Students are returning to school, soon there will be a chill in the air, and consumers everywhere are eagerly anticipating the return of pumpkin spice. It must be Fall. On September 1st, Starbucks released their seasonal menu featuring the pumpkin spice latte and the popular coffee chain is not alone. Pumpkin-inspired limited time offers (LTOs) are featured at Dairy Queen, Au Bon Pain, Olive Garden, and many more chains creating special offers for the season.
These limited time offerings are likely to appeal to consumers, as half (51%) say that seasonal flavors are how they want LTOs to differ from standard menu items. Another 41% note that new and unique flavors are also important when comparing a specialty product against the traditional menu. Certainly Fall and Winter flavors that only appear on menus a few months out of the year – whether pumpkin, apple, peppermint, eggnog or gingerbread – will also appeal to the quarter of consumers that desire LTOs that feature rarely available or hard-to-get flavors.
As part of the Consumer Planning Program (CPP), IFMA and Datassential work together to survey nearly 12,000 consumers on a variety of topics that are critical to suppliers. This year, limited time offers was one of the key themes that manufacturers wanted to better understand. In addition to learning about important differentiators for LTOs, CPP uncovered that consumer purchases are driven primarily by on-premise merchandising. In fact, nearly half of consumers (47%) report that their last LTO purchase was driven by some form of in-store merchandising (this includes menu/ menu inserts, marketing within the restaurant, marketing outside the restaurant, server suggestion, table top ad, or something seen on a previous visit). This suggests that manufacturers may benefit from partnering with operators to develop POS materials, because whether the menu item is secret, limited or seasonal, it should definitely be cravable!
For more information on how to appeal to consumers through LTOs, join the IFMA Consumer Planning Program committee. Email Julie Heseman at email@example.com.