Mintel: Americans and seasonal ingredients

6 Mar 2017

New research from Mintel reveals that nearly seven in 10 (67%) consumers enjoy being able to consume specific seasonal ingredients year-round but over three-quarters (78%) consider seasonal dishes to be a treat.

Mintel: Americans and seasonal ingredients

New research from Mintel reveals that nearly seven in 10 (67%) consumers enjoy being able to consume specific seasonal ingredients year-round. Still, while Americans want the option of seasonal food and drink throughout the year, over three-quarters (78%) consider seasonal dishes to be a treat and more than two in five (42%) say they are willing to pay more for a seasonal dish when dining out.

Seasonal food and drink ingredients present a welcome opportunity for consumers to extend that special holiday feeling or escape the dreary winter days for sunny summer flavours, says Mintel. Indeed, three in four consumers agree that dining out is a great way to enjoy seasonal flavours, with 70% saying that they enjoy the seasonal menu offerings at restaurants. Looking beyond specific dishes, 60% of consumers agree that it’s enjoyable when the atmosphere of a restaurant conveys a specific season.

When thinking about seasonal foods, Americans are most likely to consider the flavours and ingredients to be fresh (45%). However, seasonal flavours also create an emotional connection with consumers, such as evoking notions of comforting (39%), special (39%), warmth (33%) and happy (30%). What’s more, over one quarter (27%) of Americans consider seasonal flavours to be nostalgic.

“As Americans associate seasonal flavours with being fresh, special and nostalgic, it seems consumers are less likely to connect seasonal with mass-produced items, but rather items that conjure up an image of being homemade and remind them of personal memories,” said Diana Kelter, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel. “There is an opportunity for restaurants to leverage seasonal claims in more unique ways and build off of the seasonal experience through the presentation and description of their dishes.”

It seems the pumpkin spice latte is here to stay as Mintel research reveals 43% of American consumers prefer seeing seasonal ingredients featured in coffee drinks, rising to more than half (53%) of Millennials and 57% of iGeneration consumers. Tea is also becoming a more popular seasonal drink, with one third (34%) of consumers claiming they look for seasonal ingredients in tea.

Seasonal flavours aren’t just limited to non-alcoholic beverages, however, as American consumers are also interested in seeing seasonal ingredients featured in beer (27%), craft beer (23%) and dinner/happy hour cocktails (22%). Indeed, the number of cocktails with “seasonal” mentioned in the menu description has increased 34% in the last year, according to Mintel Menu Insights.

The iGeneration seem to be trending toward a more shareable dining experience, according to Mintel, as iGeneration consumers are the most likely to show a preference toward seasonal appetizers and small plates (50%) as compared to just over one third (36%) of Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers prefer to see seasonal ingredients in salads (50%) as compared to just 41% of iGens.

“Seasonal coffee drinks are an affordable indulgence that can add a bit of fun to an everyday routine such as the morning cup of coffee. Younger consumers are a core demographic for seasonal coffee drinks as Millennials have been more exposed to third wave coffee trends, which includes more elevated offerings, artisan preparation methods and increased flavour trends,” concluded Kelter.