Flying High: Limited-Time Offers Rising to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Posted in Snacking on December 12, 2023

kobby-mendez-idTwDKt2j2o-unsplashLimited-time offers have long been a go-to for jump-starting sales and a reliable way to test new, innovative concepts without the risk of rolling out an unproven menu item. But belt-tightening during the pandemic required menu reductions that curtailed culinary innovation and distilled offers down to the most margin-friendly essentials. 

Now here’s some sweet news: Dessert LTOs are rising back to pre-pandemic levels as chefs and operators feed the need for flavor-packed varieties, according to the market research firm Datassential.1 Fifty-three percent of consumers look forward to a signature dessert from a specific restaurant1–a stat that underscores the importance of adding creative LTOs to the dessert menu.

With fewer than half of dessert-serving limited-service restaurants offering seasonal or LTO desserts, operators have ample opportunity to capitalize on high demand by introducing new LTOs.1

Bites and Insights: Consumers Are Wrapped Up in Limited-Edition Snacks

Research cited in the 2022 State of Snacking Report from Mondelēz International reveals pent-up demand for new and nostalgic LTOs. Fifty-five percent of consumers surveyed would go as far as standing in line if a discontinued snack they once loved was brought back.2 And 72% would want to provide input to help operators create a new LTO,2 opening up opportunities for consumer engagement in LTO development through polls, contests and user-generated content.

The report also found that 74% would make a point of getting a new snack flavor as soon as it came out, including 84% of millennials and 81% of Gen Z.2 What’s more, 72% tried or would try a snack collaboration. That figure rises to 84% of Gen Z and millennials.2

Given the market’s robust appetite for new LTO and signature options, especially among young consumers, OREO continues to build on its legacy of innovation, with an ever-expanding array of flavor varieties that surprise and delight consumers worldwide.

“Going above and beyond, OREO keeps the intrigue for new flavors at its peak with limited edition unveilings,” explains the State of Snacking Report. “Over the years, consumers have eagerly anticipated limited-edition offerings on the shelf to include Snickerdoodle, Brookie-O Brownie, and seasonal favorites like festive Halloween and Winter cookies.”

What’s the Score? Digging into the Data of Top-Scoring LTOs

Datassential used its SCORES concept testing tool to parse hundreds of LTOs for those that resonated most with consumers. Gen Z and millennials were especially enthusiastic about LTOs with bold and adventurous profiles that they scored highest for uniqueness. Innovative mashups such as the Pepperoni Pizza Egg Sandwich (71% uniqueness) from Einstein Bros. and Shake Shack’s Burrata Chicken Parm (66% uniqueness) were among the top scorers.

A combo of culinary comfort and creativity tends to hit the spot. “Mash up familiar concepts to create something new and unique,” advised Datassential. “A number of items rated highlight unique in SCORES were simply a mashup of comfort foods: Think a barbacoa quesadilla benedict or hot dog-topped pizza.”3

A passion for pickle LTOs showed the power of unique applications for familiar ingredients. Hungry Howie’s Pickle Bacon Ranch Pizza and Sonic’s Pickle Juice Slush earned high scores, validating a hankering for next-level flavors with fearless twists on the familiar.3

Conversely, simply changing the format of a favorite food can make it standout—“think a heart-shaped pizza for Valentine's or a turkey-shaped dessert for Thanksgiving.”3

For more LTO ideas and insights, be sure to check out our post, "4 Tips for Crafting a Winning Dessert LTO"

With a new year rapidly approaching, it’s important to stay on top of the latest foodservice trends, including LTOs and other must-knows. Get a taste of what to expect and enjoy the quick bites of intel and insights in our report, 6 Foodservice Industry Trends for 2024

1 Datassential, Foodbytes: A Look at Limited-Time Offers, 2022

2 Mondelēz International, The Harris Poll and Ispos, The Fourth Annual State of Snacking, 2022 Global Consumer Trends Study, 2022

3 Datassential, Foodbytes: Jaw-Dropping Fun & Freaky LTOs, Desserts Keynote, 2022

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