The food-to-go market is already awash with autumn’s maple and pumpkin flavours as consumers continue to lap up the chance to embrace the change in seasons. This means tasty coffee flavours to accompany themed-biscuits, cakes, sandwiches and more to really herald the start of a new, chillier season.
In this blog we’ll examine some of the popular offerings and also look at how the category is doing overall as the UK battles a cost of living crisis and rising ingredient costs.
Spookily good sweet treats
The first hint of the food-to-go seasonal changes usually appear in coffee shops with Starbucks’ famed pumpkin-spiced latte (PSL) really signalling the new season from as early as September 1st. This favourite flavour has breached the historically US-centric market and become a global favourite over the last few years. As a result, we’re seeing this spice combination filter down into a lot more chains and categories as popularity grows.
To complement the PSL, Starbucks is also offering a salted maple and caramel latte – with both drinks being offered as hot and cold espresso drinks to meet the growing demand for iced coffee. Now for the important bit, the food to go with the drinks!
Starbucks has not gone as far as to embrace any sandwiches in the spooky or autumnal themes, but the seasonal flavours are trickling down into some tasty treats including: pumpkin spice loaf cake, pumpkin spice cookie (vegan friendly) and a toffee apple muffin.
Other major players in the seasonal food-to-go market include Costa Coffee, which has recently launched an M&S food offering in over 2500 of its stores.
Costa’s seasonal offering is always one of the most anticipated and they don’t seem to have held back. The 2022 menu includes a series of drinks such as a maple hazel latte, available iced and as a hot chocolate, but their sweet treats are where they always really commit to the theme and this year’s offering includes a maple and hazelnut muffin, maple and hazelnut blondie slice, a gingerbread witch cat and spooky shortbread ghost.
While coffee shops are leaning towards the sweeter end of food-to-go, there are some signs of a spooktacular savoury offering from others such as Pret. Pret’s autumn menu is made up of warming soups including black bean and taco and chicken laksa, tasty toasties such as the new reuben or the brie and bacon focaccia. Among these luxurious lunch options is also a seasonal twist on their popular hot–to-go mac and cheese, to which they’ve added a rich tapenade for the cooler months.
While it’s still early in the season, we likely haven’t seen all there is to see of these haunting ranges. A look back at 2021’s offerings saw Sainsbury’s launch a ‘Spicy Chicken Sand-witch’ complete with black bun and luminous red leicester to provide the perfect colour combination. M&S launched themed treats that capitalised on their popular Colin and Percy categories including a special release cake in a jar.
Demand clearly exists for these products and consumers seem determined to treat themselves, but of course there is wariness based on the cost of living crisis and rising product costs. The Grocer reflects on what concerns consumers may have and insists that value is a key trend and driver for 2002:
To help Brits in their search for value, retailers may put more emphasis on promotions and own label, says Dr Oetker head of cake marketing Jen Brown. “Consumers will be shopping around for the best deals to make the most of their money.”
It is possible outlets like Costa will leverage loyalty points such as their Costa card to tempt consumers into ‘guilt-free’ treats that feel better value. Of course the halloween sector is a short-lived purchasing window, with festive crossover already occurring in some retail outlets. Brand loyalty is going to matter here as businesses aim to entice and maintain customers if consumer cutbacks start to impact profits. However, Global Web Index has shown us that the UK is ‘the least worried (compared to other countries) about spending money on going out to bars, restaurants and cinemas (21.8%) compared to France (43.6%), Germany (27.1%) and Italy (49.9%)’.
If we’re less concerned about spending money on food out of home, there’s an opportunity here to capitalise on that spending when it happens – let’s face it, the occasional nice lunch treat is better than a soggy sandwich from home, even if it becomes marginally less frequent than before.
For more insights on our ranges, new products and trend reports, check out our news and press pages.