While many of us deride the Western world’s obsession with pumpkin spice, the flavor never fails to signal the onset of fall—and bring in serious business.
It was first introduced by Starbucks (SBUX) In 2003, the Pumpkin Spice latte evolved into a cult classic with its mysterious “autumn” flavor of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Besides its loyal fan base, this pumpkin spice flavor also comes with some stereotypes and what seems to be more and more products without the slightest connection to pumpkin every year.
The internet has discovered pumpkin spice hummus, pumpkin spice cup noodles and even spice-flavored CBD candy made by Martha Stewart.
Stepping on the sidewalk for pumpkin spice
But while food industry analysts have been commenting on the saturation of the pumpkin spice market since 2013, the numbers don’t show the public is a bit tired of the fall flavor.
According to a recent study by Placer.ai, foot traffic to Starbucks (SBUX) It rose 25.7% a week after the coffee giant introduced its fall menu on August 30th. It’s a pumpkin-filled menu that features not only seasonal desserts but also Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, a creamy pumpkin cheesecake and a baby owl-like pop cake.
When Starbucks presented its fall menu in 2021 and 2020, foot traffic was up 16.2% and only 14% during the first week.
“The return of pumpkin-themed menu items indicates that fall has reached the coffee space,” the study says. “Over the years, everything from pumpkin spice latte to pumpkin pie has gained massive followings.”
Dunkin (DNKN) Meanwhile, it launched its fall menu with Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, Nutty Pumpkin Coffee, pumpkin-flavored cupcakes and muffin slots on August 17.
Within a week, the number of visitors to Dunkin’ stores increased by 9.5%. While not as dramatic as Starbucks (some people spend all year waiting for the original Pumpkin Spice Latte), visits are up from 8.2% and 6.7% in 2021 and 2020.
One of the only non-pumpkin items is the Blood Orange Dunkin’ Refresher.
Why are we obsessed with pumpkins?
Since it brings in strong traffic, it seems like all things pumpkin spice pops up on coffee shops and store shelves early each year. A survey by business intelligence firm Morning Consult found that 25% of Americans feel late August is the perfect time to start seeing pumpkin spice products.
“I don’t think ‘too soon’ is a thing right now,” Nick Clemmer, chief creative officer of RAPP marketing agency that develops seasonal products for fast food chains, told Morning Consult. “[…] If pumpkin spice is your thing, and your audience loves it, people need that extra momentum in their lives right now.”
Food research firm Tastewise found that there was a 221% rise in pumpkin spice appearances on menus between October 2019 and 2020.
Despite this big explosion in products, Starbucks also maintains a firm grip on its early lead in this area. On the day Starbucks launched its fall menu, store visits were up 14.6% while Dunkin’ dropped 5.7%.
“Despite the turmoil in the coffee space since the start of the pandemic, fall menu releases have been a catalyst for foot traffic for both Dunkin’ and Starbucks in 2022,” the Placer.ai study states.