Consumer Trends

Seasonal sells as customers place premium on fresh, locally sourced foods

Think about popular summer drinks: a cucumber-lemonade mocktail, grilled citrus and grape sangria, raspberry iced tea. It’s not difficult to see what these fun, fruity beverages have in common: They feature some of the most colorful and flavorful produce of the season.

When it comes to consumers’ menu preferences this spring and summer, it pays to go seasonal. According to Technomic’s Summer 2018 Season’s Eating,consumers can expect an increased use of lemon juice in cocktails this summer. And there’s been a 9.3% increase of peaches in adult beverages over the past two years.

But seasonal does not just mean fruits and vegetables. As the weather tends to be warmer, consumers prefer lighter breads, cheeses and meats as well. Seasonal favorites can include sandwich wraps, chicken salad and gazpacho or cold soup.

The flavors of summer

Besides the fun and distinct flavor profiles that are associated with spring and summer (think zesty, tangy and fruity), there are other incentives to advertise the foods, particularly the produce, of the season. For one, fruits and vegetables are healthy, an attribute that is attractive to many consumers. Also, seasonal ingredients offer an opportunity for restaurateurs to switch up their menus and offer a new dining experience for their customers (fresh asparagus soup or arugula salad topped with watermelon, anyone?). Seasonal foods give operators the chance to innovate—which customers, particularly loyal ones, will appreciate.

Go local

One of the main draws of seasonal fruits and vegetables is their source. During summer months, they’re easier to source from more local farms, and may therefore be cheaper and easier to deliver and less detrimental to the environment. As consumers increasingly are concerned with the effects of food production and transport on the planet, many prefer food choices that are more sustainable and yield less waste. Selling choices­ with produce that is locally procured, such as raspberries, cherries, cucumbers and sweet corn, is likely to go over well with an environmentally conscious customer base. An additional financial incentive for promoting seasonal foods is they may be less expensive than other menu items because they are more abundant.

Drink up

Nothing says summer like iced coffees, fruit smoothies, milkshakes and iced tea. Given the warmer temperatures, beverages are one of the most important items to consider freshening up during the spring and summer. According to Technomic’s recent Beverage report, 32% of consumers say their beverage preferences change depending on the season or time of year. And 18% of consumers say that new or unique beverage flavors available is important when they are choosing where to purchase a beverage.

So how to sell new beverage options? Operators may want to make use of limited time offers (LTOs). The same Technomic report says that adventurous consumers are calling for more new, ethnic and seasonal beverage flavors at restaurants, and operators can pique consumer interest with LTOs. A beverage LTO not only can help to tap into seasonal trends, it can boost customer interest.

With summertime upon us, operators have great opportunity to market seasonal menu items like salads, wraps and drinks. With customers excited for fresh flavor and new options to choose from, operators should think about incorporating seasonal flavors, utilizing local produce and menuing LTOs to keep warm-weather customers interested in the menu. Whether it’s a spinach and sweet corn salad or a frozen cherry-limeade drink LTO, revitalizing the summer menu to include the flavors customers will be seeking out is crucial for keeping summertime business up.

This post is sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice