often worth it. By staying on top of the latest trends research (or working with an agency like Fire Bee to stay ahead of the curve for you), you can cultivate a reputation as an industry leader. Framing your brand as a trendsetter will attract new customers, impress stakeholders, and increase the reach of your PR and marketing campaigns.
That doesn’t mean you need to hastily pull anything pumpkin-related from your menu. It’s always good to jump on a tried-and-true bandwagon like pumpkin spice mania. However, it’s good to know that, while your competitors are trying to crank out another pumpkin spice cocktail, you’re turning heads with your new Maple Bacon Bellini.
Well, don’t make that exact thing—it sounds awful. But do create something else creative, cool, and timely—just like your brand.