Is pumpkin spice coffee & tea yesterday’s news?

Let me start by saying that I’m not a flavour expert, food engineer or coffee pundit. I am, however, a coffee lover and brand expert.

So, when asked about my thoughts on whether the pumpkin spice latte and tea craze is waning, I had to give it some serious thought. After all, one can’t argue that pumpkin spice drinks haven’t been a smashing success. When first introduced, it was the perfect seasonal drink, bringing all the smells, images and experiences of fall to consumers’ palates. This alone requires props. Beyond that, there are still many pumpkin spice fans out there, but as with all things brand-related, staying fresh is the name of the game. That is, perhaps, the biggest hurdle for pumpkin spice’s staying power. It is beginning to feel tired and over-used. As such, it is time for coffee and tea companies to step up and launch exciting, new flavours that offer pioneering tastes and experiences to today’s customer.

The best way to do this is to embrace something completely new. Launching the next derivation of pumpkin spice isn’t going to make the grade. Something novel will create great buzz and reflect that the brand is responding to its customers changing tastes, fostering customer connections. In order to create the next blockbuster flavour, brands need to truly tap into consumer sentiment. This provides the ideal opportunity for coffee and tea brands to step out and separate themselves from the competition by being customer-centric. One of the most effective approaches to do so is to involve their target audience in the product formulation and innovation process. An excellent approach would be for brands to ask consumers to share their favourite fall and winter smells, spices and memories to assist in crafting the next series of flavours.

There could be in-store and online promotions asking customers to express their thoughts. This tactic drives two-way dialogue, which in the age of social media, all brands need. This would also allow a unique user-generated methodology for cultivating the next “it” flavour while also reflecting the brand’s interest in satisfying the customer. Moreover, the brand would receive a plethora of creative tastes, aromas and customer associations to drive future product innovation. Think of the endless ideas the brand could enrich and advance using this approach. A true win-win.

Brands could have fun with this too. They could promote contests on social media and ask for followers and fans to vote on the best flavour options. This would give the customer a chance to weigh in and drive a positive customer experience. Beyond that, think of the host of wacky and interesting recommendations that could follow. I can envision consumers recommending everything from something tame like citrus glove to more risky suggestions such as CBD and marshmallows. Talk about an outstanding technique for getting consumers talking about your brand and capturing attention. The brand could highlight the winners and real people behind the marketing initiative, which is ideal for increasing engagement with their target audience.

Brands could also enlist the expertise of popular food bloggers and influencer marketing to augment the user generated advice. Influencers could offer and develop their favourite recipes for consideration and ask their audience to vote on their favorites. Coffee and tea companies could expand and reach new audiences through their influencers networks all while showing their social media marketing savvy. This customer focused approach is tailor-made for social media marketing.

In a fast-paced, ever-evolving, high technology world, it is more important than ever that brands break free of the market noise and show their relevance. One of the best ways to do so is to stay current and fresh. That is not always an easy thing to do, but creating whimsical, innovative or new flavours that speak to the consumers emerging tastes sure is a great place to start. This also allows them to position themselves on the forefront of offering original flavours which is a superb marketing position for any brand.

Today’s brands need to stay creative and willing to respond to the consumer’s evolving needs. This means that while pumpkin spice may continue to satisfy some customers, others will look for the next new thing. Coffee and tea brands that don’t want to be left behind need to embrace this reality, and in doing so they will build a cadre of loyal followers.

  • A guest blog from Shahla Hebets. Shahla has held executive management positions in media companies specialising in ecommerce, pay-per-click (SEM), search engine optimisation (SEO) and other forms of digital marketing and advertising. With over two decades of experience developing digital marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies to small businesses, Hebets founded Think Media Consulting in 2016 with a focus on helping healthy lifestyle brands grow. She is also the author of author of What’s Working Now? YOU-Centric Marketing. To learn more, visit and connect with Shahla Hebets on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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