Holiday Flavor Craze

Holiday Flavor Craze: How Marketing Influences Flavor

Many of us are aware of the coffee shop stampedes for the flavor crazes of pumpkin spice, gingerbread, and the infamous candy corn, but how did these flavors become so popular?

It’s all about the marketing.

Some may argue it’s because the flavor is good, but how did that good taste get started? Surely there had to be drafts that didn’t turn out.

How do you create a flavor loved by so many?

Let’s look at the flavor pumpkin spice. Most people know what ingredients go into a pumpkin pie. There’s cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and pumpkin.

We’ll look at Test Marketing as three simple steps. In reality there are far more steps, but these three will represent the basics. -Proposal -Testing -Analytics/Marketing


Proposal encompasses the initial idea of making a pumpkin pie flavored latte. The company first decides if it’s a marketable idea, the timeframe it would be sold, the cost of ingredients, and distribution. This probably sounds a lot like business analytics and part of it is – but it’s looking at the product and considering if it’s a feasible idea.

An example of a poor marketing item would be a seaweed shake from a Malt Shop in the middle of Nebraska. The seaweed isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but where are we going to get the seaweed? It’s not like Nebraska is a coastal state or the inhabitants diet consists of seaweed. Seaweed is going to be expensive to bring in.

Second of all – how are people going to react? This is a general inference based on what we know about the people of the area. Pumpkin pie is something almost every family in America eats around the holidays. Those who don’t eat it have at least heard of it and know what it looks like. It’s something traditional with a taste people recognize. Seaweed on the other hand is not a main part of our diets. For some health fanatics it might be, but that doesn’t capture the majority of the population.

In other words this is a terrible idea. Now if you took that idea and moved it to a country that eats a lot of seaweed then it might work – but not in Nebraska.


Testing is the second step after the product has been approved as a possibility. Using a pumpkin spice latte as an example, the question becomes how far can the recipe be stretched so it maintains the original consistency, but also capture the flavor of pumpkin spice? The company has to preserve the integrity of the latte, but also decide how much of each spice it requires to make it taste like pumpkin pie.

This process can be long and difficult with a lot of failed attempts before a solid recipe exists. A lot of recipes don’t even include pumpkin for this particular reason. Testing is difficult because there are always time constraints for development.


Finally if this product makes it over the first two hurdles, it still has to face the analytical side of things. Analytics involves a lot of math and calculations in terms of pricing, distribution, sales figures, and much more to make your head spin.

This is also where the public marketing is done for the new product. They have to design packaging, advertising, color scheme, and new ways to brand their product so it remains a part of the fall season. This step also includes the distribution of the product. They have to keep track of sales figures, public opinion, and distribution issues so they can decide if it’s worthwhile to keep around.

Often companies hire out others in order to finish this work. Sunspin is one of those such companies that aid in marketing, branding, and design.

Products that don’t make the cut are discontinued as quickly as possible and stored away. Sometimes these products will make a debut later when it seems more appropriate or they’ve changed the recipe. Other times these ideas never see the light of day again.

Still popular flavors such as candy cane, gingerbread, and even candy corn come back every year. Selling them during the fall season when the holidays are upon us and everyone’s looking for a little taste of home makes them top sellers. It all has to do with the marketing minds behind the products.

They experiment with flavors the world didn’t even know they wanted.