Dunkins Hot Pepper Donut - © 2020 Dunkin Donuts

New Seasonal Food Offerings: No New Ingredients…

A quick survey of recent new-menu item offerings consolidates my suspicion that there’s really nothing new under the Fast Food Sun. And the word ‘desperation’ tinges the vast majority of stuff being pushed for the coming Holidays. Is Fast Food innovation dead? If so, why?

Ghost Reaper CHili - © 2020 Hormel FoodsIf this is the most creative, surprising new cold-weather / Holiday
Season Fast Food development we’re going to see
this year, we’re all all in big trouble!

I recently glanced over the ‘new” menu item offerings from the Fast Food industry over the past few weeks to get a feel for what was trending., heading for the end of another year.  Was there a COVID-19 connection? Was there a shift in tastes toward one specific food or group of foods? Was there anything remotely worth writing about? I got an interesting surprise…

Nothing new under the sun

What’s new, hot and trending in the Fast Food world? What foods topped the Election Night Google searches? Those and other queries I floated to the search engines brought back a cohesive, collective answer: Not much.

Google overnight released the results of some of its own surveys of search query popularity night, and the picture was not surprising at all. The top food searches by vote watchers Tuesday night, while glued to their TV sets, went like this:

  • Pizza
  • Chinese Food
  • Liquor Stores
  • Sushi
  • Mexican food

…in that order.

In addition, Google noted that searches for ‘Liquor stores near me’ and ‘Fries near me’ hit unprecedented highs Tuesday night.

The only thing I can’t account for among those results is the high ranking of Sushi. I guess that ‘s one thing folks can’t or won’t make for themselves, and don’t know where to get for take-out during the evenings, but want more and more as younger, more cosmopolitan tastes come to prevail. Question: Is it a fad or a real trend? But that’s for another post on another day…

What’s really going on

Looking Back over the past couple of months’ crème de la crème of the Fast Food new items as reported in Fast Food Week every Saturday in this space, it’s clear there’s nothing really new going on, in  spite of the increasing pressure week by week to amaze the masses and capture their collective imagination over the coming holidays. No really new foods; just different takes on old  combos and ingredients. Amid so-called holiday announcements, we see a plethora of the same old foods with merely cosmetic changes to pay compliments to the Season: OREOs with Xmas-Red Stuff filling; The same old Candy Bars and other Cookie brands with token Holiday touches. Avalanches of come-backs by seasonal specialty menu items from all over the Fast Food map but little or nothing really new.

The mainstream shifts in menu rosters continue glacially, as real trends usually do, in  spite of season or special event. Notable among them is the tendency of major player moves to add or lose menu items in line with much touted menu streamlining off of the legendary Tex-Mex Pizza (by corporate head office decree), and the race over the summer and fall for the lesser first-tier and second tier players to add a Fried Chicken Sandwich clone of the Chick-Fil-A / Popeye headline menu items while the iron is still even a little warm, let alone hot.

Are you getting tired of hearing about new versions of the same old Burgers that simply recombine the same old ingredients the various chains have always had on hand and calling them something ‘new’? The re-topping of Fries and Nachos labelling them as seasonal specials? The endless cavalcade of Advent Calendars featuring everything from Mini bottles of Hot Sauces to Mini-shots of various Bourbon Whiskies? That’s not innovative let alone creative, Outside-The-Bun thinking.

I fear the Fast Food Folks have failed us in a time of great need. But, as wise people always say, if you don’t have anything nice (or, as in this case, constructive) to say, say nothing. I have nothing to suggest to them, so I should probably just clam up.

More and more extreme stunts

One fad we are seeing is something I can’t recommend, regardless the time of year or the spirit of whatever holiday we’re supposed to be celebrating. For instance, one of the mainstream Doughnutteries is offering a special seasonal glazed ring sweetie that’s actually topped with broiling hot Ghost Pepper frosting (see photo, top of page). Yikes! Another daily Food Blog is asking, ‘Is Ghost Pepper the new official flavour of Hallowe’en?’ Hormel foods, famous for bringing us innocuous SPAM and other stuff like traditional canned Stews and mild Chilis, is proudly offering a new ‘Ghost Reaper’, ‘World’s Hottest Chili’. This is a bad idea in the extreme. Hundreds of folks around the world have been hospitalized, some crippled and even a few killed trying to eat Ghost Pepper an Carolina Reaper-based concoctions. If this is truly the most original take on the Holidays that the Fast Food Folks have to offer us, we’re all in a great deal of trouble!

Sorry, but that’s just the way it is this year

The pandemic and its social and emotional privations have us all under their almost unbearable weight, we’ve all become more and more sedentary, we’re getting lazier and less interested in life, and our diets are suffering. Next comes out health. This is a huge issue and I’ll admit I’m struggling to figure out what to do to alleviate this dangerous trend. I’ll keep looking for some kind of magic bullet (not likely) or something we can all focus on together, to drag ourselves out of the dumps.


Try to be kind to your hunker-down mates and help each other when you can, however you can. This whole pandemic thing – not to mention round two which is just getting under way – is something the vast majority of us have never experienced before in our lifetimes. We must not pass up any chance to make our lives more livable as the days grind on. I hope at least some of the Food-related ideas I’ve shared over the past few months have helped you and yours. But I must admit, I’m exhausted and about out of ideas – just like the Fast Food people.

Anyway… Here we go, off to face another day. Don’t lose heart…

~ Maggie J.