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While Americans wait all year in anticipation for their favorite seasonal-inspired food and drinks, new research from Mintel reveals that nearly seven in 10 (67 percent) 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 percent) consider seasonal dishes to be a treat and more than two in five (42 percent) 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 flavors. Indeed, three in four consumers agree that dining out is a great way to enjoy seasonal flavors, with 70 percent saying that they enjoy the seasonal menu offerings at restaurants. Looking beyond specific dishes, 60 percent of consumers agree that it’s enjoyable when the atmosphere of a restaurant conveys a specific season.

27% of Americans consider seasonal flavors to be nostalgic

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

“As Americans associate seasonal flavors 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 percent of American consumers prefer seeing seasonal ingredients featured in coffee drinks, rising to more than half (53 percent) of Millennials* and 57 percent of iGeneration consumers**. Tea is also becoming a more popular seasonal drink, with one third (34 percent) of consumers claiming they look for seasonal ingredients in tea.

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

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

*Mintel defines Millennials as between the ages of 23 and 40 in 2017
**Mintel defines the iGeneration as between the ages of 10 and 22 in 2017
***Q3 2015 to Q3 2016

Press copies of Mintel’s Seasonal Dining Trends US 2017 report and interviews with Diana Kelter, Foodservice Analyst, are available on request from the press office.