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You may think we should stop trying to make pumpkin spice happen, but turns out it’s still a hot trend. According to Nielsen, pumpkin flavorings reached over $6.9 million, up nearly 10% in dollar growth and more than 7% in unit volume from 2017-2018. So, much to pumpkin spice haters dismay, we don’t see this cozy trend going cold any time soon.

A PSL History Lesson

To grasp the Pumpkin spice trend today, we need to understands its 82 year old history. Below we skim the surface of the spicy story.

  • 1936: Earliest known reference to pumpkin spice
  • 1960s: McCormick introduces a pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 2004: Starbucks’ PSL is introduced
  • 2008: Great recession hits and has people yearning for simpler, more comfortable times. “Pumpkin became recognized as part of the comfort food trend during the recession in 2008”
  • 2018: Starbucks spokeswoman Maggie Jantzen reported PSLs are their “best-selling seasonal beverage of all time, with more than 350 million purchased over the past 14 years.”
  • 2019: Starbucks expands their pumpkin-y selection to include a pumpkin cream cold brew

Pumpk-Innovation

Now that we’re up to date, we can move into today’s pumpkin spice innovations. From pretzels, to yogurt, to alcohol, pumpkin spice has leaked into every grocery aisle. Let’s focus on Dunkin’s release of its bottled pumpkin spice iced latte. From 8/1/18-8/28/18, “Searches for Dunkin’s Pumpkin Spice Latte jumped by 933%.” New product releases are an effective way to get a customer’s foot in the door to purchase a latte and any other seasonal offerings. Although far-fetched inventions like pumpkin spice Pringles may capture people’s attention temporarily, the successful brands learn from Starbucks’ prosperity and create something similar.

Why the Haters?

We must address the counterculture of people who harbor anger towards this seasonal drink. Beyond people who simply don’t enjoy the pumpkin spice flavor, Seasonal Creep and Agricultural Re Envision may be partly to blame. Many believe big businesses disrupt the seasons by releasing fall products in the summer. Beyond capitalistic backlash, some even cite contempt for women as a reason to hate pumpkin spice. No matter where you fall on the pumpkin spice scale, we can agree that it must be one powerful elixir to elicit such strong responses.

What This Means for Brands

Despite your personal feelings, Starbucks and brands riding the pumpkin spice wave are seeing subsequent sale lifts. Pumpkin spice has grown to represent a lifestyle and a community that Starbucks has curated. It’s a testament to the importance of exclusivity and LTOs. According to the Washington Post, limited-time offers also make brands seem him, which brings customers back in the door. The study from NPD group also found that consumers spend more per visit when they buy a seasonal product. Before you get too warm and fuzzy about a seasonal product for your brand, beware of seasonal creep as the backlash can be seriously scary.

 

References & Further Reading

  1. Nielsen – Pumpkin Spice Sales Growth Makes A Hot…
  2. Chicagoist – The Dark And Murky History Of Pumpkin Spice
  3. Forbes – Brands Ride The Coattails of Starbucks’…
  4. Washington Post – The Origins of Pumpkin Spice and…
  5. Vox – Pumpkin Spice Lattes – and the Backlash, and the…
  6. Odyssey – 11 ‘Pumpkin Spice’ Products That Are…
Vanessa Kahn

Vanessa Kahn

Vanessa loves to help brands excel through a focus on quality content and a finger on the pulse of current trends. When she’s not researching the latest in the food and wellness industry or crafting the perfect caption for social, you can find her driving up to the mountains with a cappuccino in hand.
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