Turn! Turn! Turn! Unexpected Food Seasons

Sep 15, 2016

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are.”

—Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

It’s true that what we eat says a lot about who we are. However, what we eat changes from season to season. I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah I know, pumpkin spice lattes in the fall,” but I’m talking about more than just seasonal flavors used as a promotion to bolster sales. Seasons have a far greater impact than just creating desire to eat turkey and pumpkin pie in November.

You may find it surprising, but the seasons have an impFood Trends, American Consumers, Seasonsact on every area of the purchase-to-consumption food journey, as illustrated in the chart below.

A Time for Planning

Perhaps pushed by kids being home and summer cookouts, we spend about 17% more time planning meals during summer and fall than during winter and spring. This adds complexity to a time period where moms are dealing with childcare and keeping the kids entertained.


A Smart Response

Brands could seize the opportunity to simplify their consumers’ lives. That means tactics from simple cookout kits to online or mobile planning tools should be executed. The key here is to simplify the lives of consumers who have spent the school year juggling schedules and hauling kids from soccer games to ballet practice. The brand that wins the battle for simplicity will have an edge over the competition.

A Time for Shopping

How much we shop

Interestingly, the first quarter is marked by dips in both grocery shopping trips and eating out. The influence of weather and perhaps attempts to have a more healthy diet play a major role.


A Smart Response

Realizing the influences that cause this change in behavior is critical. After all, what jobs are consumers trying to get done in this instance? If, in fact, they are seeking healthier habits, Q2 is the perfect time for brands to introduce their healthier SKUs.

Where we shop

While the grocery store is still king, U.S. consumers are more likely to shop at a variety of stores in the winter. Compared to the preceding fourth quarter there’s a 29% jump in consumers reporting they prefer to go to different stores in Q1.


A Smart Response

Brands, whether they’re food manufacturers or retailers, should emphasize variety during the first quarter of the year. It’s a message consumers are primed to hear when they are trying to seize the day at the beginning of the year.

What we buy

61% of respondents (top-two box) said they try to buy foods that are grown or produced locally. This spikes in the second quarter. This is not surprising, as this is when farmers markets begin to carry local produce.


A Smart Response

While the local purchasing spike is not huge, it does make sense that brands would emphasize sourcing during the second quarter of the year. This is an opportunity to communicate a message right when the consumer is ready to hear it.

For Everything There Is a Season

There is a seasonality in food far beyond just flavors. To leverage this seasonality, brands need to embrace an understanding of shifting consumer attitudes and preferences. There is a time to be smart, and it’s now.

—Jeff Jones, VP, Insights & Strategy; Director, Curiosity Insights