Written by Rachel Fitch
As the seasons change, the cold seeps into Americans’ consciousness, bringing seasonal flavors with it. The falling of leaves and snow indicates ‘tis the season for flavors of the holidays in the consumer market. Companies wish to make the most of the well-loved holidays by incorporating them into their products. Fall and Thanksgiving are known for pumpkin, maple, and pecan flavors, whereas holidays around the winter solstice involve flavors of peppermint, gingerbread, and chocolate. This seasonal flavors phenomenon has extended to products such as marshmallows, jerky, and even butter, with different companies, including Starbucks, Pringles, and Clif Bar, taking full advantage of the seasons.
Clif Bar prides itself on being an all-around outdoor snack, commanding on their website to use the bars to “sustain your adventure.” Founded by a cyclist, the company was created with the intention of providing tasty, nutritious energy bars. Clif Bar first introduced seasonal flavors 14 years ago, but this year’s flavors include some of the best: Iced Gingerbread, Hot Chocolate, and Spiced Pumpkin Pie. Each of the flavors involve the common seasonal finds of pumpkin, chocolate, and ginger. Generally, other energy bar companies have yet to capitalize on the seasonal flavors, though KIND has begun to produce some.
Why has Clif Bar taken to selling seasonal flavors? Why not sell them year-round if they are so popular? Part of the reason seasonal flavors are so successful is because they are only around for a short time. “While supplies last,” is a common phrase used to entice consumers into believing that the product will be depleted, so there is a need to buy them before they disappear. The association of holidays with the seasons is another reason for popularity. Pumpkin is a “comfort” food; it reminds us of good times, family, and Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie in the oven and raked maple leaves are flavors and aromas that bring to mind a cozy kitchen and something delicious baking. Similarly, tastes and scents associated with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas can call to mind thoughts of family, generosity, and joy—the taste of peppermint in a candy cane can easily evoke memories of opening presents or decorating a Christmas tree. These common feelings pervade the American consciousness by way of memories, the media, and now seasonal products. Thus, producing a seasonal line allows access to these feelings. Clif Bar is just one of hundreds of companies to do so, though it is unique with an added link to the outdoors. Many family memories can be cultivated during the holidays in the outdoors. Clif Bar encourages this outdoor bonding by donating one percent of the profits from their seasonally flavored products to the non-profit organization Protect Our Winters that strives to fight against climate change.
The profusion of seasonal flavors can lead to different feelings—such as enjoyment or irritation—in different people, but the flavors maintain popularity because of their holiday associations. “It tastes like Christmas or Thanksgiving,” said sophomore Emily Carlson as she explained her liking. “It makes me feel happy.” On the other hand, some tire of the constant overflow. When I asked sophomore Sophie Redpath if she ever tires of the seasonal flavor phenomenon, she said, “Yes, immediately, like before it starts.” She further elaborated, “I do not actually like pumpkin-flavored things and I see them everywhere. I am just annoyed by it.” Though only offered once or twice a year, the abundance of uniquely flavored products can overwhelm the senses to a point where, when walking down the grocery aisle, it seems as though all that can be seen is pumpkin or peppermint flavors. If flavors of the season overstay their welcome, then all seasonal products from Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte to Clif Bar’s Iced Gingerbread would be rejected. However, there is a reason the flavors have been around so long and why so many companies are participating in the new line of products; somewhere within our minds, there’s a yearlong craving for the nostalgic, homey flavors that come around every fall and winter.