Our Favorite Limited Editions
It's a tradition as old as civilization itself: During festive seasons, we eat special treats. To feed our seasonal frenzy for all things fattening, manufacturers deck the shelves with holiday-themed goodies.
Some seasonal products are so addictive that we spend the whole year looking forward to them, some of us even pack our freezers and cupboards with extra supplies to carry us though the lean months when they're not offered for sale.
Seasonal products are good business, and not only because people are willing to spend money to stick to tradition. People also tend to buy products if they think they won't be available next month, a trick Disney has used for years by teasing audiences about DVD retirement to a non-existent "vault". The perception of uniqueness encourages also some consumers to buy stuff in higher quantities, or as gifts.
Strike gold with the right product, and a company can make an entire year's worth of revenue in just a few weeks. Just ask H&R Block or TurboTax.
There's a trick to maintaining a successful seasonal product. Ironically, it's year-round planning. Cadbury, a company with several blockbuster seasonal success stories on its product list, Mini Eggs, sells about 4,000 tons of its hard-shelled chocolates, Mini Eggs, between January and Easter. But to meet that surge in demand, the company has to spread manufacture over the entire year.
At the risk of making your mouth water, we present 15 seasonal products that belong in the hall of fame. We wish these items were available all year. Did your must-have make the list?
In 1954, a machine was invented that could pump up these puffy, sugar-dusted novelty candies, which previously had to be made by hand. First they were only chicks (for Easter), then in the 1960s they added Christmas trees and pumpkins. By the time stars were added for Independence Day in 2002, Peeps became available year-round, and those machines were put to good use. But those delectable chicks are still only sold in the spring. The Peeps makers have mastered the art of publicity puffery, too, by opening a Peeps-centric store near Washington, D.C
. last summer, and by mounting a recent competition for Peeps-made dioramas
Cadbury Creme Eggs
Because you can't find them on store shelves for nine months at a time, we almost missed the fact that they've shrunk. The Office
actor and producer B.J. Novak went on Conan O'Brien's show in 2007 with his stockpile of older eggs and proved Cadbury was reducing their size
. The chocolate maker admitted it, but lost none of its cache: In Britain and Canada, Creme Egg innards are even mixed into McFlurrys at McDonald's.
Growing dissatisfaction with high-fructose corn syrup has made a hot commodity out of this springtime pop, made with real sugar the way Coke used to be, before the soda company switched to the cheaper, less tasty sweetener for its American market. Kosher Coke is intended for Jews who can't eat corn during Passover, but people of all persuasions have been led by their taste buds to eagerly snap it up. The passion for HFCS-free Coke is spreading, and when Passover it over, foodies across the country shell out top dollar for glass bottles of so-called "Mexican Coke,"
which is also made with real sugar. In fact, most Coke bottled outside of America still uses real sugar, not its poor cousin, high fructose corn syrup.
Reese's Easter Eggs
Reese's took its peanut butter cup and super-sized it, dosing snackers with a massive dollop of that addictively salty peanut filling. Now there are Peanut Butter Eggs, Peanut Butter Hearts, Peanut Butter Pumpkins, and Peanut Butter Trees, too, infusing palates with nearly twice the filling of a standard two-pack cup. And when there's no holiday at hand, customers can simply reach for the Big Cup, which the company introduced in 2003, the 75th anniversary of the classic cup. At this rate, pretty soon Reese's will just forgo the chocolate shell entirely and sell its candy filling by the jar. We'll be there, too.
McDonald's Shamrock Shakes
Because only "participating" locations sell them, finding one of these minty desserts, which are only trotted out in the spring, can be harder than finding a leprechaun's pot of gold. Die-hard fans have been searching them out since 1970, the same year Mickey D's also introduced its Eggnog-flavored shakes. This year in New York City, NBC last-night host Jimmy Fallon dispatched a fleet of interns to buy shakes for his entire St. Patrick's Day audience, causing a city-wide shortage
and depriving New Yorkers of their rare taste of the treat.
Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark
Chocolate topped with white chocolate topped with peppermint bits: Such a rich confection costs $26.50 a pound, but that doesn't deter fans, who hoard their tins deep into the New Year and keep eBay stocked with the stuff well into spring. Ghirardelli pumps out its own bite-size version, but this is the primo stuff.
Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash
The Pilgrims never intended this: lemon-lime Sierra Mist with cranberry flavoring. This caffeine-free concoction is only sold from Sept. 7 to New Year's Eve. Canada Dry also makes a competing seasonal cranberry ginger ale.
IHOP's Pecan Pie Pancakes
It seems like everyone is on board the gingerbread and pumpkin flavor trains, but IHOP hooks into Southerners' penchant for pecans by layering pecan pie filling with pancakes, then topping the indulgence with glazed pecans. It's so very wrong, but it's also so very hard to stop eating them.
Girl Scout Thin Mints
For best results, stick this addictive chocolate-covered mint wafer in the freezer first. That is, if you know of a Girl Scout who will sell you your fix. The bad news: Once the little girl in your neighborhood grows up, you'll need to find a new dealer. More bad news: they're shrinking
Samuel Adams Summer Ale
Sam Adams (not descended from the beer-loving patriot, but a company that started in 1984) tosses in a tangy note of spice with Melegueta pepper, nicknamed "grains of paradise," something medieval brewers used. The result is light, refreshing, with a note of lemon zest, and it's so much more interesting than your standard, picnic-variety Bud. So why can't we get it from September to March? Because that's when Samuel Adams trots out its other seasonal beers, including Winter Lager and Octoberfest.
White Fudge Covered Oreos
This is one of the reasons that New Year's resolutions are necessary. And you can't forget White Fudge Oreos' brothers: Mint Fudge Covered Oreos and Winter Oreos with red creme. Last year, a dangerous new thigh-expanding cousin came to town: Fudge Covered Ritz crackers. Bet your pants you'll regret encountering this family of snacks.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte and Gingerbread Latte
Caffeine junkies can ride the sugar train from September and through the holidays by starting with the autumnal Pumpkin Spice Latte (introduced in 2004) and then, when that's taken off the menu, switching to the Gingerbread Latte (dating to 2000). After New Year's, though, it's back to jones-ing, at least until the summertime Frappuccino hits kick in. In 2010, though, the coffee pimp became more active in plugging the between-seasons holes with new products such as the Dark Cherry Mocha. Pretty soon, it will always be the season for something at Starbucks.
The Massachusetts company manufactures these heart-shaped sugar pellets, which began in the 1860s, for 11 months a year just so it can keep up with six weeks of pre-Valentine's Day demand, when 100,000 pounds are sold each day. Sweet and almost inoffensively flavorless, they're a soothing throwback. In 2009, the company kept the candies current by soliciting the public for new messages
to print on them. Two unfortunate winners: "Tweet me" and "Text me."
The festive drink appears in early November and is gone by mid-January, it blends the classic 7Up flavor with a splash of pomegranate fruit juice. Just add red coloring to establish a new holiday beverage to placate the caffeine-averse.
Ben & Jerry's Gingersnap
Ben & Jerry's gives its seasonal flavors a shot at year-round stardom through its "Resurrect My Favorite Flavor
" web page. While Cinnamon and PepperMint Schtick passed into legend, its autumnal Pumpkin Cheesecake moved from the minors to the big leagues thanks to popular demand. Now boosters can turn their attentions to GingerSnap, a "limited batch" of brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with ginger snap bits that's similar to a retired "Seinfeld"-themed flavor of holidays past, Festivus.