When the weather warms up and flowers start to bloom, consumers want a culinary change of pace.
So, factoring in some of the most compelling new flavors and other trends—including items that acknowledge spring holidays, dishes that feature seasonal ingredients, health-oriented foods and items with nostalgic aspects — can help you attract customers and ultimately increase profitability.
Celebratory spring holiday items
Restaurant chains generally don’t fully leverage the promotional opportunities with traditional spring holidays, like Easter, Mother’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Datassential suggests incorporating colorful elements like strawberries to elevate current menu items to a holiday-worthy status or providing themed cocktails and beverages as other holiday menu options.
Strawberry is a top flavor for the spring season that engages customers, according to Abbot. Datassential research shows that strawberry pie and strawberry cheesecake are top dessert varieties with strawberry jam, strawberry lemonade, and strawberries and cream ranking as top spring dessert flavors. Consider strawberry cheesecake bars or a strawberry sugar cookie concrete for springtime desserts that also work in the summer.
Citrus flavors, such as Key Lime Pie Bites made with M&M’S® Pastel Chocolate Candies, can also be a common inclusion in sweets as winter tapers off, Abbott says.
Floral flavors and herbs
Consumer interest in the botanical category of foods has increased 31% in the past two years.
Including some of the more unexpected floral flavors, such as hibiscus, in a drink or dessert item may interest customers who’d hesitate to order an entrée that contains a new ingredient they’re not sure they’ll like.
“We’re definitely seeing more consumers starting to be interested in those herbal flavors, [such as] a lavender honey custard or chamomile buttermilk sorbet,” says Melissa Abbott, vice president of culinary insights and Hartman Retainer Services at The Hartman Group. “Desserts and beverages are the key areas for consumers to experiment in these spaces; the risk for trying something is lower.”
While balancing the bitterness and sweetness of inclusions can be a consideration, using botanical elements in desserts, as well as nontraditional herbs, has been a more common occurrence, according to Abbott, who says that more savory herbs such as thyme and rosemary are showing up in spring baked goods.
“Even [with] something like lemon and elderflower, [there’s a] tremendous opportunity for confectionery and beverages. That’s definitely something we’re starting to see more.”
Consumers are increasingly seeking out foods that provide health benefits, such as enhancing their immune function.
The more prevalent interest in having health and wellness elements in food items stems partially from the pandemic, according to Abbott, and is also evident in consumer preferences for baked goods and other treats.
Items that contain coconut milk, for instance, along with vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian elements have seen triple-digit growth on limited-service restaurant dessert menus in recent years.
“Consumers became a little bit more aware about immunity [during the pandemic],” Abbott says. “Something like rosemary that has antioxidants, and thyme that’s really good for coughs—we are seeing more infusions of particular types of herbs.”
During the pandemic, consumers were captivated with foods that featured familiar elements, such as branded ingredients, and new takes on classic recipes—something Abbott feels we’ll continue to see for some time.
“We’re definitely seeing that nostalgia in terms of things we grew up with, or our parents grew up with that we want to be able to experience,” she says. “But perhaps with some kind of an upgrade or a twist.”
Evoking nostalgic flavor combinations, like peanut butter and chocolate, is another way to win big. Peanut butter pie and peanut butter cookie are two top seasonal dessert varieties in the spring, according to Datassential, so consider incorporating peanut butter into your dessert offerings, like PB&J Bars made with SNICKERS® Bars or Peanut Butter Brownies made with M&M’S® Pastel Peanut Chocolate Candies and DOVE® Dark Chocolate.
For additional innovative ideas about menu items made with premium ingredients and other elements that can help pique customer interest, contact us today.