Food & Beverage

Fall's flavors: Apple, pumpkin spice and sriracha, oh my!

Source: Mars Chocolate North America

The leaves on the trees are still a long way from turning to their fall colors, but the shelves at the supermarket have a decidedly fall flavor.

In recent years, it's been all about pumpkin spice, and that continues as Pepperidge Farm, Kellogg's and Peeps have added pumpkin to their roster. But joining the familiar palate of fall are bolder flavors like sriracha, jalapeno and ginger wasabi.

"The hot sauce [trend] started a few years ago," Brian Todd, head of economic data for Food Institute, said. "It's just that right now they have narrowed it down to the sriracha, which is very popular."

But pumpkin fans will get to sample a number of new items from Kellogg's, pumpkin spice-flavored Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal and pumpkin pie Pop Tarts, while Jif has launched a new whipped peanut butter with pumpkin pie spice and Peeps marshmallow treats continue to break out of their Easter mold.

However, it seems that the newest trend in fall flavor is an old favorite: apple. Brands like Pepperidge Farm, Nestle's Toll House and Blue Diamond have added the fruit to cookies, breads, cakes and even almonds.

Source: Kellogg's

"It's very clear that companies are doing whatever they can to try to expand their portfolios and to appeal to consumers in ways that they haven't in the past and they are willing to take risks," said Ken Harris, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group, explaining that companies mitigate risk by introducing limited-time only products.

Confectionery giant Mars has already released limited-edition pecan pie M&Ms, contesting the more traditional flavors of years past.

"M&Ms is always looking for new and innovative ways to connect its products to its fans," a spokeswoman for Mars Chocolate North America told CNBC. "So we often produce limited-edition products that are offered nationwide or at select retailers. Fall is known for certain classic flavors and pecan pie is one the brand expects fans to embrace, as they did last year with M&Ms Pumpkin Spice."

Brands are taking a cue from the fashion industry, said Harris. Companies have developed a rotational portfolio of products that caters to all four seasons. In the winter, peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog reign supreme while spring and summer are fueled by fruitier flavors and iced beverages.

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These limited-edition products are relatively new to the market, according to Harris. Sparked by the craft beer movement, companies began introducing snack-food items through line extensions about five years ago.

The goal of this type of distribution is not only to test new flavors, but to entice consumers to make more impulsive purchases. Limited-edition runs introduce a sense of urgency because of the lack of permanence as part of the brand's main collection.

Nabisco's Oreo products are probably the most pervasive in terms of varying flavors. The brand has more than 50 different flavors domestically and internationally ranging from root beer float and cookie dough to watermelon and creamsicle.