Winter Beverage LTOs are Holiday Hitmakers

couple sitting by fire with specialty winter drinks

In the leadup to the holidays, festive beverages spruce up the menus of foodservice brands and remain popular with consumers around the world

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KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • The seasonal festive beverage market continues to deliver opportunities to foodservice brands worldwide.
  • While latte remains the fan-favorite festive platform in 2020, hot chocolate and tea platforms are also growing.
  • Within these categories, brands can stand out through the use of novel and on-trend flavours, social media and brand partnerships.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

As seasons change and temperatures cool, new opportunities in the festive beverage market are giving foodservice operators another chance to satisfy consumer needs. Festive beverages start to appear on menus in November and are available through Christmas, giving operators a short but significant period of time to attract consumers.

In this article, we report on key highlights and findings from Europe and around the world, including global insights from our Trendspotter social listening tool as well as important takeaways from our new report from Kerry Foodservice Europe, “Festive Art of Taste”. This analysis of beverage limited time offerings (LTOs) highlights research from European markets and includes takeaways that can be applied by operators everywhere.

Uncovering top flavours and formats for festive LTOs

Our team of local market experts analyzed nearly one hundred LTOs across Europe this festive season including beverages from the UK, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Sweden. The three flavours that appeared most frequently across foodservice menu items in the UK were gingerbread, salted caramel and marshmallow. The top three flavours for Europe and Russia included gingerbread, chocolate and toffee.

As has been the case for the past three years, this season we once again see gingerbread leading the festive flavour category. Gingerbread, which was regarded as an "Up & Coming" taste in the Kerry 2019 Taste Charts, is now ubiquitous in foodservice across the world, due to its widespread consumer appeal and recognisable flavour profile. (Watch for our Kerry 2021 Taste Charts in January.) Gingerbread is delivered most often in a latte format; latte represents 50% of LTOs launched in the UK market this year and 43% of European festive LTOs. Latte has remained the top format for festive beverages across menus in 2020.

In addition to lattes, gingerbread flavours are being found in other LTOs, such as gingerbread milkshakes, including ones made with actual crushed up gingerbread cookies. Some offerings also incorporate other trending flavours, such as a marshmallow, which could be infused in a whipped cream topping on a gingerbread latte.

winter-LTO-quotes-gingerbreadgingerbread cookie next to hot beverageOf note this year was the jump by salted caramel, which moved up from third to second place and remains very popular with operators. Getting an honorable mention, eggnog has experienced a surge in popularity among operators in 2020, making its way into the top ten rankings for the first time.

Drawing from global festive flavour trends

After analysing local markets we looked globally, using our in-house artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Kerry Trendspotter. By quantifying thousands of online interactions, Google search data and user generated content, we were able to see the flavours which had, as of early December 2020, generated the most buzz online during the festive LTO season. We captured online content for four festive flavours which proved popular within the festive timeframe: gingerbread, red velvet cake, eggnog and peppermint/mint.

Examples of popular festive beverages in this subset, which consumers were posting about online, include:

  • Caffe Nero UK’s Mint Hot Chocolate, a hot and milky chocolate drink with mint syrup that can be customised with whipped cream and marshmallows
  • Starbucks™ UK’s Eggnog Latte, a holiday favourite made with steamed eggnog, Starbucks espresso and a dusting of nutmeg
  • Insomnia Coffee Company Ireland’s Red Velvet Hot Chocolate beverage, a sweet treat which is often paired with the brand’s vibrant 100% Vegan Red Velvet Brownie

Festive flavours and LTO offerings such as these have great potential for growth in local European markets. The novel seasonal flavours are performing well across multiple platforms, including hot chocolate, latte and food items, indicating that foodservice brands who experiment with global winning flavours—versus strictly European ones—may stand out in the marketplace.

Harnessing the power of social media

This year, festive beverages have become the centrepieces of operators’ social media feeds. With consumers staying close to home, social media has been the engine driving festive beverage awareness. Getting the word out about your beverage LTOs via social media can encourage sales from existing customers and win over new ones.

Additions to beverages such as syrups, sauces and sprinkles add a premium touch that enhances an offering’s “Instagramable” appeal.festive beverage with syrup and sprinkles

Visually striking and richly decorated festive beverages stir winter appetites and have strong consumer appeal. Additions to beverages such as syrups, sauces and sprinkles add a premium touch that enhances an offering’s “Instagramable” appeal. Festive beverages have performed well on top platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for many foodservice brands this season, whetting winter appetites and bringing instant cheer.

While standards are certainly getting their fair share of play, standouts such as Espresso House of Sweden’s sprinkle topped Polkalatten or Butlers Chocolate Cafés of Ireland’s hot chocolates, which come in flavours ranging from ginger and cranberry to toasted coconut and Black Forest gateau, are performing well on social media.

Tapping nostalgia—and known brands—for partnerships

There are a few additional ways we’re seeing brands win in the LTO festive beverage space. First, some top performing beverages are the result of carefully crafted branded partnerships. This season has seen the rise of brand partnerships in beverage that leverage the power of brand reputation and recognition. The resulting branded beverages often combine characteristic flavours and unique names that harken the partnership. Such beverages elevate indulgent beverage offerings to ultra-premium offerings through a richer taste profile and more complex flavour pairing.

Also, the key theme of comfort and nostalgia has been woven into many offerings in this category. In times of uncertainty, consumers are seeking comfort and nostalgia, including in beverage. This is highlighted by the surge in popularity for classic eggnog as a top ten festive flavour, as well as the growth of marshmallow, which features prominently in comforting hot chocolates. These beverages deliver familiarity and warmth during colder seasons, and are a compelling reason to look back at past favorites while continuing to move your brand forward.

To access our latest festive LTO research, download our new whitepaper, "Festive Art of Taste". To learn more about our beverage research and our work with beverage applications, contact us.

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