From ginger and chai to vegan white chocolate: Autumn beverage trends

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Smoked Iced Chocolate: Iced drinks are up 9%, with the summer favorite reimagined with autumnal twists. Pic: Kerry
Smoked Iced Chocolate: Iced drinks are up 9%, with the summer favorite reimagined with autumnal twists. Pic: Kerry

Related tags Kerry Taste & Nutrition trendspotting plant-based

Pumpkin spice, caramel and chocolate are the top autumnal beverage flavors in Europe, according to Kerry: but its research also reveals some new twists to traditional fall favorites.

The taste and nutrition company examined over 200 limited time offerings (LTOs) in foodservice across Europe and Russia for its Art of Taste and Nutrition 2021 report. It found that traditional favorites such as pumpkin spice, caramel and chocolate remain the most popular: but consumers are also increasingly seeking health benefits and customization from their drinks. Plant-based drinks – such as vegan white chocolate and horchata – are trending.

The top three autumnal trends, according to Kerry, are:

  • Seasonal indulgence:​ Flavors like salted caramel, chocolate, maple, and vanilla bring a sense of much-needed indulgence, comfort, and nostalgia for the consumer.
  • A touch of spice:​ Flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and chai to add a spicy and exciting dimension to LTO offerings. Consumers also link flavors like ginger and turmeric to wellness and immunity, highlighting the increased focus on health benefits for beverages.
  • Healthy harvest flavours: ​Pumpkin has become a staple during the autumn LTO season, however, seasonal harvest flavors such as apple, blackcurrant, raspberry, and pear are now coming through in the market.

Top autumnal LTO flavors

  • Pumpkin spice
  • Caramel
  • Chocolate
  • Chai
  • Cinnamon

“Our analysis has shown that though traditional flavors are popular among consumers, they are seeking a taste of something different through the addition of warm and energising spices like chai and cinnamon,”​ said Aoife McDonald, Foodservice Marketing Director for Europe at Kerry.

“Some of these flavors, like turmeric, are linked to health benefits, with a heightened focus on wellness due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With consumers seeking healthy halo ingredients, our Kerry Trendspotter data shows that immunity focused drinks are starting to make an impact across foodservice."

Outside of the traditional spices, however, fruity flavors that complement autumnal tastes are also emerging.

"We can also predict that demand for authentic fruit and berry flavors will increase beyond autumn 2021, with flavors such as raspberry, cherry and cranberry gaining traction this year and a prediction that flavors such as blackcurrant, elderberry and cloudberry will be a future focus of beverage innovation.”

Crème Brûlée Latte kerry

The number of LTOs in autumn 2021 has doubled that of 2020: indicating a welcome recovery trajectory for the sector after the pandemic.

“LTOs are an important tool for foodservice operators as the European foodservice market continues to recover,”​ added McDonald.

“Indeed, our research shows that 54% of consumers will pay a premium for an LTO they like, with 62% agreeing that LTOs encourage visits to an outlet. Consumers want LTOs that are novel and exciting enough to post on social media platforms, but also satisfy their need for comfort and taste for nostalgia.”

Category watch: Iced beverages and plant-based platforms

Hot beverages consist of 79% of LTOs in the UK and Ireland, with latte, tea and hot chocolate being the most popular platforms.

Iced beverage LTOs, however, rose 9% compared to 2020.

“The popularity of these drinks is now developing beyond the summer months and into the colder seasons, offering brands the perfect opportunity for innovation in 2022.”

Like in the food sector, there is an increase in interest in plant-based LTOs: vegan white chocolate and horchata are trending online. Here, customisation is coming to the fore: with consumers looking for ways to enjoy traditional flavours like pumpkin with vegan toppings or as a hot chocolate.

“As we know there is an ever-growing demand for LTOs as consumer crave new and innovative beverages, but there is also now a demand for these to be customisable to the consumer. Gen Z and millennials consumers want to be able to mix and match depending on their preferences and allowing them to create their beverage the way they want it, whether that be sugar-free or plant-based, will translate into opportunity.”

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